After rumours swirled yesterday that Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden was going to get canned, I sent our own roving Florida reporter Kris Liakos to Kissimmee, Florida to check in on the Nats-Astros tilt to see if he could come up with any intel. Kris came back with a Grand Marquis full of zip zero zilch, and it looks like Bowden is safe today. Nationals team special assistant for the Dominican Republic Jose Rijo, however, fell on the proverbial sword.
The Washington Nationals have decided to fire special assistant Jose Rijo and will shut down the team's academy in the Dominican Republic as part of a restructuring of the team's operations in Latin America in the wake of an age-changing scandal involving one of the team's top prospects, several baseball sources have confirmed.
The team's academy operates out of a complex owned by Rijo in San Cristobal.
The decision comes less than a week after it was discovered that prized prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez, who received a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006, was actually Carlos Daniel Alvarez Lugo and was four years older than originally thought. The player, prior to signing with the Nationals, had trained at Rijo's academy and was represented by trainer Basilio Vizcaino, a childhood friend of Rijo's.
Well, that's one way to get out of a sticky situation! You recall, of course, that the Nats organization and Bowden were under federal investigation for skimming bonuses from Dominican amateur signees. This is like helping your buddy get a job down at the dock but then demanding he drive you to work everyday and buy you a case of Michelob every week. Well, not exactly but you catch my drift. Jim Bowden: alleged violator of ethical hiring practices.
The problem now is that the Nationals are up a Dominican creek without a baseball school. The only team in baseball without a Dominican presence is the Brewers; you simply can't run a team nowadays without having deeply ingrained Latin roots. Even worse, the Padres' and Tigers' teams now have to either drive two hours each way to find other opponents or play each other every single day in San Cristobal. Boring!
But back to the mastermind (ahem) behind the entire operation, Jim Bowden. The good people at Fire Jim Bowden have been on the balls of their feet all week long waiting for the axe to fall, even coming up with the possible replacement's name, Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava. This in turn got the Bluejayblogosphere agog and once you get those kids agog, it's hard to un-gog them.
So Bowden lives to see another day as Nats GM, scoot around on his Segway, and generally spit in the face of reason. Good news, I suppose, for fans of the Braves, Phillies, Mets and Marlins.