Jim Bowden will be retained as general manager of the Washington Nationals once the club’s new ownership group takes over, incoming president Stan Kasten announced yesterday.
Kasten wouldn’t reveal terms of Bowden’s contract, including the length of the deal, but it’s believed to be for multiple years. Bowden’s current six-month contract extension was due to expire at the end of the season.
“Consider him permanent as the GM,” Kasten said before last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at RFK Stadium.
The Lerner group won’t be handed full control of the Nationals for another week or two, but Kasten said the time was right to announce a decision he came to long ago.
“Not everyone in baseball who knows me thought that’s what I was going to do,” said Kasten, who worked in Atlanta with the understated John Schuerholz for 13 years. “But this is what I always thought I was going to do. And people close to me will tell you I’ve been saying this to them for quite a while now.”
Since Major League Baseball awarded the franchise to the Lerners in early May, Bowden, 45, has appeared to be in good standing. He forged a relationship with the new owners long before they knew they were getting the team, and he acknowledged that Kasten formally told him he would be retained “a while ago.”
Hired by MLB on Nov. 2, 2004, Bowden has spent the last year and a half trying to build a winner in Washington despite limited resources. The results have been mixed: The Nationals were one of baseball’s surprise teams last year before faltering down the stretch and finishing 81-81 but have struggled this season. They reached the midway point last night with a 33-48 record, including nine losses in their last 10 games.
Kasten, though, said he has been impressed with Bowden’s performance and is excited to see what the GM can do with the bigger budget and bigger staff the Lerners are promising. It’s a position Bowden, who spent 101/2 years as GM of the small-market Cincinnati Reds, has never been in.
“We’re going to be able to compete with the Yankees, the Braves, the Red Sox, everybody,” Bowden said. “We’re going to be able to do it right. I’ve never had that opportunity in my career. I’ve dreamed about it.”
Bowden still faces DUI charges from an April 17 incident in Miami Beach, Fla., but the Lerners and Kasten have expressed their support for him throughout.
Without revealing specifics of Bowden’s contract yesterday, Kasten stressed the importance of establishing stability throughout the organization. That also requires patience, particularly for a franchise that intends to rebuild through player development, scouting and the draft.
Bowden and his staff have received considerable praise for the job they did on last month’s draft. They’ve already signed three of their top four picks.
“I was a fan of Jim before I got here, for a lot of reasons,” Kasten said. “Not only has nothing changed my mind, I’ve become a bigger fan of him since I’ve worked with him.”
Regarding Bowden, Nationals manager Frank Robinson said after last night’s game, “I’m happy for him. I’m glad it worked out and he’ll be here to straighten this organization, farm system and this team out and build a solid contender for a number of years.”
With Bowden’s future now resolved, the Nationals will begin focusing on other staff members, particularly Robinson. Kasten met briefly with Robinson yesterday but set no timetable for a decision.