For those of you who don't follow Major League Baseball's worst team, the Washington Nationals were the focal point of MLB's second biggest story of the week. Fortunately for the Nationals, the A-Rod news conference overshadowed everything, including one of the biggest front office blunders (or possibly scams) in recent history.
The brief overview is that in the summer of 2006, the Nationals, under the guidance of General Manager Jim Bowden, signed a 16 year old prospect from the Dominican Republic named Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez. Looking to make a big splash in the market for young Dominican players, the Nationals gave Gonzalez a $1.4 million dollar signing bonus. At the time, the signing was used as evidence that the Lerner family, who had just purhcased the team, was serious about finding and developing talent from every corner of the world.
Now fast forward almost three years and several Nationals front office blunders later to Feb. 2009 and team President Stan Kasten is on a conference call explaining how "Smiley" Gonzalez was really not 16 when he was signed. He was 19. And, even more importantly, he's not "Smiley" Gonzalez. He's actually someone named Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo. There is lot of speculation as to who knew what in the shady world of Dominican baseball. Some even suspect Nats GM Jim Bowden was in on the deal, getting a cut of the signing bonus. That seems to be the wosrt case scenario. The best cast scenario is that Bowden was purely a fool who was duped into signing a 16 year old prospect, who was really 19, for double what any other MLB team offered.
(On a side note, I emailed Stan Kasten this past Saturday evening telling him about the difficulty I was having in getting anyone in the Nats ticket office to help me in moving my seats closer to the field. I got an email back from him a few minutes later saying he would have someone contact me Tuesday. Hell, if I knew this Smiley G stuff was about to hit the fan, I wouldn't have bothered him.)
Chico Harlan, The Washington Post's Nationals beat writer, explains the entire situation here. But, for more entertaining reading, check out this column by The Washington Time's Thom Loverro, who, by the way, was the inspiration for the Seinfeld epsisode about the bro/manzier. (Check out his picture.)
Speaking of being duped and Chico Harlan. The Post ran a piece by Harlan earlier this week saying Ryan Zimmerman was holding out from spring training because of his cotract situation. Several sources, including Loverro and MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bil Ladson, have debunked this story saying Zimmerman was preparing for his arbitration hearing which is scheduled for Friday in Arizona.
On a final and much lighter note, according to Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog, Nationals outfielder Lastings Milledge is becoming the new Ocho Cinco. Apparently, he's giving his old number 44 to the newly acquired Adam Dunn at no price. Read about it here.