Nats' Farm Director Dismissed

Nationals'  GM Jim Bowden, left, wants to hold off on deciding whether to retain Manager Frank Robinson.
Nationals' GM Jim Bowden, left, wants to hold off on deciding whether to retain Manager Frank Robinson. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

HOUSTON, Oct. 17 -- The Washington Nationals dismissed their director of player development, Adam Wogan, on Monday, a move General Manager Jim Bowden said was made to improve the organization even though no replacement was named. The move, though, has deeper implications. It is an indication that Bowden, who is a candidate for the general manager's job in Arizona, could continue to shake up the Nationals' front office even before the club has a new owner and before his own status is clarified.

Bowden has spoken to the Diamondbacks at least once, a National League source said, but it is unclear when and if a second interview will take place. Diamondbacks officials did not return phone calls Monday, and Jeff Moorad, the club's general partner, isn't speaking publicly about his search for a GM, which also includes San Diego's Kevin Towers.

Nationals President Tony Tavares, who granted Bowden permission to speak with Arizona, said Monday the two other teams with GM vacancies, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, have not asked permission to speak with Bowden, though he could be a candidate for either job.

Bowden, who would like to remain in Washington under new ownership, said he won't comment on his future even as he makes moves to shape that of the Nationals. Wogan, 30, oversaw the team's farm system, consistently rated as the weakest in baseball, since 2002. He came to the Montreal Expos, the franchise that moved to Washington last year, as an intern in 1998.

"I felt it was in the best interest of the organization to go in a different direction on the player development side," Bowden said. "I felt it was in Adam's best interest to do it now to give him an opportunity to get a job with another club."

The Nationals can't officially name a successor until a new owner is named, but it's possible Bob Boone, a former major league manager who served as an assistant to Bowden this year, would take over at least some of the responsibilities. Bowden leaned heavily on Boone's evaluations this year and didn't make a major move without consulting Boone. The fact that Bowden relied on the opinions of Boone and two other assistants he hired -- Jose Rijo and Jose Cardenal -- made it clear that Wogan's future with the organization was in jeopardy.

"I'm disappointed," Wogan said. "I wish that we would've had the opportunity to continue on and try and continue to make improvements in the department. . . . There's a lot of things going through my head. I'm a little surprised given the uncertainty of the situation."

Bowden said that he will try to hold off on major decisions -- such as who to retain on the coaching staff and whether to bring back Manager Frank Robinson -- until a new owner is named, a process that could extend well into next month. Major League Baseball, which owns the team, has narrowed the field to three interested groups, but wants to wait to choose a winner until baseball officials and the D.C. Council agree to terms of a lease. The contracts for front office employees and the coaching staff expire Oct. 31.

"If it comes to a point where it's in the best interest of the franchise and we have to do something, we're not putting everything on hold," Bowden said. "If we feel like decisions need to be made, we will make those."

Meantime, before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series in Houston, MLB President Robert DuPuy said he remains hopeful the sale of the Nationals will be ratified at the owners' meetings next month. He acknowledged that it would be better to have a new owner in place to be able to make such decisions but said the current administration is authorized to move forward.

"They're going to operate under current management until a new owner is in place," DuPuy said.

Since he took his job nearly a year ago, Bowden has been critical of the Nationals' farm system, which traded away prospects such as Cleveland's Grady Sizemore and Pittsburgh's Jason Bay under previous general manager Omar Minaya during a time when it appeared the Expos would cease to exist. But the fact that the franchise remains in flux -- with no owner and no way to determine the long-term direction until one is named -- has made it difficult to hire and retain top-notch talent in development. If he stays, Bowden is likely to make several new hires as scouts and minor league coaches.

"I think we've made some progress in development," Bowden said. "But overall, we've got a long way to go. I felt very strongly that we needed to make a change at the top in that department."

Should Bowden leave, Tavares is unsure of how he would approach naming a successor, a move on which he believes a new owner should have input. One possibility is to give increased responsibility to Boone and keep assistant general manager Tony Siegle as an administrator.

"I'm in a position where I have to react, not move forward," Tavares said.

One high-ranking club official with knowledge of the Nationals' thinking said Tavares, should he be retained by new ownership, would be unlikely to pursue New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman should Cashman leave New York. The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Cashman is still employed by the Yankees, said Tavares is likely to look for someone who has more experience dealing with a limited payroll. The Yankees spent more than $200 million this year; the Nationals less than $60 million.

Two candidates that Tavares is likely to consider, the source said, are Towers, should he leave the Padres; and Dayton Moore, the Atlanta Braves' director of player development.


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