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
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.