02 August 2011

Already Broken

There are many axioms that direct our mores.  Today, I'm concerned with
"You break it, you buy it."
Two days ago, Jim Day tweeted that the Cincinnati Reds farm system was finally in good shape, and that the team should be very competitive beginning between 2012-2013 depending on when the talented youth reach the point of being ready for the majors.  I replied that, while I'm hopeful he's right, we as fans have heard this before.  Day replied to me that, "[Previous Reds general manager Jim] Bowden gave false hope."  I clearly wasn't the only one raising this point, and soon Day was pretty irked at the situation and flatly called Bowden "a liar" who had mismanaged things.  I was surprised by Day's frankness, but he's entirely right.  Though, in fairness to Bowden, he also had to work within the meager budget allotted by tight-fisted Carl Lindner.

Anyway, a fan replied to my back-and-forth with Day, remarking:
Still blaming Bowden for Reds woes is like Obama still blaming Bush. Bowden left how many years ago?
Jim Bowden
The nature of building a competitive baseball team is a macro, not a micro, process and I fear that entirely too many ill-informed and impatient fans fail to really understand this.  A high school graduate goes on to play four years of college ball, and you know who he is.  You see him play and develop, and then comes Draft Day and voila!  Instant pro athlete.  Not so in baseball.  In baseball, the minor leagues take place off most people's radar, unless they live in a place that has a team.  Otherwise, the players who are drafted aren't heard from again for several years, by which point most casual fans have no idea who they are.  It takes time to develop players who can endure a 162-game schedule that spans April through September, with spring training in March and now all of October and possibly even the first couple of days of November consumed with the post-season.

Let's say you become the new GM of a franchise.  What you have to work with is what you inherit and what your ownership is willing to spend.  If your predecessor traded away or released all the most talented players from the major league level on down and your ownership won't spend the money a high quality Major League Baseball player rightly commands, you only have one hope and that is that your predecessor also oversaw a healthy system of scouting, drafting and developing young players.  If he or she did not do that, then you're sunk because you have to prune away the has beens and never wills (good luck finding takers for those) while luring better players.  If your predecessor was there long enough, you may not even have anyone at AAA to bring up to the majors.  You may not even have anyone who even really belongs at AAA.  Unless your new ownership comes in with an endless supply of money, it will take years of trades and signings to really begin making a difference.

I found all this especially timely, given the weekend's debt ceiling negotiations.  We Americans are awfully quick to root out anything that smacks of scapegoating.  The problem is that we also have very short attention spans.  Consequences are transient, whether we want to admit to this or not.  I could cite numerous examples and point to my history studies at the University of Louisville, but I already know that doing so will lead to me being accused of being just another brainwashed liberal idiot.
President George W. Bush throwing ceremonial first pitch
at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
We've got a new GM.  Yes, we'd like a championship trophy to show for his nearly three years on the job.  But we have to be willing to concede that he inherited an absolute mess not of his doing.  No one could be expected to turn around an economy as screwed up as ours was allowed to become over eight years.  There are two reasons this is important.  Firstly, when we evaluate President Obama, or Walt Jocketty (current Reds GM), we need to be fair about what is and is not their fault.

More importantly, we have to be willing to recognize where things went wrong in order to address those problems.  President George W. Bush inherited a government surplus and should have been making massive payoffs to our debt, and instead he squandered that surplus and even dug us far deeper into debt.  We can't just act as though Clinton left a healthy government and Obama is overseeing a trainwreck and conclude that Obama is at fault.  Some important stuff happened between the two that we have to acknowledge.  It's not about persecuting Bush.  It's about checking our math and realizing where we went wrong, because unless we do that, we will never get it right.

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