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The Nats Plan Their Next Steps

Last night, more details trickled out about the nature of the federal investigation involving Nationals GM Jim Bowden. This morning, the Nationals are still planning how best -- if at all -- to respond to the matter. The latest SI.com report, which describes a link between Bowden and an already-fired Chicago White Sox front office member, also says that Bowden is being investigated for activity dating back to 1994, when he was GM of the Reds. This morning, through an independent baseball source, The Post has confirmed the report.

So these questions remain in the wake:

* The report explains that a Latin American scout named Jorge Oquendo worked, first, for Bowden (in Cincinnati) and later for White Sox director of player personnel David Wilder, fired last year for his role in an alleged bonus-skimming scandal. But the story does not explain the significance of the link. Work in baseball long enough, and you can find close connectivity between almost anybody -- Person A and Person B. So what makes the Oquendo link anything more than coincidental?

* Next, how do the Nationals respond? The few media members at the Nats' facility this morning have not yet received an indication on whether Bowden will address the matter, though he is at the facility this morning. Since last summer, when he denied wrongdoing, he has not spoken about the investigation. But this week, he has come under tighter scrutiny in the wake of the Smiley Gonzalez fraud. Washington president Stan Kasten earlier this week instructed Bowden not to comment on the matter, but perhaps this is the tipping point that prompts him to say something. We will find out in the next few hours.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 23, 2009; 9:34 AM ET
 
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Comments

Thanks, Chico. For all the reasons one can think of to dismiss Bowden, "Six Degrees of Jorge Oquendo" is about the flimsiest.

There's as little reason to flail around for victims as there was to let matters get out of hand in the first place. Don't let's compound the problem.

Posted by: Hendo1 | February 23, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The SI report cites "a baseball executive familiar with the investigation."

What if, and it's purely hypothetical, that was Stan Kasten?

If you're Kasten, and you want Bowden fired, wouldn't leaking something like that, or at least re-raising the issue make some sense?

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | February 23, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

The team either needs to fire Bowden and all his people, hire a new GM, and start over OR they need to give Jim their full vote of confidence and make it clear that he's going nowhere.

This limbo situation where Jim's still the GM but isn't allowed to speak to the press, and Rijo's on leave but isn't really fired... it's terrible for the team. The season's starting soon, there's a team to run, they need leadership, and they cannot just let this dribble on forever.

Posted by: sbiel2 | February 23, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

The Nationals need to finally fire Bowden. Who knew he would even be here after new ownership took over. The guy is a joke. Stan Kasten needs to get permission to take this team over and higher a good GM, and take a more active role.

Posted by: vcumassa | February 23, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

i like the young players bowden has brought in. apparently most everyone likes the new coaching staff.

and if they fire bowden right now it should be about something other than this "ongoing" investigation.

but i also see that if i was an owner and wanted to make a change, now is a good time. bowden has filled the lineup with about as many young players as a team can field. there is plenty of time til the draft. we don't need any more free agents. about the only thing to do is decide if we can trade nick johnson or surplus outfield. and that's not even something that absolutely must happen.

i'm not an apologist or a headhunter. i don't know enough to be one or the other. i'm watching Lerner's for the first time possibly try to choose a new GM when I'd rather us focus on extending Zimmerman and Acta.

Posted by: longterm | February 23, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

This is the most promising Spring Training in the young history for the Nationals so to have this distraction pop up should give JimBo the clue to do the right thing, and voluntarily remove yourself with a leave of absence.

Doubt it will happen because its too logical.

I don't know guilty or not but that doesnt matter. JimBo needs to put the team first and not himself.

On a side note. This has to be a movie. Its a comedic tragedy set in the Dominican Republic. I can see the title of the movie BUSCONE with Will Farrell with bleached blonde hair playing JimBo and George Lopez playing Rijo and the young star of Slum Dog Millionaire playing Frowney in a crossover role and Frank Langella playing Selig. It has all the makings of an OSCAR!

Chico we need to buy the rights to the script!

Posted by: dmacman88 | February 23, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Chico, given the points you raise, why is the Post giving this so much play, and, at least in the print edition of your story, so much credibility? The haters have lit the pitch forks and sharpened the torches, but so far all we know is that a guy, Oquendo, who worked for Bowden, not in an extremely close position, also worked for a guy, Wilder, who got fired. As you concede, that is proof of nothing. There is some ambiguous statement that the FBI is "investigating" Bowden for activity back to 1993. Without more, this is less than nothing.

And, the merit of Bowden's trades and stop gap FA acquisitions as GM of the Nats really doesn't say much about whether he did or did not skim bonus money from Dominican player(s).

Any thought given to waiting to write the story until their is one?

Posted by: advocate2 | February 23, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

People - Mike Rizzo who is the Assistant GM is as qualified as any to take over. He is well thought of among his peers and within the league.

Kudos to Stan for hiring Mike Rizzo in the first place.

Don't panic, because replacing JimBo is more of a short-term headache as they don't have to have an exhaustive search process.

Posted by: dmacman88 | February 23, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Chico,

Where is the story about how useless the MLB office in the DR is? The Nats asked them to look into Smiley's ID on 3 occasions before they were finally able to find a problem.

Posted by: comish4lif | February 23, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

"There is some ambiguous statement that the FBI is "investigating" Bowden for activity back to 1993. Without more, this is less than nothing."

If the Post learned nothing else during the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal, it was that the FBI would never, ever investigate an innocent man. If the FBI is investigating, the Pulitzer Parade has begun. I'm surprised the Post hasn't come up with and trademarked a "gate" name for this whole Bowden affair yet. They're really slipping. Ben Bradlee is probably rolling in his grave right now.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Advocate2 - I agree with you, and a few others in the earlier blog have too. The only story confirmed is about Frowney's elaborate scheme which apparently he has confessed too.

As far as a real story, if the investigators do the same job they did with Barry Bonds than JimBo has nothing to worry about.

Posted by: dmacman88 | February 23, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Re. the MLB angle mentioned by comish and others, the following tidbit from one of the other papers (shhh) was interesting. hmmm...

"At the same time baseball discovered problems in the Smiley Gonzalez deal last year, the Major League Baseball investigators who had been in the Dominican baseball operation, responsible for these identification checks, were all fired "for the quality of their work," according to a baseball source."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 23, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

While I agree with Comish and think that 'baseball sources' have a vested interest in diverting attention away from MLBs utter failure in the Smiley/Frowney fiasco, it certainly appears that allegations about JimBow are bigger than Smiley/Frowney and pre-date his work with the Nats.

JimBow is innocent until proven guilty. Despite all the lurid allegations, there has been very little substantiated. JimBow haters would happily fire him today, but the most you can say about him with certainty is that the Nats MAY have overpaid for a kid who was lying about his age and identity so convincingly that MLB missed it several times.

That said, can he effectively do his job while he is under such a cloud of suspicion? This is still a tough one unless and until more facts come out.

Posted by: ArlingtonNatsFan | February 23, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

This Charlie-Fox just keeps getting gooder and gooder....

Posted by: Juan-John | February 23, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I think Bowden should be investigated for signing Ronnie Belliard to a two year contract.

Posted by: tallbaby2121 | February 23, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

New post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 23, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

If Bowden is fired, it's not going to be because Frowney duped him - it's going to be because he stole money from Frowney.

FBI investigations are not things to be taken lightly and this cloud over JimBo's head makes it impossible to do his job. He can't sign any international players and his integrity and credibility among his peers is damaged which will make trades more difficult to pull off.

So if this situation, just or not, prevents him from doing his job - he needs to be replaced.

The Nats need to trade some of their surplus players but I doubt JimBo can accomplish that due to his situation.

I say cut bait and move on with Rizzo as the interim GM and let the Lerners and Kasten hire someone who's 'their' pick.

Posted by: sec307 | February 23, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

>That said, can he effectively do his job while he is under such a cloud of suspicion? This is still a tough one unless and until more facts come out.

It's not what we think - it's what the rest of the league thinks. If they don't want to deal with him one-to-one with an open mind, then the team is screwed. This latest allegation is just a symptom of his arrogance. He had numerous losing seasons in a row in Cincy, and held onto his job for a long time. He's had three losing seasons in DC, and they'll probably be well below .500 this year if they don't get any pitching, and he's still got his job. What makes anybody think he's learned anything? You lose 102 games in your third year, and you need to be fired, if only to change the culture of cheapness/losing. Like today, he says that since they're at 58 million in payroll, that they can't add any more without cutting some. Do you think that any self-respecting GM that wants to win would toss it over to the front office and blame them for not spending money? No, they'd do it in private instead of CYA in public like Bowden does. The owners know he won't object to not spending because he has no leverage - nobody would hire him as GM. Nobody. GMs need leverage in order to operate, and he has none.

Posted by: Brue | February 23, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"I say cut bait and move on with Rizzo as the interim GM and let the Lerners and Kasten hire someone who's 'their' pick."

Sec307 - Rizzo was hired by the Nationals on July 24 2006 which was also the same date as the official handover of the team from MLB to the Lerner Group so I believe that Rizzo was at least 'their' pick though nobody has officially made him the "heir apparent" Mike Rizzo is a very good baseball person and would be great in my opinion if ever made officially the GM.

Posted by: dmacman88 | February 23, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The team has the 1st overall pick this summer in the MLB draft---what agent or player or the draftee's family would want to negotiate with Bowden or his replacement(?) if he stays with the team. The National's past history and Bowden's reputation has ALREADY been sullied--who would want to play for a disorganized laughing stock of an organization? I think the team HAS A VERY BAD SITUATION --OFF THE FIELD. The damage is HUGH!!!! The powers that be should let Bowden go and then get a top of the line public relations firm the clean up this mess.

Posted by: vergens2 | February 24, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

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