Nationals Q & A with Bowden

Bowden speaks out in monthly Q & A

Nationals interim general manager Jim Bowden was not a happy man when caught up with him recently to do his monthly Q&A. He had a sore throat, sore heel and, as he put it, "a sore team."

Bowden has seen the Nationals squander a 5 1/2-game lead on July 3 and they now find themselves in a first-place tie with the Braves.

In this no-holds-barred interview, Bowden talks about how disappointed he is in the offense and about the complaints about Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The team has hit a dry spell during the last 18 games. What has been the main problem?

Jim Bowden: A dry spell? I feel like I'm in the desert. We are in a horrible slump. Never have I seen a team collapse after the All-Star break and pitch very well. The team's ERA is better than any other month all year, and we can't win a game. It has been an embarrassment, it has been frustrating. There are no excuses.

We haven't swung the bats. We haven't scored runs. I don't care about the excuse of Jose Guillen, Vinny Castilla, Nick Johnson and 10 other guys on the disabled list. I don't care about the walls being 395 feet in the power allies. The fact of the matter is, we are not hitting, we are not executing. We are making baserunning mistakes, we are not hustling every ball out. We are not playing the way we played at the All-Star break.

What are we going to do? We are going to stop, rewind and we are going to play from now on. We are tied for first place. If the season ended today, we are in the playoffs. Nick Johnson is on rehab but he'll be back soon, and so will the Nationals. The last time the Nationals were in a serious slump, you made a lot of changes. Will you do it again?

Bowden: No. That's not the problem here. This team was on pace to win 100 games on July 4. The personnel is here to win. They have to do it. Yes, we need to get Nick Johnson back. Yes, Vinny Castilla has to get back in the lineup. The personnel is here to win. How much do the Nationals miss Nick Johnson? Does he make that much of a difference?

Bowden: Yes, he makes that much of a difference, but, look, there's no point having excuses. There's enough here to win without him. The position players we have out there are not performing the way they are capable of performing.

I get a big kick out of some people saying, "This team overachieved in the first half." I got to tell you, this team underachieved. When I look at the batting averages and the production of some of these guys, I think they underachieved in the first half. I'm expecting better production in the second half than we saw in the first half. Recently, you have made it clear that you want Barry Larkin to come out of retirement and play for the Nationals. How much of a difference would he make?

Bowden: Larkin's leadership is important. He is a veteran guy that has been there. I think his presence in the clubhouse and on the field would help this team. For people who don't know about Barry Larkin, what did he do with the Reds that you love so much?

Bowden: He won a world championship, won the National League MVP. He was on the All-Star team 12 times, a Silver Slugger award-winner nine times, a Gold Glove winner three times. He developed young players and taught them how to win. That's what he brings to the table. What kind of job has he done for you in the front office?

Bowden: He has done a good job for his first year. He would be doing a better job if he takes the field the last couple of months of the season. What is your biggest concern regarding the Nationals?

Bowden: I want to stay healthy and start scoring runs on a consistent basis. Do you think the team is coming around health-wise?

Bowden: We have struggled all year. Brad Wilkerson is not 100 percent. Castilla is not 100 percent. Jose Guillen is not 100 percent. Johnson is not 100 percent. We have been banged up. We have to get them healthy.

This team is capable of scoring runs, and we are supposed to be better now than before. The team has looked lethargic since Preston Wilson arrived. Are you still looking for another bat?

Bowden: I'm always going to look for pitching, pitching and pitching, and I'm always going to look for another bat. With that being said, I'm hoping the players we have step up. I certainly think we have a capable offense. At seven of our starting eight positions, we should have enough to score enough runs. What do you think of the pitching staff?

Bowden: We are presently fourth in the National League in pitching with a 3.84 ERA. We have two No. 1 starters in Livan Hernandez and John Patterson, and we have a bullpen, between Hector Carrasco, Gary Majewski, Luis Ayala, Mike Stanton and Chad Cordero, that is just as good as anyone in the division. If the pitching stays healthy, it's good enough to win. Our problem is not pitching. Our problem is scoring runs. Do you know what our record is when we score five or more runs? It's 31-2. So you know what the formula is? Score five runs. If we do it, we will win and the fans will come, and they are coming anyway. How fortunate do you feel that the Nationals are in a first-place tie with the Braves?

Bowden: We are very fortunate. Our goal is to win the division, win the playoffs and win the World Series. Anything short of that is a failure. You really believe it, don't you?

Bowden: I believe in these guys. I think they don't believe in it yet. They need to jump on board and start believing it. This is a really good baseball team. This team is capable of winning it all, but they have to do it on the field. How much has it bothered you that everyone has made a big deal about Robert F. Kennedy Stadium being so big?

Bowden: (Jokingly) I think we are going to move the walls back next year. I'm going to put it 500 feet in the power alleys, 600 feet to straightaway center field, and we are going to figure out who's a man and who's not.

(Being serious) Nobody complained when we were winning. Now they are complaining when they are losing. We had the best record of any team in baseball at home. This is about winning and losing. People that make excuses are losers. I have no place for losers. I don't want to hear about the food. I don't want to hear about the clubhouse. I don't want to hear about the size of the wall, the color of the grass and the depth of the mound. I want to see production and wins. I don't care about that other [stuff]. Winners go and win. Losers complain. I don't want to be around complainers and losers.

So for those who want to complain and want to lose, they should come and ask to be traded.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.