Note: posting will be back to normal tomorrow.
(Game thread posted below.)
When my plane landed in San Diego, I turned on my phone to seven new text messages and two new voicemails. When I got home and booted up the computer, I found five new Bavasi-related emails. Needless to say, it was a bit of a deluge. I'm still waiting for a knock on the door from FedEx since that seems to be the next logical step.
Leone For Third first opened up about a week before Bavasi was hired back in the fall of 2003. For all intents and purposes, as a blogger, I have known no other GM. The four and a half years since have been fraught with disappointment and well-intentioned failure. Bavasi's always been a hell of a guy who only wanted what was best for the team and who's always been willing to talk with his harshest critics face to face, but while I commend him for that, at the end of the day, if the only people you're meeting are critics, that means a lot is going wrong, and too much has gone wrong for the organization to justify keeping him in his role.
Bill Bavasi is finished as a Major League GM. I mean, sure, I guess the slim possiblity always exists that he could luck himself into another situation, but baseball is shifting irreversibly away from the back-slapping old school approach to roster management, and as Derek(?) remarked about the soon-to-be-fired John McLaren on Saturday, no team with a vacant managerial position down the road is going to look at Bavasi and say "that's the guy we need." It just isn't going to happen. Teams are smarter than that now*. Don't get me wrong, Bavasi will always be able to land a job with some organization if he's so inclined - other failed throwback GMs like Cam Bonifay, Dan Evans, and Woody Woodward have been able to stick around for quite a while as assistants and scouts. But as the guy leading the show, Bavasi is almost certainly done. He's exhausted his opportunities.
I suppose it's appropriate that a regime that never once demonstrated a solid grasp of probability was done in by its greatest gamble. 2008 was supposed to be the year. This was Bavasi's fifth season at the helm, and this was presumably the roster that Bavasi had been trying to build. The roster sucks. I don't know if you've looked at the standings recently, but the team that Bavasi thought was a playoff contender has been, for eleven weeks, three and a half games worse than any other team in baseball. That's really bad. And with so little help on the way, it's not going to be a real easy situation for whoever comes next. I won't go so far as to say that we're completely ruined, because we're not, but this organization is a mess, in large part due to Bavasi's lack of foresight.
Say what you will about ownership's intervention. From things like the Carlos Guillen deal to the Johjima extension, I think we all know that Bavasi was operating within certain constraints. But with that said, over the years it's become abundantly clear what he's all about. He loves chemistry. Loves it. Loves talking about it, and loves trying to build it, even though he himself has said that it's nigh impossible to predict. He also loves veterans, labels, roles, and spending way too much money on marginal improvements. Throw in a crippling inability to evaluate pitching and defense and you have the makings of a disaster. To his credit, Bavasi's pretty good with acquiring minor leaguers and locking up young players to long-term deals, but the former has more to do with his scouts, and as for the latter, on the day of his termination Bavasi's front office found itself at a standstill in contract negotiations with one of the greatest young talents the league has to offer. While the man may not have been granted free reign to do whatever he wanted, given what we know about him, shouldn't we be thankful for that? Ignore the results and look at the thought processes. There is no reason to believe that Bill Bavasi is even a half-decent general manager, and the organization is better off now than it was this morning.
It isn't yet time to celebrate. When I read those messages and listened to my voicemail, I was interested, but I wasn't smiling. Remember the official LL slogan for 2008: It Can Always Get Worse. Today the organization released one of its heaviest anchors. That's good news. But until we know who comes next, I don't think it would be wise to party too hard. In the event that Armstrong and Lincoln stick around, are they going to interview some fresh new blood, or will they stick with the same pool of retreads that can't find work anywhere else? What about Bob Fontaine? What's he going to do? Will the new guy approach Felix with the same zeal that Bavasi did Yuni and Lopez, or will they remain at an impasse? There are a lot of important questions to be asked, and for the time being, we don't have any answers. And so I beg of you, do not assume that we'll come out of this all peaches. We could and we should, but until we know, it's silly to take future improvement for granted. If the Bavasi era taught you anything, let it be that.
I'm looking forward to the interview process. This is a team that could reasonably decide to either play for 2009 or blow everything up, and that's exciting, both for us as fans and for applicants as GM. It's kind of nice to have the immediate future so open-ended, if only because Bavasi was so eminently predictable. I'm excited and nervous. But I'm not nervous because I'm fearful of impending doom; I'm nervous because I don't know quite how to respond to this glimmer of hope. There exists for us and for this organization a glimmer of hope. Not false hope. Real hope. It's there and I can feel it, and for the first time in what seems like forever, I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know the next step. I don't know who Armstrong and Lincoln will interview. I don't know if Armstrong and Lincoln will even be around for the interviews. I don't know what approach the new GM will take with this team. I don't know.
And that's what's so exciting.
* except for the Astros