Under investigation by MLB and the FBI, the embattled Bowden stepped down this morning, saying he was a distraction to the team.
Jim Bowden resigned this morning as GM of the Washington Nationals, saying investigations of his handling of Domincan player contracts were detracting from the team.
Bowden and his longtime assistant, Jose Rijo, are under investigation for allegedly skimming bonuses to Latin American players. Bowden has proclaimed his innocence, but in recent days it was clear his position with the team was tenuous: assistant GM Mike Rizzo had become the face of the team in spring training. Rizzo is expected to be a strong contender to replace Bowden.
This is a crucial year for the Nats. With the economic slowdown and the honeymoon in Washington basically over between the Nats and the public, the team needs to make a strong showing both on field and in fan service to win loyalty. He also had the challenge of replenishing the Nats’ generally woeful farm system, pretty much decimated after Omar Minaya stripmined it during his tenure as GM when the team played as the Montreal Expos.
Here’s the full statement from Bowden:
I am today resigning my position as Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Washington Nationals. It is an emotional decision that saddens me, but one that I feel is in the best interests of two of the things I love most – baseball and the Washington Nationals.
My resignation is based upon my realization that my ability to properly represent the Washington Nationals has been compromised because of false allegations contained in the press. I am disappointed by the media reports regarding investigations into any of my professional activities. There have been no charges made, and there has been no indication that parties have found any wrongdoing on my part.
At the same time, while I have done nothing wrong, I place a greater value on the love, respect, and best interests of my family, friends, the game of baseball — that I’ve served lovingly and faithfully for close to 25 years — and, the reputation and future of the Washington Nationals, which I’m proud to have been a part of since its inception in 2004.
I believe I have had one of the great challenges afforded to any general manager in baseball. I was hired in November 2004 to make day-to-day baseball decisions on an interim basis with no ownership group, no permanent place to play and no legitimate minor league system. There was little to no budget for a major league roster. But, with the help of some very special assistants, we persevered. Today, we have some of the best owners in the game. We have one of the finest new ballparks, with a beautiful view of the Nation’s Capitol. And, we are headed in the right direction with the nucleus of a young, competitive and interesting major league baseball team that is capable of turning into a contender in a short period of time.
I’m proud to have had the opportunity to be part of such a special organization with so many tremendous people who will always be my friends, and am also proud of my contributions to Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals and the game.
I wish nothing but success to the Lerner Family, Stan Kasten and the Washington Nationals organization, and to the very special players and front office personnel with whom I’ve built strong and meaningful relationships. I also want to thank all of the players, managers, coaches, front office staff and ownership for treating my family members like their own.
In closing, let me state this is a bittersweet moment for me. While I will always have the experiences and fond memories of my relationships with the Nationals, Stan Kasten and the Lerner family, who have always been gracious and fair in their dealings with me, I will also carry with me the cold hard realization that my life has been turned upside down by a news media that prints entire stories attributed solely to anonymous sources who refuse to be identified and who are free to allege anything they choose for any purpose without fear of retribution. One can only understand the impact of false allegations, insinuations and innuendos by the press if they themselves been the subject of those false allegations. However, I also want to thank the many media members, who have dealt with me with fairness and professionalism, and they far outweigh the others.
Like anyone else, I have made mistakes in all areas of my personal and professional life, but I leave here with the true belief that I have done nothing intentionally to harm the Washington Nationals or Major League Baseball. The team, the fans and media can now turn all of their attention from the distractions off-the-field to where it belongs, on the baseball field for the Washington Nationals and their upcoming 2009 championship season.
Here’s the full statement from Nats president Stan Kasten:
We greatly respect and admire the decision made today by Jim Bowden. He showed characteristic poise and maturity, and demonstrated his selfless love for the game and the Washington Nationals.
We all believe it is imperative that we honor the integrity of the game and that fans be able to concentrate their attention and affections on the game and players on the field. Jim has maintained his innocence, but recognized that he had become a distraction, and with great grace determined to do what was best for the team and his players.
As the only general manager in the history of the Washington Nationals, his influence and direct imprint on the franchise is immeasurable. He was hired by Major League Baseball to manage a nearly unmanageable situation, without the benefit of local ownership. But, he knew he would be serving a fan base long hungry for the return of big league baseball to the Nation’s Capital. He accepted the challenge and fulfilled it with enthusiasm, intelligence, and gritty determination.
Jim’s efforts to develop a competitive club on the field, while dedicating himself to building a minor league system second to none, will serve the Washington Nationals for years to come.
The Washington Nationals ownership group, management, players, and fans, owe a great deal to Jim Bowden. He laid the groundwork for a team that we know will be a perennial contender in the National League East and throughout the league. We wish him all the best.