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Bowden Resigns [Update]

From Chico in Florida:

Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden resigned this morning, saying he felt he had become a distraction to the club.

The Nationals did not immediately name a successor or an interim GM.

"It is an emotional decision that saddens me, but one that I feel is in the best interests of the two things I love most -- baseball and the Washington Nationals," Bowden said at a hastily called news conference at Space Coast Stadium, the Nationals' spring training site.

"I've become a distraction, and unless you're [unsigned free agent] Manny Ramirez there's no place for distractions in baseball," he said. "I want to be able to turn the page, and I want this franchise to be able to have everybody from the media and the fans focus on what the game is about. It's about players. It's about what happens on the field."

Bowden's departure is the second this week for the Nationals, who on Thursday fired longtime Bowden assistant Jose Rijo. Rijo, who ran the Nationals' operations in the Dominican Republic out of his baseball academy there, was instrumental in the team's signing of 16-year-old prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez, who turned out to have faked both his age (by four years) and his name. Gonzalez, whose real name is Carlos Daniel Alvarez Lugo, received a $1.4 million signing bonus, the largest of its kind given by the Nationals. Both Rijo and Bowden are being investigated by Major League Baseball and the FBI; both have maintained their innocence, and Bowden reiterated that today.

"I am disappointed by the media reports regarding investigations into any of my professional activities," Bowden said in a statement released by the team. "There have been no charges made, and there has been no indication that parties have found any wrongdoing on my part."

The Bowden controversy has obscured many promising story lines of this spring and interfered with the run-up Washington needs for the 2009 regular season. Never have the Nationals seen a greater need to sell their on-field product. With their welcome-to-the-District grace period now over, and with the honeymoon benefits of the new stadium waning, the Nationals, more than ever, must attract fans with talent and with the potential to win.

"We all believe it is imperative that we honor the integrity of the game and that fans be able to concentrate their attention and affections on the game and players on the field," team president Stan Kasten said in a statement released today. "Jim has maintained his innocence, but recognized that he had become a distraction, and with great grace determined to do what was best for the team and his players."

On the surface, the Nationals had been conducting business as usual. The scouting department, preparing for a draft in which Washington has two first-round picks, already has mapped out its travel and strategy, and requires little daily direction. Bowden, meantime, was still responsible for at least minor decisions. He requested that Shawn Hill, injury-prone over the last three years, go only one inning, not the customary two, in his Grapefruit League debut on Friday. Less clear, though, was whether Bowden would have had the authority to make major trades -- the Nats have a surplus of outfielders this spring -- and player agents are sometimes reluctant to enter into negotiations with a GM who might be on his way out.

One Nationals employee said Saturday, "you can't wait for this investigation to play out" to make a move.

Saturday, assistant general manager Mike Rizzo -- seen by many in baseball as Bowden's possible successor -- and front-office member Bob Boone -- a loyal Bowden lieutenant -- represented the Nationals at their game in Jupiter, Fla., against the Cardinals. Rizzo watched batting practice from behind the cage, same as Bowden usually does, talking to hitting coach Rick Eckstein and glancing at the scouting reports in his hand.

Asked about his own role within the organization on Saturday, Rizzo said: "I don't want to comment on my profile. I'm part of the Washington Nationals organization, and we sink and swim together, and I'm happy where I'm at in my career. At this time, I think we have to be about 'we' instead of 'me.'."

By Tracee Hamilton  |  March 1, 2009; 9:53 AM ET
 
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Next: No Request Yet To Interview LaCava

Comments

Rizzo has obviously read Built to Win.

Posted by: AnonymousSources | March 1, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's about time!

I wonder why a replacement wasn't named.


Posted by: AshburnVA | March 1, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

If Bowden really is innocent of any wrongdoing, then I do feel bad that he lost his job over it. I know that there are many other things for which he should have been canned, but I don't delight in the way this happened.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 1, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm supposing that Rizzo, as assistant GM, will assume duties until further notice.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 1, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Thank God that's over, now let's give Rizzo the interim GM tag and move on.

On one hand I'm sorry for the way JimBow had to go, I personally think he is completely innocent of any wrongdoing and wish he and the team had parted ways in a much more organized manner.

I think we might miss JimBow a little, his energy and creativity were integral to getting some of the top young talent we are pinning out hopes on this year, I had always hoped that he and Kasten would make a good team with Jim coming up with crazy ideas for trades and moves and Kasten being the wise old man saying slow down kiddo, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Shame.

I hope that with Rizzo or LaCava or Ng or whoever takes over permanently that we're moving to a much more methodical and productive facet of The Plan where we no longer need to turn over every rock to find talent, but instead can take a long term view of player development while maintaining a competitive product on the field in Nats Stadium.

I forget which poster said that this move is going to be a sign that "Good enough" isn't good enough anymore and now the team is just ready to be Good (and eventually great).

Now let's go see Olsen, Willingham and Dunn show us how brilliant Bowden was...

Posted by: estuartj | March 1, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uqxo1SKB0z8

Beat it...

It doesn't matter, who's wrong or right, just beat it. Beat it. Beat it.

Posted by: AnonymousSources | March 1, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

What will Steven on Capitol Hill do now???

Posted by: NatsWin | March 1, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I hope that "Smiley Gonzalez" turns out to be a major league star some day. If Bowden turns out to be innocent, that would be the best thing that could happen for his legacy. If he is guilty, it would still make for a good story.

The Nats have to nail the choice of his replacement. The perception of the team really does matter, whether within the game or to us fans. If Rizzo is the best guy, full speed ahead, but he should only be named the interim GM for now while an extensive analysis of who might be available is undertaken.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 1, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Well I suppose Sabean and/or Colletti is now the worst GM in baseball...wonder if Wily Mo Pena will go with him....then they would only have 9 major league veteran Outfielders on the 40 man..
so long Jim ..you were a bum that lasted longer than anyone would of expected. You've left Manny Acta with a mess to babysit. Now the question: Will Bowden beat Elijah Dukes to jail?

Posted by: swiftbosox | March 1, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

10 minutes into SportsCenter and not a mention, a hint, or a teaser on this. One more example of how little the rest of the sports world cares about this team. Imagine the fuss they'd be making if Cashman stepped down? I hope this ends up being a stake in the ground moment in organizational history - where we look back in the not too distant future and say "that's the day that the Nats returned to respectability".

Posted by: RicketyCricket | March 1, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

What will Steven on Capitol Hill do now???

Posted by: NatsWin | March 1, 2009 10:11 AM

--------------------

Spend the next year figuring out how to grow a 3rd arm to pat himself on the back with.

I'm sure it won't be too long until he launches "FireMikeRizzo.Blogspot.com".

Posted by: RicketyCricket | March 1, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I was a Bowden defender till about this time last year. Rizzo has 15 years of unrelenting failure ahead of him before I'll turn on him the way I turned on him.

Posted by: sbiel2 | March 1, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The honorable thing for Bowden to do. Ironic that the ship is turning around now, but the right thing to do.

Posted by: 1of9000 | March 1, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

This makes me sad. I like Bowden, I've followed his career since being named GM of the Reds.

But I understand the team's position and I think it probably was best. I was worried that Zimmerman's contract status was going to stay up in the air because of Bowden. I wondered how Milledge, Johnson, or whoever is the odd man out would be traded -- its a little hard negotiating contracts or trades if you're defending yourself in a federal investigation.

I hope JimBo is cleared and resurfaces somewhere else soon.

Posted by: raymitten | March 1, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Now that the major drama is over, we can all focus on the actions on the field. Real baseball, hurrah!

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Glad that's over. Now we can have a normal pre-season, waiting for Dunn's first dinger, watching formation of the final 25.

Bowden made some excellent moves and some expensive atrocious ones. Still, the team has his stamp on it, and my prediction is that this will be the Nats best year.

Too bad Bowden will be remembered for his asinine side. Who are the bloggers going to kick around now?

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 1, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

No decision for a week? Leads me to believe there is some interviewing to be done!

Posted by: AnonymousSources | March 1, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Thankfully a decision was made. Whichever side you were on, the last week plus was not what any organization needed. Especially one entering a critical development yea.

Time to turn the page.

Posted by: Brian_ | March 1, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

@rickety cricket - who needs espn? im a yankees fan, somebody mentioned it on pete abe's blog and i came here to find the real deal.

Posted by: ham_fighters | March 1, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

SportsCenter did a brief story at 10:42. It was weird seeing his photo on the screen, alongside quotes from his statement, with the label "FORMER Natinonals GM."

Posted by: BGinVA | March 1, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Good move by Bowden. Had he been fired, the stigma of this investigation - regardless of its findings - would have buried him. To be fired under such suspicions would give the impression that the Nats knew more than they were letting on. His guilt would be implied, and he would be unemployable.

Having resigned, however, he can spin it as a team-first decision. He can still reemerge once (if?) the investigation clears him of any wrongdoing. If the Nats improve from their 102-loss season (which is a virtual lock), he can point to the success and claim ownership of its architecture.

He can then latch on to another team, order new decals for his Segway, and resume being one of the most frustrating and creative GMs in the game.

In the meantime, there's a lot of work still to be done on this team. We have too many outfielders and too few relief pitchers. Decisions have to be made about the rotation, assignments (at what level will Detwiler pitch?), and even free agency.

Let's move on.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 1, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Also, many thanks to Chico, Barry, and Tracy for covering the heck out of this.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 1, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Maybe with any luck, the Senators, sorry, I mean the Nationals will finish in 3rd place. Still have a ways to go before overtaking Philly and the Mets. I still look thru my old Senators yearbooks from the 60's, even though they lost 100+ games almost every year, when they came to Cleveland, we would drive from Youngstown just to see them.

Posted by: bozobabbling | March 1, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I meant Tracee. Honestly.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 1, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

@ham_fighters:

As a Yankees fan you have the luxury of saying "who needs ESPN" with the safety net of knowing they'll always be back for better or worse. This team however, rates a story 45 minutes into the program buried behind 2 stories on ARod, and 1 story each on Johan Santana and Curt Schilling. It's all part of the pall of insignificance that plagues this team. Not that it's undeserved - they are coming off of a 102 loss season. It's just not the position I want to see this team occupy for very long.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | March 1, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm hoping that with Bowden gone we might be LESS likely to move an outfielder. I think as the season plays out we'll be glad we seem to have 1 guy too many. If you view Willingham and Dunn as LF/1B guys backing up NJ and available off the bench the numbers work out pretty well.

If they moved Willingham and Nick goes down we'll all be going f-ing nuts when Kearns is starting in RF again.

As for moving Kearns, good luck! With his numbers and contract he's worth a lot more to us as a defensive replacement/4th/5th outfielder than he is to anyone else, even if we were willing to trade bad contracts to move him. Better to keep him around to play out his contract and stash WMP, Bernadina and Leonard Davis in AAA one more year.

Posted by: estuartj | March 1, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

On the 30 Teams in 30 Days Nationals show on MLB-TV last night, former Indians GM John Hart picked the Nats to finish fourth in the NL East this year. Then right after that they aired the Marlins episode of 30-30, and Hart picked the Marlins to finish fourth. What's up with that? Tie? Or is Hart no longer worried because no matter what he says, he'll never have the label "Dumbest Former GM Ever" stuck on him now?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 1, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

How long before the 'Fire Jim Bowden' site disappears....

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 1, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

How long before the 'Fire Jim Bowden' site disappears....

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 1, 2009 11:00 AM

-------------------

What will Steven on Capitol Hill do now???

Posted by: NatsWin | March 1, 2009 10:11 AM

--------------------

Spend the next year figuring out how to grow a 3rd arm to pat himself on the back with.

I'm sure it won't be too long until he launches "FireMikeRizzo.Blogspot.com".

Posted by: RicketyCricket | March 1, 2009 10:15 AM

Posted by: RicketyCricket | March 1, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Okay this issue has been settled. Whoever is the next GM lets have a person that is respected by the other 29 teams as well as the agents. Lets forget about screwing the other side and cutting corners. If that guy is Rizzo fine, if not then someone else that has respect and good player evaluation skills. The only person I am not big on is Ng. Rizzo has more experience on the player evaluation side and as i said I think that is what we need now. I am not saying NG is bad but we do not another Harvard MBA or ex Goldman banker to run the team. We have Kasten for the business side. If you want to get a numbers/contract person I am sure we can get them as an assistant GM.

Posted by: mjames0 | March 1, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

estuartj,

... not a bit of disagreement on your assessment of Nats OF and why to keep our guys around. However, some before you have linked a move of an outfielder with the acquisition of some relief help. If we keep out OFs, how do we confront our pen problem?

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 1, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm never been in favor of trading for a reliever, I honestly don't see us being able to acquire anyone better than what we have in house.

I did (jokingly) propose trading Willingham to ARI to get Rauch back, so we would have gotten Olsen for half a season of Wookie, but that was just a "save Jim Bowden" kind of comment, ie "of course the other GMs hate him, he keeps picking their pockets!"

I would like to see Belliard moved if a workable deal can be arranged, he has solid batting numbers, good (though not great) defense, a very favorable contract and playoff experience - what's not to like?

Posted by: estuartj | March 1, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

No chance Bowden is a GM again. People were stunned that he got this job. How would some owner spin that: "We looked at Jimmy, the fact that his Reds and Nationals teams were no good, the fact that his career was filled with such distractions as the poor 9/11 analogy, not being suspicious enough of a 16 year old phenom, trading for ex-Reds who are no good, drinking and driving and fighting with his woman... And more. We looked at all that, and, because the Nats won 10 more games in 2009 than 2008, we're sure that Jim is the right man for the job here."

Also, I don't know why it would surprise anyone that a GM wasn't named the moment he quit. There are rules that need to be followed (or waived) that would make that impossible. I just hope the new guys isn't SOCH, as he is by far the smartest baseball guy in the world.

Posted by: mike8 | March 1, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Adios, Jim Bowden. I don't think you're a criminal...but you were a criminally bad Nationals GM. A sports blogger friend of mine had a good take on Bowden's style. A brief but interesting read for anyone who's interested:

http://sportsthodoxy.blogspot.com/2009/02/lerners-permit.html

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | March 1, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

estuartj,

... I don't quite understand your reluctance to trade for a reliever. I don't want to sound combattive, nor enter into an argument over the issue, but it seems to me relievers are just position players same as everyone else, and when you recognize the need, trading is as good a vehicle as anything else, in order to meet that need.

... I believe that overall we are looking good to start the season, but if there's a weak point, it is in the pen. So I'd support Rizzo (or whomever) in confronting that lack. A trade seems a reasonable way to go about it, n'est pas?

... but I'd like to hear the opposing viewpoint.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 1, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

@natscan:
Let's give the current b'pen arms another 7-10 days. While I agree with you that 'on-paper' the bullpen looks soft, there may be some talent there.
I also agree with estuart that Belliard holds trade value, but probably not until the May-June timeframe.

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Does that mean we can finally close down the Cincinnati Reds underground railroad connecting DC? (In the best Jim Zorn-- Hip Hip Hooray!) Is a new one being built toward Diamondback country? That one might not be so bad.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 1, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Now that the major drama is over, we can all focus on the actions on the field. Real baseball, hurrah!

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 10:31 AM

-------------------------------------
Agreed!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 1, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

No doubt Kasten, et al, hung in there long enough to LET Jim resign, which was just as classy.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 1, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

What - Why is it that the WAS-BAL game is the only game on today's schedule with NO mlb.com audio feed listed? Grrrrrr.....

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sad to see Bowden go, I think he deserved to be fired for his performance as a GM regardless of his guilt or innocence in the FBI investigations. It's too bad he's having his name dragged through the mud in this investigation, but I think his poor record and lack of professionalism (DUI charges in '06, airing out the Crow negotiation dirty laundry in '08, telling a radio station that he was going to non-tender Cordero before speaking to Cordero in '08, 'Smiley-gate' in '09) warrant his dismissal regardless of the outcome of the ongoing FBI investigation.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | March 1, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

... and now for something a little bit different for a Sunday morning. Another kind of baseball. (Presque Isle is about an hour and a half (eighty miles) north of my house.

http://tinyurl.com/daam38

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 1, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

... yes, you're right, BinM. I admit to being a bit hasty, but with the focus now back on the game where it belongs, I guess I'm just thinking too fast. Waiting to see what turns up in the wash is part of ST, and I'm willing to do that.

... however, I'm still intrigued by estuartj's notion that one ought not to trade for relievers??

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 1, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

And where is JayB? He predicted Bowden would be fired before Spring Training. He wasn't that far off.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 1, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

@natscan:
I can't speak for estuartj, but imo it's because relievers are 1) overpriced / overvalued in the market, and 2) can by-and-large be found inside an orginization. The exceptions could be a "lock-down" set-up pitcher, or closers with a devistating "out" pitch.

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"Adios, Jim Bowden. I don't think you're a criminal...but you were a criminally bad Nationals GM."

Amen. The real work starts now. This is the first day of the work to actually make the Nats competitive.

So glad we didn't sign Teixeira now.

Posted by: SavedByZero | March 1, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Ahh ya gotta love the Lerners, in the timespan of a week they settled all of their outstanding family business.

Rijo, Rijo's buddies, 14 DR players and they put the kabash on the Rijo Acadamy.

That left only one thing to clean up and of course it must have been like a seen out of the GodFather. The one were Michael Corleone calls out his Brother-in-Law Carlo and basically tells him "he is out of the family business". Yeah I can see it all now, they bring in JimBo and Kasten is standing there telling JimBo your little con-game is over, but just don't keep telling me your innocent JimBo.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 1, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

@Tippy:
A better scene...
Stan - "JimBo, you're not my brother; you're not my friend. When you want to see Mark, I want to know 24 hours in advance, so I won't be here."

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

One thing I think we'll all be grateful for to Mr Bowden for a long time is Elijah Dukes. I love watching him and I think the guy is gonna be a superstar. So that could be a real good legacy for JimB. Hopefully.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 1, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

At least the lineups are up:
1) Guzman-SS
2) Johnson-1B
3) R.Zimmerman-3B
4) Dunn-LF
5) Dukes-RF
6) Willingham-DH
7) Harris-2B
8) Flores-C
9) Maxwell-CF

Posted by: BinM | March 1, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Carrying forward:

Heard about it on the way to brunch, and immediately thought of one person who I knew would be ecstatic. I agree that Bowden's comments were classy (and it would also be classy to move on as far as the JimBo bashing goes, IMO). I've been impressed with the way that Stan has handled things to date. Will be interesting to see what happens as far as the next GM (will also be interesting to see who becomes the next target).

My thanks to Bowden for his part in bringing baseball back to DC, particularly for what he was able to do with limited resources.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 1, 2009 12:59 PM

What a great story, natscan! Makes me want to go to one of their Virginia games and root for them. They ought to bring along a few snowballs for when the opposing team asks whether they brought any snow with them.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 1, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

BinM:

You forgot the best part;

JimBo: I'm smart, I can do things.

Kasten: Its not the way Pop wanted it!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 1, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

That's funny, BinM, because I was quoting that scene to my hubby last week. This week, it was the one where Michael "reconciles" with Fredo and hugs him at their mother's wake. Fredo then goes "fishing" with a henchman.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 1, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Bowden has been accused here of making "expensive, atrocious" moves, but I always liked him, and am hopeful but concerned about the team finding a superstar to replace him at GM.

IMO given where this franchise started and what he had to work with, you have to evaluate Bowden's tenure based on a few simple things:

1) Did the team acquire and develop young prospects? Yes. The Nationals have gotten very young, with promising talent at MOST positions.

2) Did Bowden ever give up young talent without getting equal value in return? What hall of fame prospects has Bowden given up along the way? Endy Chavez? Bill Bray? Termell Sledge? Ryan Church? I have to given JimBo high marks on this one.

3) Did he draft well? Only time will tell on this one, but his first (Zimmerman) was clearly a winner.

When I look at it, the Nats under Bowden picked up a lot of talented youth (Florez, Dukes, Milledge, Willingham, Olsen, Chico, Mock, Clippard) without giving up very much in return. People focus too much on the busts like Brian Lawrence, Paul LoDuca, and Dmitri Young, but those were short-term money gambles that cost the team nothing in the long run.

Obviously, if he's skimmed bonuses, he's got to go. Maybe Stan believes it's true. But I'm not going to slam him for his record.

Posted by: LetTeddyWin_com | March 1, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Also, my money was on an IHATEBOZ site as opposed to an anti-Rizzo one. Those who are inclined toward such endeavors will always find someone to target, so that's not a worry.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 1, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

A BIG hurrah! new start needed badly.

Posted by: rachel216 | March 1, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about a triple A team ?

Posted by: nobama2012 | March 1, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

We weren't talking about the TTMNBN, nob.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 1, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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