Monday, February 23, 2009

The Audacity of dope.

For fans who are tired of the A-Rod scandal but not quite ready for World Baseball Classic scandal, consider the curious case of Nationals general manager Jim Bowden. During a week in which Bowden should still be basking in the glow of his first big-fish free agent signing as Nationals GM, Adam Dunn, the embattled executive instead finds himself answering to reporters about his club's operations in Latin America. Specifically, Bowden must address questions about whether he was involved in wrongdoing in skimming bonuses from Latin American players. Moreover, it is Bowden's employer that is encouraging the investigation.

Bowden's best possible outcome is that he's portrayed as an incompetent supervisor, one who, potentially since 1994, has unwittingly allowed his scouts in the region to illegally take pieces of signing bonuses that should have gone to players. This would add to Bowden's already impressive run of incompetence, from the 102-loss 2008 regular season to failing to properly gauge the contract demands of ninth-overall pick Aaron Crow and adjust his team's draft board accordingly.*

Bowden's worst possible outcome is that he was complicit in the scandal, in which case he should find legal representation. He will be fired if he had a hand in the scandal.

Either way, it makes the decision to double the next-highest bidder in the Esmailyn Gonzalez negotiation look like another of Bowden's major blunders. Gonzalez was, of course, found out to be four years older than originally thought, making the Texas Rangers happy that the Nationals overbid for his services by $700,000.

As a general rule of thumb, anytime an executive must stand before reporters and say, "I'm innocent of any wrongdoing, and besides that I don't have any comment," it usually means his walking papers are in short order. Organizations, particularly baseball teams, don't run well with controversial winds swirling. Already, team president Stan Kasten appears less-than-pleased with the storm. Witness this quote from the WaPo writeup:

"While talking about Bowden on Monday, Kasten bemoaned the lack of recent attention given to on-field story lines. 'It's happened with your backs turned to it at the moment,' Kasten said, motioning to one of the practice fields. 'I hope you're not happy about that. Something could be happening out there. We could have Adam Dunn at third base at the moment and you wouldn't know about it.'"

Win or lose, it may be time for Jim Bowden to freshen up his resume. Unfortunately, he won't have Cold Pizza as a fallback option this time.

* The Nationals get the tenth pick in the 2009 Draft as compensation for losing Crow, but that just delays their rebuilding by a season. They would have been better served drafting a Brett Wallace, a Justin Smoak or a Jemille Weeks and adding that player to their 25-man roster as much as a full year earlier.

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