To begin the month of March, we take you back to the year 2009 in today’s Fed City Flashback. The Washington Nationals had already played four games on their Spring Training schedule. Even with the season a little more than a month away, Washington had a bit of a front office shuffle at the general manager position.
On this date in 2009, the Nationals’ general manager Jim Bowden decided to step down from his position due to a federal investigation into the team skimming money from their Latin American prospects. While Bowden said he was innocent of his allegations, he still made the decision to leave. Here was a quote from Bowden that was written in the Washington Post:
"“I’ve become a distraction,” Bowden said minutes later, “and unless you’re Manny Ramírez there’s no place for distractions in baseball.” (h/t The Washington Post)"
The allegations originally came to light in Feburary of 2008 that Bowden and his longtime assistant, Jose Rijo for signing 16-year old prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez to a $1.4 million signing bonus.
So, what was exactly being investigated about this signing? Well, Gonzalez’s real name was actually Carlos Daniel Alvarez and he was actually 20 years old. Rijo and Jose Baez, who ran the Nationals operations in the Dominican Republic, were also fired on that day.
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Bowden, who currently works as an insider for ESPN and as an on-air talent for MLB Network Radio, had been the General Manager in the Nation’s Capital since 2004. In his four years at the helm, the team never had a winning season, even though he signed some veterans such as Alfonso Soriano and Adam Dunn and drafted some of the Nationals current core in Ryan Zimmerman and Jordan Zimmermann.
Three days later, president Stan Kasten named Mike Rizzo as the interim general manager. Rizzo had been working under Bowden as the Assistant GM and Vice President since he left the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in 2006. In August, the Nationals current President of Baseball Operations would eventually be named the full-time GM.
While Rizzo’s tenure has brought postseason baseball back to Washington D.C, it wasn’t pretty to start with. The 2009 Washington Nationals went 59-103, the worst record in franchise history. Plus, the team made a managerial change mid-season, firing Manny Acta and promoting bench coach Jim Riggleman to manager.
As far as the results of that federal investigation, Bowden was never charged with a crime. That being said, it was still a strange way, to say the least to end the Bowden era. Six years later, Mike Rizzo has built a team that the majority of experts are predicting to go deep into October in 2015.