Rijo, Leatherpants and the Nats duped


A top baseball prospect from the Dominican Republic who received a $1.4 million signing bonus from the Washington Nationals lied about his age and name in what team president Stan Kasten called “an elaborate scheme.”

In July 2006, to much fanfare, the Nationals signed a 16-year-old shortstop named Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez and held a news conference at which general manager Jim Bowden compared the player to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Still known as Gonzalez, he led the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a .343 batting average in 2008 and was honored as the league’s MVP.

But while the Nationals have been listing his date of birth as Sept. 21, 1989 – which would make him 19 now – Kasten said Wednesday that a Major League Baseball investigation determined Gonzalez is actually Carlos David Alvarez Lugo, born in November 1985 – meaning he is really 23.

“This is going to have serious repercussions,” said Kasten, who spoke to reporters after SI.com first reported on Gonzalez/Lugo. “I have people examining all possible avenues of recourse, with regards to any legal and financial concerns.”

WashingtonPost.com has a transcript of Stan Kasten’s remarks to the media. He seems pretty steamed.

The funny thing, too, is that this same prospect (whatever his name is) was at the center of the FBI and MLB investigation you may recall concerning accusations of skimming money from bonuses to Latin American prospects (the story was also broken, as far as I know, by SI). So, basically, if they did skim money from this guy’s bonus, they were skimming from a guy they thought was 16 who was really 20 at the time.

And, IF any of those accusations were true, how ticked can the Nationals really be at a guy who lied about his age but only received a small portion of the $1.4 million bonus they said they gave him?

Jose Rijo, a special assistant to Bowden, was credited with spotting Gonzalez in the Dominican about two years before the Nationals signed him.

“I loved him from the beginning,” Rijo said Wednesday in the home clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium, where the Nationals hold spring training.

“In the Dominican, you never know. You just never know anymore. That (stuff has) been going on for so long,” Rijo said of players lying about their ages.

The Nelson pic (above) is more directed toward Leatherpants than Rijo, the 1990 World Series MVP and a great Red admired by the OMGReds.com staff for his outstanding comeback in 2001 and 2002.

Nice fuel, too, for firejimbowden.blogspot.com.

That site, by the way, might just get its wish, according to a Thomas Boswell column in the Washington Post.

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