Jim Bowden says Nats have a clubhouse schism


(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

When teams perform poorly, the stories in the media get more dreary. Here’s a particularly dreary one from Jim Bowden, delivered Wednesday afternoon on Inside Pitch, his SiriusXM MLB Network program.

“We still have two months and a week of baseball left, there’s still plenty of time for the Washington Nationals to turn it around, but there’s no question [about] the negativity permeating throughout the clubhouse,” Bowden said. “The Eckstein firing created a schism inside the clubhouse. There were some very unhappy players inside that clubhouse — not that everybody was, because there were some in that clubhouse that wanted a change, that felt a change was a positive mood.

“But the problem is, it DID create a schism. It created a schism with the manager and the coaches, it created a schism with the players, and a team that’s underachieving didn’t probably need this little sideshow here. It would have been better to wait ‘til the end of the year if you want to change the hitting coach after Davey left; that probably would have been the better timing. But it is what it is. The Nats are where they were. They’ve got their work cut out. But they have the talent, and they have the time.”

Bowden said the firing “alienated” Davey Johnson, and talked some more about the ex-hitting coach whom he himself had hired.

“He ends up being the fall guy for a lineup that has clearly underachieved,” Bowden said of Eckstein. “Mike Rizzo wanting to do something to shake this team up. He knew he couldn’t do it through a trade, he knew he couldn’t do it through a call-up, so he made the only move that he felt he had out there, and that is to change hitting coaches, hoping that a new voice would come in and make a change. But for Davey Johnson, it was tough, because this was his one coach, this was his confidante, this was the guy that he believed in….This was his guy, and he got taken out. And it’s not just a change in hitting coaches, it’s a slap at Davey Johnson, and he doesn’t want to finish his tremendous managerial career with the record this team has.”

Bowden later talked about the Nats philosophy of standing pat and trusting their talented roster to somehow turn the switch.

“The one thing that I probably disagree with a little bit is that they’ve taken the position that I can’t fix the starting eight, so we’re gonna have to win with what we’ve got,” he said. “I’m not sure I completely buy that. I mean, Denard Span has been a catastrophe. Very good defensively, and he’s done everything they expected him to do [in the outfield], but offensively they needed a leadoff hitter, they needed a guy that can get on, and he hasn’t done the job.

“And even though he’s signed beyond this year, and even though he still has time to salvage this year and come back next year, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be out there trying to find the upgrade in center field,” Bowden said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t go out there and try to find another bat, even if Span becomes the fourth outfielder. If the guy’s not performing and you’ve got a chance to win and he’s your weakest link, then it’s ok to go out there and try to find an upgrade, try to get an improvement for that position.”

But Bowden also repeatedly said the Nats have enough time to save this season, schism or no schism.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Clinton Yates · July 25, 2013

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