Report Brings New Scrutiny to Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden
Monday, February 23, 2009; 10:05 AM
VIERA, Fla., Feb. 22 -- An international scouting coordinator who worked for Jim Bowden for various periods from 1994 to 2003 connects the current Washington Nationals general manager to others in baseball already fired for wrongdoing, SI.com reported Sunday, citing two unnamed sources.
This morning, through a baseball source, The Post has confirmed the report.
According to the report, federal investigators are looking into Bowden's involvement in Latin American scouting going back to 1994. Bowden was general manager of the Cincinnati Reds from October 1993 until 2003 before taking the same job in Washington before the 2005 season. The SI.com report said that a former Cincinnati scouting coordinator, Jorge Oquendo, provides federal investigators with a link between Bowden and former Chicago White Sox player personnel director David Wilder. Oquendo worked for Wilder, fired last May, in 2006 and 2007.
Oquendo has never been employed by the Nationals.
Both the FBI and Major League Baseball are currently investigating potentially illegal scouting practices in Latin America -- particularly the skimming of signing bonuses. So far, both Bowden and José Rijo, owner and operator of team's scouting academy in the Dominican Republic, have been connected to the investigation.
This week, the federal case drew new scrutiny when Major League Baseball confirmed that a Washington prospect signed in 2006, thought to be 16 at the time, had been using a fake age and identity. The player known as Esmailyn González turned out to be Carlos David Alvarez Lugo, now 23. Rijo, who took a leave of absence from the Nationals on Saturday, had scouted González two years prior to the signing, and brokered the player's $1.4 million bonus by negotiating with a childhood friend, Basilio Vizcaino.
Bowden and team president Stan Kasten did not respond to messages last night seeking comment.
Earlier in the day, Bowden, at Washington's spring training facility, spoke to the media for the first time since the González fraud became public, but did not take any questions about the matter. Previously, when speaking about the FBI investigation, Bowden has denied any wrongdoing.
The characters central to the González signing -- Bowden, Rijo, and José Baez, Washington's director of operations in the Dominican Republic -- all worked for or with the Reds. From 1999 to 2003, Cincinnati contracted Rijo for use of his Dominican academy. Baez directed the academy.
Oquendo, meantime, had two separate stints with the Reds, starting in 1994. A year later, he took a job with the Yankees, but he returned to Cincinnati as the team's international scouting coordinator in October 1999.