More Crow Post-Mortem

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, August 16, 2008 | , , , | 3 comments »

GM Jim Bowden's pathetic attempt at spin today is a shoddy attempt at damage control. The crocodile tears he shed for the Post's Chico Harlan may sway the casual fan, but the sheer hubris and fortitude it took for him to detail the negotiations in the press like this, regardless if you believe him or not (I do not), is incredible. It is unprofessional and immature to the extreme. It's no wonder many of his peers don't return his phone calls. They know anything they say can and will be held against them in the court of public opinion. Bowden's "interview" with the Post today was a disgusting attempt to shift blame to the player and his agent, and the disrespect he shows Crow and his father (Bowden repeatedly refers to him as "the father", not by name) is shameful and embarrassing.


Keith Law, of Scouts, Inc. and ESPN.com, a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office and former writer for Baseball Prospectus knows the draft. It's what he does. And his independent opinion: Bowden blew it. Not just with Crow, but the whole draft. Here's the sad indictment from his most recent column.

"The Nationals' failure to sign Aaron Crow is yet another strike against the regime of embattled general manager Jim Bowden, whose name has popped up in the investigation into embezzlement of signing bonuses in Latin America.

In full-on spin mode, Bowden now is claiming that Crow and his advisors didn't give the Nationals any indication before the draft what it might take for Crow to sign (even though this information was common knowledge in the industry) and didn't provide a dollar figure until Aug. 12. If the Nationals genuinely didn't know what Crow wanted, it was either willful ignorance or the worst case of a signability analysis I've ever seen. And if they weren't willing to go much over slot, they could have just taken Arizona State's Brett Wallace (taken by the Cardinals at No. 13) or Long Beach (Calif.) high school hitter Aaron Hicks (taken by the Twins at No. 14), signed either for slot at No. 9 and made the plausible argument that they took the best player available.

The Nationals didn't do anything later in their draft to salvage this misstep. They gave back-of-the-first-round money to outfielder J.P. Ramirez (selected in the 15th round, 451st overall), who didn't make my top 75 prospects for the draft and ranked No. 155 on Baseball America's list (roughly a fourth/fifth rounder). They signed just two prospects off my top 75, none higher than catcher Adrian Nieto at No. 40, and nobody in Baseball America's top 50.

It's not a Houston 2007 disaster -- where the Astros didn't have picks in the first and second rounds, then failed to sign their third- and fourth-rounders -- but it's a significant problem for a team whose farm system was gutted under years of MLB-state ownership. The Nationals now will have two picks in the top 10 next year, an extremely expensive proposition, and in a draft class that is no stronger than this one. (In fact, a rough cut at the top 10 prospects for next year's draft would include at least five that I expect will be advised by Scott Boras: Stephen Strasburg, Grant Green, Dustin Ackley, Andy Oliver and Donovan Tate.)

It's a bad outcome for a franchise that needed another good draft to continue the farm system's comeback, which has already had unforeseen setbacks this year with the struggles of their top two picks from 2007, Ross Detwiler and Josh Smoker. "

Wow. This isn't one of us saying it. Although each of us that have a blog the last 24 hours have said all of this ourselves--except probably detailing just how much was too much money spent on Ramirez and Jones. So not only did the Nats not sign their first round pick, but they gave first round money to a 15th round pick that isn't in anyone's top 75 and projects as a fifth outfielder.

"Worst case of a signability analysis I've [Keith Law] ever seen."

Fire Jim Bowden.

3 comments

  1. Steve Shoup // August 17, 2008 at 2:13 AM  

    First I have the utmost respect for Keith Law's opinion and agree with him fully that Crow or no Crow it was a very uninspiring draft. I feel he is right Nieto is prob the best player in this draft class and has the best chance to be a star. I do feel that you and too some extent him are cherry picking the Nats draft. First his top 75 which is a good barometer no doubt represents less than 5% of the players taken in the draft. You figure thats a 2.5 player average divided out among 30 teams. Not to mention the fact that a team like the Brewers had 2 extra Supplemental 1st round picks and 2 extra second round picks giving them further flexiblity to acquire top talents. Also i'm sure Crow wasn't the only top 75 player not to sign, Cole didn't sign with the Yanks and sure that wasn't a money issue but its still an issue on the FO overvaluing a player and his committment to turn pro. Alex Meyer was a top HS arm but didn't go till the 44th round b/c it was a one in a million chance he'd sign.

    While I do agree on the assumtion that they overpaid for Ramirez its understandble that the Nats had a knee jerk reaction, in that situation and over spent a bit. Is he a sure thing? no way no how but he has a future and if things come together he could be a very nice pick 4 or 5 years from now. While I think its fair to criticize Bowden on the overall scope and lack of direction of the draft I think he gets a pass on the failure to sign Crow. I think you were harsh in assigning criticism to him not refering to Crow's father by name. Is that any more rude than the agents waiting till the last week to even name their price tag. I mean a negotiation is a two way street it and sounds like the Nats were the only ones putting in any work. And not allowing the Nats to contact Crow or his family is completely uncalled for, yeah i understand they didn't want a divided front but come on visit DC show some respect. And I fully agree with Bowden's point, it wasn't a failure of the team over the $700 or $900K it was a failure of the player. Crow loses out much more than the Nats do, they still get a comparable pick but they miss out on a top prospect for a year. Crow misses out on $3 million+ this year not to mention the minor league salary (which is going to be a bit more than what Fort Worth will pay) and a sooner Arbitration and FA date. On top of that Crow is in a bad position b/c he doesn't have much room to improve, as he likely won't get picked that much higher than 9th (esp. since the Nats will have one of those picks) and its hard to believe that he'll get a better bonus with less leverage. Also Crow was the 2nd best pitcher in this draft and a top 10 talent. While he's still in the top 10-15 range he is Already behind Stasburg, and likely behind White and his former teammate Gibson. meaning he could slide some in the draft. I don't believe its a good business decision to just spend freely on the draft one must have limits and not be held hostage by a player.

  2. Mike // August 17, 2008 at 9:44 AM  

    Dave, thanks a lot for linking Law's take on the Nats' draft. I think you make a great poitn about Bowden taking so much of this public in the Harlan interview. Like you said, even if what he is saying is 100% true, it doesn't seem like a good idea to air so much of this in public. What if in the future, the Nats are in a position to deal with another Hendricks' client (in the draft or at the MLB level)?

    It just seems like too much spin control to me. It seems like fan pandering to portray the Crow camp as greedy. And maybe they are. But if you're going to take Crow in that spot, you have to get it done.

    The other thing that's worth noting is that, it shouldn't have to be an either/or situation on Crow/Ramirez. Callis had a couple articles yesterday about the Royals and Red Sox spending in the $10M range for their drafts. This isn't a Bowden issue of course, but there's no excuse for the Nats not spending in the same manner.

    I'm not high on Ramirez as he seems more likely end up a 4th outfielder than Brian Giles, but it's a lottery ticket that could work out. But don't spin it off as a consolation prize.

    Anyways, thanks again for the Law information.

  3. Dave Nichols // August 17, 2008 at 11:24 AM  

    thanks both for the comments. the only thing i forgot to say in the original post was this: what's better, to pay first-round money to a 5th round talent that slid to the 15th round, or sign your first round pick 30% above slot?

    i think we'd all answer that one the same.