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Thomas Boswell: For All His Hard Work, Bowden Needn't Look Elsewhere for Blame

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By Thomas Boswell
Monday, March 2, 2009

VIERA, Fla.

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Jim Bowden was never going to be the Nationals' ultimate general manager, the man who, the franchise hoped, would oversee a potential champion. His methods were too suspect, his moods too unpredictable, his reputation too checkered, his enemies in the game too numerous. But he was useful. He worked like a dog. He sold the game. He was colorful and controversial. He took tiny budgets and, sometimes, made something of them. Or else, like last year, all the baling wire snapped. Given few chips, he couldn't blow a big pot. And he landed castoffs and malcontents, occasionally for peanuts.

Bowden was a good servant with brutal marching orders, but he was also a man who many in baseball assumed had an expiration date stamped on his back. At some point, he'd blow himself up, burn too many bridges. Then the Nats would move on to the next stage of evolution.

That juncture came Sunday. It wasn't pretty. The Nats took the convenient, hackneyed way out. Bowden resigned, then said the media had driven him out with innuendo.

"My resignation is based upon my realization that my ability to properly represent the Nationals has been compromised because of false allegations contained in the press," Bowden said in a statement released by the team. "I'm disappointed by the media reports regarding investigations into my professional activities. There have been no charges made and there has been no indication that parties have found any wrongdoing on my part."

Stan Kasten, team president, enjoys a good rant and media persecution is a favorite. He's been beating this drum in private lately. So the manner of Bowden's departure has Kasten's blessing, if not his fingerprints. Such an eminent personage deserves a full and detailed response.

So, here is mine: Oh, please.

Kill some other messenger.

Bowden's team lost 102 games last year. That can get any GM fired, especially one with a .485 career winning percentage.

The entire Dominican operation that Bowden oversaw, delegating the day-to-day operations to José Rijo, had to be razed Thursday when the team fired almost everybody associated with the stinking thing. What Fortune 500 company would retain an executive who was ultimately responsible for a large and important unit of the company that had to be completely dismantled amid scandal?

Also, it was Bowden's personal lobbying that led the Nats to sign their $1.4 million Player to be Named Later in '06. The Nats doubled the next-highest bid for a 16-year-old who turned out to be a 20-year-old with a completely different name.


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