- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The guy who left the dead fish to rot in the safe-deposit box and skipped town - you know, the general manager who built the Washington Nationals’ bullpen - is on the rebound.

Jim Bowden has gone Hollywood. He loves L.A.

Bowden resigned as the Nationals’ general manager on March 1 after reports revealed him to be the subject of a federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to Dominican prospects.

Bowden has resurfaced in La-La Land as a contributor to a sports talk radio program on ESPN 710. He has appeared at least three times on the “Mason & Ireland Show.”

In his inaugural appearance April 1, Jim in L.A. said a few things that might interest Nationals fans:

• He jokingly compared the Nationals to the Washington Generals.

• He said the decision to sign highly touted pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg already has been made.

• The Nats didn’t sign their No. 1 pick, Aaron Crow, last year because “we weren’t given the dollars to finish that.”

• The Nats offered free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira “more money and more years than anybody in baseball.”

• He resigned because of the name on the front of the uniform (and this was before the “Natinals” fiasco).

Jim in L.A. told the hosts of the show he plans to stay in Los Angeles.

“In my whole career, I never got a choice where to be,” he said. “The Cincinnati Reds chose me. The Washington Nationals chose me. This time I am going to choose where to be. And certainly radio and television are two things that I love, and that’s what I am going to be pursuing.”

In other words: Nobody else in baseball would choose him.

Bowden got off to a rousing start in his first appearance, taking his hosts up on an offer to explain his departure from the Nationals.

“Let me take you back to November,” he said. “I was actually here in Beverly Hills serving jury duty. I wanted to do it. I feel like I owe that. You got to do what you’ve got to do. So the judge interviews each person, and I ended up being the foreman. In the interview process, the judge looks at me and goes, ‘You know, I don’t know much about baseball, but I understand that you’re the senior vice president and general manager of the Washington Generals.’

“I said, ‘I am the senior vice president of the Washington team, but it is the Washington Nationals, not the Generals.’ Then I hesitated and said, ‘But you know what? We probably win as many games as the Generals.’ The whole place cracked up laughing.”

I’ll pause so you can laugh, too…

Jim in L.A. continued: “Look, I had a four-year run there. I was in my fifth year, and the fact of the matter was that we didn’t have a winning season. We had the controversy off the field that had to do with problems in the Dominican Republic. … There were issues off the field that I had nothing to do with. … In fact, I never even went to the Dominican Republic, don’t even have a passport. But the reality is when you are the general manager, you are responsible for everything that goes on under you in every department. You can’t control what every employee does or doesn’t do, but you have the responsibility to oversee it. So between the not winning and the combination of the off-field distractions, I had become a problem, PR-wise, in Washington.

“So when I held the meeting on March 1, I walked into the clubhouse, I had 68 players, 12 coaches sitting in the room, and no one was really expecting this to happen. I walked in and said: ‘In all my years in baseball, 15 as a general manager, I had to make some really tough decisions. I fired Hall of Famers. I traded impact players. I traded some of my best friends. I will never forget when Deion Sanders walked in and I had traded him, tears rolled down his eyes. There were so many moves I had to make, and as general manager, you’re paid to be truthful, up front and make tough decisions, and you make decisions based on the name on the front of the jersey and not the back of the jersey.

“So I sat in there in that locker room on that March 1 morning and said to all the players and coaches and the managers, I said, ‘I’m paid to make the best decisions for the front of the jersey, so my final decision ever as a major league general manager is my resignation today. And I wish all of you nothing but success. I will be rooting for you. But I believe at this time it is in the best interests of this franchise that I step down and let someone else take the reins,’ and that is what happened.”

I’ll pause so you can wipe the tears from your eyes…

Jim in L.A. also talked about other issues of interest to Nationals fans - such as spending money on players.

“We didn’t have the resources to ever have a competitive payroll, or we weren’t able to sign our first-round pick because we weren’t given the dollars to finish that,” he said. “But the reality is it is going to be a gold mine. It is just going to take some time.”

Jim in L.A. said the money will be there for Strasburg in this year’s draft.

“Washington is going to draft Strasburg,” he said. “The decision has already been made. It was made when I was there. That is who they are going to take. … This is the best amateur pitcher since I was born. He is that good - his delivery, his stuff, 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning, his makeup. He’s got the entire package. … Strasburg is going to be drafted by Washington. You think they are going to sign him early? No, it’s going to be Aug. 15 at 11:57 p.m. It will end at around $15 million, about under $35 million of what Scott [Boras] wants, but that is where it ends up. It will be record-breaking, and he will be pitching in the big leagues in September. He is that good.”

And Jim in L.A. said the money was there for Teixeira: “The Washington Nationals offered more money and more years than anybody in baseball. People don’t know that. It’s not public. But that’s the truth. The reality in this is Mark Teixeira had made up his mind. He was going to go to the Yankees.”

Jim in L.A. has been on the show at least twice since, and most of those appearances dealt with questions about the Dodgers, Angels and other baseball topics - save for putting demoted Nationals reliever Steven Shell on the trading block.

“The Nationals actually do have one bullpen guy who could help the Angels right now, and it’s Steve Shell,” he said. “… This is a guy that I think could help the Angels’ bullpen. He’s certainly not a setup [man] or closer, but he is someone who could definitely help in the middle relief. So that is the one guy that that club has that is available and who the Angels could trade for.”

Now the guy wants to stink up another bullpen.

Jim in L.A. may have finally found his calling. You’re next on “Dialing Up the Dawg.”

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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