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Tony Kornheiser

Swing for the Fences, Jim

By Tony Kornheiser
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; Page D01

The best job in sports isn't playing center field for the New York Yankees. Too many road trips to too many places nobody wants to be in the summer, like Texas and Florida; too hot, too humid. And the best job in sports isn't playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Sure, the cheerleaders are hot, but who wants to listen to Parcells trash you night and day?

Nope, Jim Bowden has the best job in sports: interim general manager of the Washington Nationals. Jim Bowden is working for owners to be named later! And they'll have to pick up the tab for everything he's done. Why this guy is signing Cristian Guzman is beyond me. Why isn't he signing Pedro Martinez? So what if he has to shell out $80 million? It's not Jim Bowden's money. It probably won't even be his job soon. Go out in a blaze, baby.


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Bowden is the luckiest guy in the world. It's like Bob Barker pulled his name out of a drum and said, "Come on down!" And now he's got a major league team of his own to stock, like he's in a Fantasy League. So c'mon, Jimmy, loosen up. You're going to have to do better than signing Wil Cordero and Jeffrey Hammonds, who was the Orioles' No. 1 draft pick in, I think, 1962. These are not sexy signings, Jimbo. They are what you expect from the dull, cheap Montreal Expos. The last thing we want to see here are the dull, cheap Montreal Expos. Like Sting says, "It's a brand new day."

Go after Sammy Sosa like you mean it, dude. Whaddya saying, you won't part with Terrmel Sledge? No, Jim, we don't part with Percy Sledge. Terrmel, we throw under the bus. (Here's the rest of the story: It turns out Terrmel Sledge is due to model the Nats' new uniforms when they're unveiled tomorrow. So we lose a big corked bat in Sosa, but gain a runway model in Sledge.)

Jimbo, talk to me. So what if your payroll is supposed to be $50 million, and you have to run every move past Tony Tavares, like he's Tony Soprano? They can't be serious with $50 million. That doesn't even pay for the Yankees' laundry. Hey, the new stadium's supposed to cost $400 million, and everybody knows it'll be at least $550 million -- and Tony Williams won't bat an eyelash. He probably won't even be in town.

Sammy Sosa would be great here. With that short (and rusted) left field porch in RFK, Sosa could hit 80 homers, even without flaxseed oil. Imagine this: On Monday night it's Singles Night, just like with Les Boulez. Then on Tuesday night, it's Flaxseed Oil Night, where everyone taking flaxseed oil gets in for free and gets an additional seat for their giant head! Wednesday is Singles Who Use Flaxseed Oil Night. Every other Thursday could be Half-Price Cream and Clear Night.

Jimmy, the point is, you need to have some sizzle. It took us so long to land a team here, we shouldn't have to feel like the GM is looking for pieces of scrap metal to build a team. Haven't we been out of the loop long enough? Jimmy, the last thing we need is for you to become the Terry Robiskie of baseball. Live a little. Make this fun, you know, before they fire you and you end up back on "Cold Pizza."

While the Diamondbacks signed Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz, and the Dodgers signed Jeff Kent, and the Red Sox signed David Wells, and the Yankees signed Carl Pavano, and the Mets are closing in on an agreement with Pedro Martinez (and Nelson de la Rosa), Our Nats signed Cordero and Hammonds. My dog could have signed them. If that's what Bowden is going to do, they should have given the job to Anna Nicole Smith. At least when she signed some nonentity she'd get up to the microphone and call him, "freeeeeeakin' genius."

It's very discouraging to see the winter meetings go by and have to read headlines that say, "All Remains Quiet for the Nationals." What was Bowden waiting for, Monty Hall to come down the aisle and say, "If you have a hard-boiled egg in your pocket, I'll give you Al Leiter"? It's equally discouraging to read Bowden was chasing after 40-year-old Barry Larkin, and trying to tempt him with the notion that Washington would be a good place to land because Larkin could "transition into a front-office job." Is that what Bowden's selling, life after baseball? How about selling life during baseball? If Larkin wants a desk job, let him put in his name for Homeland Security. That's open -- unless Larkin had one of those unfortunate nanny situations. In a story headlined, "Pitching Tops Nats' Wish List at Meetings," we learned Bowden was wishing for Shaun Chacon, who was 1-9 with a 7.11 ERA and nine blown saves for Colorado last season. Seriously, how much more than a chicken salad sandwich would you have to give Mr. Chacon to get his signature? Or is there some sort of long line forming for this guy on the planet Goobus?

There are stories about what a flashy guy Bowden was when he was the Boy Wonder GM in Cincinnati, and he made so many deals that they gave him two office doors labeled "In" and "Out." Back in those days he drove a Porsche with the license plates "BODES." He must still be flashy, right? Because he lives in Hollywood. Yes, Hollywood, as in California. Which made it real easy for him to drive to the winter meetings in Anaheim. But it's a tough commute if he plans on making a lot of home games here.

God knows people don't always live in the cities where they work. But you might wonder what Jim Bowden knows about Washington. Has he spent much time here? Could he find his way to RFK without a seeing-eye dog? More important, can he get me a table at Citronelle?

The Wizards had a similar situation with Michael Jordan. Some columnists defended Jordan staying in Chicago by saying he could watch the games on TV, and conduct all business on a cell phone. But Jordan never truly became part of the city until he decided to come back and play. And then, when he left, there was that famous photo of him pulling out of the MCI Center parking lot with those Illinois plates on his Benz. What happens when a prospective Nat is looking for a place to live, and he asks, "What can you tell me about Chevy Chase?" Will Jim Bowden be able to say anything other than, "I know he started out on 'Saturday Night Live' "?


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