Unlike politicians, Expos GM hopes for short stay
WASHINGTON -- Former Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden was hired Tuesday as general manager of the Washington-bound Montreal Expos, taking a job that might last only a few months while the team is being sold.
"One of the things that was intriguing to me is that it was a short-term commitment," said Bowden, who is taking a leave of absence from his job as an ESPN commentator.
Bowden will oversee offseason trades and signings for a franchise that will move to the nation's capital next season if the local government approves funding for a new ballpark. He replaces Omar Minaya, who resigned during the final week of the regular season to become general manager of the New York Mets.
The length of Bowden's stay depends on how long it takes to sell the team, which is owned by the 29 other major league clubs. At least two dozen potential buyers have shown interest, and the sale might not be completed until late in the offseason or early in the next regular season.
Bowden expressed no interest in remaining with the team once an owner is chosen.
"I really enjoy television," Bowden said. "I'm taking this position as an interim position. That's what I agreed to, and that's what I feel I'm going to carry out."
Bowden said Frank Robinson will remain the team's manager during the transition period.
"I don't think it's fair to make any drastic changes in personnel when you'd be bringing someone in that may be re-evaluated in three months or four months or whenever the new ownership people are in place," Bowden said. "Frank's done a decent job with this club."
Bowden said that he and Robinson discussed every player on the roster Tuesday and that he already has talked with other general managers about possible trades. Bowden also must decide whether to retain the Expos' top player eligible for free agency, third baseman Tony Batista. Team president Tony Tavares began talks with Batista's representatives in recent days during the search for a general manager.
Bowden said he expects baseball to give him a bigger player budget than the Expos had in Montreal, where low local revenues kept the team from paying top-dollar salaries.
"It's not going to be at the low end like Tampa Bay, and it's not going to be at the high end like the Yankees," Bowden said. "But it'll be somewhere in the middle. And whatever the final number is, it'll be a number we can compete with."
Bowden was the youngest general manager in major league history when he took the position with the Reds in 1992 at age 31. He made more than 100 trades during 10½ seasons with the club, acquiring players such as Ken Griffey Jr., Sean Casey, David Wells, Denny Neagle, Danny Graves and rising star Wily Mo Pena.
Because the Washington team still is erecting trailers to serve as offices in the parking lot of RFK Stadium, Bowden will work out of the Expos' spring training headquarters in Melbourne, Fla.
Tavares said it wasn't easy to find someone willing to take such a job on an interim basis.
"You'd have a different set of applicants if somebody thought they were going to be the GM here for the long haul," said Tavares, who collaborated with the commissioner's office on the decision. "Having said that, you could do a lot, lot worse that Jim Bowden as your GM. I am very pleasantly surprised that he's willing to do this."
Baseball originally targeted Bob Watson, baseball's vice president of on-field operations. Watson turned down the offer because he would have been paid the same salary he's currently making, according to a major league team official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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