Jim Bowden’s (Extremely Brief) Return To Respectability

Jim Bowden, the disgraced ex-Nationals GM, stands accused of stealing ballplayers' bonus money. The team he built is on pace to lose 118 games. Naturally, ESPN wanted to hire him.

In a May 28 press release, the Boys from Bristol announced that Bowden—who previously worked for ESPN after getting fired by the Reds in 2003—would be in the booth for the NCAA baseball tournament. On Wednesday, Awful Announcing reported he'd be at the Ole Miss-Virginia Super Regional alongside Dan McLaughlin.

I called ESPN to make sure that this wasn't some different Jim Bowden, a guy who hadn't been suckered into paying $1.4 million for a prospect who lied about his age and who hadn't inspired a rival executive to say, "If they got all his enemies together, they'd have to rent Yankee Stadium." Yes, I was told, it really was the same Jim Bowden—was being the operative word.

Without announcing anything publicly, ESPN replaced Bowden with someone named Jay Walker. According to ESPN spokesman Paul Melvin, the un-hiring came after the network learned of a sit-down Bowden had with local D.C. sports guy Brett Haber. The Haber/Bowden interviews—a Frost/Nixon for fans of horrific baseball—saw the ex-GM confess that he'd likely never get another job in MLB and that he had never visited the Nats' baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. "[W]e talked with Jim and both he and ESPN agreed that the interview will result in a lot of attention on Jim and the surrounding story," Melvin said via e-mail. "That's not what we want. We want to keep the focus on the games." Melvin also emphasized that the network had never intended to hire Bowden on full-time—"it was always a short-term, one-off assignment."

Considering the extent of his alleged off-field transgressions and his proven inability to construct a baseball team, it's bizarre that ESPN would want to hire Bowden for any kind of assignment—maybe they just needed someone to keep Steve Phillips company. What's more bizarre is that he would be deemed unfit for the broadcast booth for the crime of being mildly candid on television. After all, he's said way stranger things on his Twitter feed ("Peavy for Poreda and Richard? The other 2 prospects better be top prospects or the Padres pre-ejaculated in this deal").

But let's not lose focus on the real issue here. Bowden's George O'Leary-at-Notre Dame-length tenure as a color man would never have happened if ESPN hadn't decided to broadcast all of college baseball's Super Regionals. With games at eight different sites, the world's announcing talent has been stretched to the breaking point. Among the non-Bowden talent that will be anchoring the Worldwide Leader's aluminum bat bonanza: Robin Ventura, Keith Moreland, Morgan Ensberg, and every other living human who played third base between 1984 and 2006. Kelly Gruber, call your office!

Jim Bowden Breaks His Silence [WUSA9.com]