“This is a fantastic camp – as positive, upbeat, optimistic a camp as I can recall in my career in terms of athletic talent and atmosphere and the attitude of the players,” stressed Washington Nationals Prez Stan Kasten to the Times’ Mark Zuckerman. “[The negative news is] certainly not affecting any of them in their preparation.” And while GM Jim Bowden’s rumored involvement in a growing bung scandal might not give those in uniform pause, the Washington Post‘s Thomas Boswell and Dave Sheinin report the case has the fully attention of the Nats’ front office, despite Katsen’s attempts to refocus the media coverage.
Behind the scenes, according to sources, some within the team’s ownership group — which includes Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner, seven principal owners and nine founding partners — are eager to cut ties with the general manager they inherited almost three years ago, and see the investigation as a way of facilitating Bowden’s exit. The Nationals, one source said, are encouraging the investigation to return an answer on Bowden (above) so the parties can “go on their merry way.”
Washington’s pragmatic stance with Bowden, several sources said, will change instantly if the investigation gives team ownership any ammunition. That group, which took control of the Nationals in 2006, inherited Bowden as its general manager – and ever since, Bowden has built a reputation for survival skills. He survived the transition to a new ownership group by fostering an alliance with Principal Owner Mark Lerner, still his closest supporter. He survived a forced marriage with Kasten. He survived a 2006 drunk driving charge. He survived three losing seasons in Washington, including last year’s 102-loss calamity.
Bowden’s track record in building the Nationals reflects a mix of unwise contracts given to veterans, savvy high-reward risks on players like Elijah Dukes, and notable offseason upgrades, including the early February signing of free agent Adam Dunn. 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.”