Yesterday morning on his Chatter blog Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times had this:
Here's what I have gathered from discussions with a lot of different people, both with the Nats and outside the organization but in the know:Asked by Chico Harlan if anyone else's head is on the chopping block, Stan Kasten yesterday gave another in an interminably long list of non-answers, and then lashed out at reporters for printing rumors (none of which did he specifically confirm or deny, so the only reporting that we absolutely know was false was the coverage of Kasten's own false assertion that Rijo asked for a leave to be with his ailing mom--tip to Stan, if you want accurate reporting, how about a little transparency?):
-- A portion of the Nats' ownership, perhaps even a majority, is ready to fire Bowden. But not everyone in ownership.
-- Several sources believe that nothing is imminent, that ownership wants to wait things out, see how the ongoing MLB and FBI investigations play out, before making a final decision. However, two other people I've spoken to in the last 12 hours believe there's a good chance the move could come by the end of the weekend.
-- If a move is made, the consensus among everyone I've spoken to is that assistant GM Mike Rizzo would be promoted. He'd probably be given the job on an interim basis, which would both allow ownership to see how he handled things while also maintaining some continuity in the organization as the season opens and (maybe most important) as the club prepares for the No. 1 and No. 10 picks in the June draft.
-- The Nats have absolutely not contacted Tony LaCava, the Toronto Blue Jays assistant GM whose name was the subject of much rumor yesterday. LaCava might very well be one of several candidates for the job if and when it becomes available, but he wouldn't be the only one and certainly wouldn't just be handed the job.
Well, related to the Dominican, I think it closes the book on Jose and the Jose Rijo complex and all of that. And that's all I want to talk about today. As I said to you the other day, I am supporting and continue to support everyone who works for the Nationals, and that's not lip service. I sincerely mean that. Having said that, there are many things going on behind the scenes that you all aren't privy to yet. When I'm able to talk to you about things I will, but I'm not going to discuss anything but the Dominican today, because I do not want to open any doors or lead you astray in any way, and believe me, I have seen stuff in the last couple days that are real head-scratchers. You know, things get out there and what passes for journalism, it just blows me away (ed note: and what passes for running a baseball team blows us all away). But I'm just not going to be a party to any discussions about anything other than this for right now.In today's Post, Tom Boswell speculates that the team is getting ready to elevate Mike Rizzo, who is getting praise for managing the transition in the team's facilities in the DR:
"We've replaced all the staff and coaches. We're relocating to a new complex. We're out of there," Kasten said with the kind of relief that usually accompanies release from a large, gray state institution with barbed wire on top of the walls. "These [Dominican] problems have held us back for two years.Today's Times has a story saying that Bowden's on the ropes, but that Mark Lerner is still protecting him (which means he's not really on the ropes right? I mean, everyone else on the planet could, and probably does think Jim should be fired, but if Mark Lerner still thinks he's the best man for the job, then it doesn't matter, right? Just asking...):
"We designated Mike to lead this project. Normally, a change like that might take a month, three months. You don't do it on the fly. We sent Mike to the Dominican on Tuesday. I said, 'Okay, Mike, you have three days.' He did it all."
Rizzo will be back here on Friday to take bows. Doesn't that sound like he's going to be the Nationals' next general manager? Or at least interim GM? Rizzo came to Washington from Arizona, in part, because it was widely assumed that he'd eventually be the successor to the more flamboyant but less Kasten-congenial Jim Bowden.
Jim Bowden's tenure as general manager of the Washington Nationals, a position he has held since the franchise relocated from Montreal more than four years ago, could be down to its final days.Zuckerman also repeats speculation that Rizzo is in line to replace Bowden, at least on an interim basis:
According to team and league sources, a portion of the Nationals' ownership group is pushing for Bowden to be fired by the end of the weekend, citing an ongoing federal investigation of his dealings with prospects in the Dominican Republic as well as the club's overall struggles over the last two years.
No final decision has been made about Bowden's future, those sources said, and he continues to have a handful of supporters within ownership, most notably principal owner Mark Lerner.
If a change is made, both team and league sources expect the Nationals to promote assistant GM Mike Rizzo to Bowden's position on an interim basis. That would allow ownership time to evaluate Rizzo's performance, conduct a full search for a permanent replacement and maintain some continuity in the front office in advance of the June amateur draft.Finally, the Post has a lengthy story in today's paper that doesn't have really any news on the Bowden front, but does include one pretty scathing anonymous quote:
Whether Bowden will be next remains unclear. Two sources said Rijo's dismissal was directly related to the signing of Alvarez. "It had everything to do with that kid," one said.And the Post article does include more detail on Rijo's academy than we've gotten before, painting a picture of a sloppy, if not fraudulent, operation, tolerated by Bowden:
The strength of Bowden's personal and professional relationship with Rijo is indisputable. Though Rizzo traveled here to scout out the team's temporary home in the beach town of Boca Chica and to officially assemble a new staff -- one which will be headed by Fernando Ravelo, who is currently the general manager of the powerful Tigres del Licey franchise in the Dominican Winter League -- it was Bowden who called Rijo and delivered the news of his termination Thursday morning.
"That had to be excruciating for Jim," said one baseball source who knows both men well. "They're just making [Bowden] endure as much pain as possible."
The bond between Rijo and Bowden took root in Cincinnati in the early 1990s. Bowden, as baseball's youngest general manager, shaped the Reds' roster. Rijo, a World Series MVP in 1990, determined the team's mood. They shared a relationship that Doc Rodgers, later Cincinnati's assistant general manager, called "maybe the closest general manager-player relationship I've ever seen."
In the late 1990s, while out of baseball because of his arm injuries, Rijo settled on his next dream: starting up a baseball academy in the Dominican. Bowden supported the idea.
"I met him down in the Dominican Republic, and he showed us where it's gonna be," said Rodgers, whom the Reds assigned to the Dominican. "We get into his Range Rover, we drive into this sugar cane field and José said, 'Doc, this is it.' "
Bowden had no reservations about tying Cincinnati's fate in the Dominican to Rijo's facility, several sources said. Starting in 1997, Rodgers said, the team's Latin American presence had consisted of one person -- a scout named Johnny Almaraz. Thereafter, Cincinnati started a Dominican team, giving its players a house for lodging, but Rijo's facility represented the chance for something bigger. An arrangement was struck: The Reds would lease half of the academy, housing their Dominican prospects there. In the other half, Rijo would run a separate academy for his own players, those too young to be signed. If any of those youngsters showed potential, Rijo would give the Reds first negotiating rights.
Bowden delegated almost all responsibilities to Rodgers, several sources said, but as Rijo's facility grew, problems emerged. Cincinnati executive John Allen negotiated the rent, and the organization came away paying between $20,000 and $25,000 per month, Rodgers said -- double the going rate. Rijo struck several in Cincinnati's front office as being prone to oversight, turning in expense reports without receipts and claiming bills that weren't covered in the paperwork.
"Jose is not a detail guy," said Brad Kullman, who eventually rose to an assistant GM position with Bowden. "I don't think he is a scam artist, because he will give you the shirt off his back. But then, once he does, he will be like, 'Hey, I don't have a shirt.' "