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Lo Duca update

A quiet morning thus far at Space Coast Stadium, as pitchers and catchers trickle in for their physicals. Nine players have yet to arrive in Viera, eight of whom (Jesus Flores, Katsuhiko Maekawa, Luis Ayala, Eude Brito, Jesus Colome, Humberto Cota, Arnie Munoz and Ismael Ramirez) are being held up in their home countries by visa problems.

The ninth is catcher Paul Lo Duca, who, I am told, is presently on a plane heading here from New York, where he lives in the offseason. Word from the Nationals' PR staff is that Lo Duca will be issuing a statement through the team within the next hour, then meeting with the media sometime after noon. The fact there will be both a statement and a news conference, in my estimation, is a signal that Lo Duca is not going to discuss the charges against him in the Mitchell Report, which alleges he purchased HGH from Kirk Radomski and also referred former teammates to Radomski. My guess is the statement will say something to the effect of, "Under the advice of legal counsel, I will not address the Mitchell Report...," and his news conference will be limited to baseball-only (or injury-related) questions.

I'll get Lo Duca's statement up here on the blog when I get it in my hands. Also, later today Manager Manny Acta will meet with the media for the first time, and I'll have a quote or two from that later in the day.

UPDATE... Here is the entire text of Lo Duca's statement:

"In regards to Senator Mitchell's report, I apologize to my family, all of my fans and to the entire baseball community for mistakes in judgment I made in the past and for the distraction that has resulted. I am fully committed to being the best player and person I can be, on and off the field, for the Washington Nationals and the entire baseball community. I recognize the importance of my role in the community as a professional athlete, and I intend to focus my energies on making a positive impact in that regard. So that I can focus on making positive contributions and avoid creating further distractions, I respectfully decline to comment any further on the content of the Mitchell Report."

In essence, this is the Giambi approach -- apologizing for some vague, unnamed offense, then refusing to address further questions about it.

As I said, Lo Duca will be meeting the media later today.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 16, 2008; 9:22 AM ET
 
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Comments

hasn't he learned by watching Clemens and Pettite that he's better off coming clean?

Posted by: nats fan | February 16, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Dave - Are Maekawa's visa problems related to his legal issues in Japan?

Posted by: Chris | February 16, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Chris -- this is a great question, and one that I will try to answer by the end of the day.

Posted by: Dave Sheinin | February 16, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

And Chris -- one other thing. I doubt Maekawa's visa problems are related to his legal problems, because he did pitch in the Dominican Republic this winter.

Posted by: Dave Sheinin | February 16, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Didn't take long for the drama to start!

Posted by: Avar | February 16, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Could be. The US has cracked down on pretty much any violation lately. Francisco Liriano of the Twins is having visa problems because of a drunk driving arrest a few years back.

I just don't want to see his chances of bolstering the Columbus rotation go down the tubes!

Posted by: Chris | February 16, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Since these players are expected/required to report on the 15th, what is the penalty for not showing up? How much flexibility does a team give for dealing with circumstances beyond a players immediate control (like visa problems).

And why is LoDuca just on a plane today? Wasn't he supposed to be there yesterday?

Thanks for the update(s). The sunshine in DC since yesterday has made it almost seem feasible that it might eventually not be winter any more. Wow, what a long offseason this has been.

Posted by: i hate walks | February 16, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Dave--any comments from LoDuca's new teammates over his situation? As players, I would imagine they are going to support him.

Posted by: Screech'sBestFriend | February 16, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Hey Dave, can you let us in on what Maekawa's legal problems are or were?

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

As I said in the last post, I'd rather see a come-clean statement from Dukes than Lo Duca. However, this boy just made a big mistake by not confessing all. Americans -humans, that is, are forgiving by nature. All it takes is a heartfelt acknowledgement of your mistakes, sorrow for those you hurt, and a vow not to do it again. Pitty that he missed his opportunity.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

6th and D - Maekawa's legal problems are well documented. He was involved in a hit and run accident in Japan a few years back, and at the time it was revealed he had been driving without a license for several years. He was essentially banned from Japanese professional baseball. Im sure his sky-high ERA didn't help him either.

Posted by: Andrew Stebbins | February 16, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Andrew. I guess his ERA makes all this legal trouble a moot point.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The Maekawa incident is described in this Baseball Japan article. What I find really amazing is his ability to just keep on making a bad situation worse.

http://www.japanball.com/news.phtml?id=8603

Posted by: NewJerseyNat | February 16, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

LoDuca's response is up on washingtonnationals.com. He doesn't admit to using PEDs, but he does say he is sorry "[f]or [the] mistakes in judgment I made in the past and for the distractions that resulted."

Posted by: Section 138 | February 16, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Tiny URL link for LoDuca's statement:
http://tinyurl.com/2no8u4

Posted by: Section 138 | February 16, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Well, LoDuca made the standard apology for mistakes he made. I suspect that is all we are going to get from him and that is probably all we should expect.

I do have one rather basic question about the Visa problems. I'm not entirely familiar with the process, so I will plead ignorance here, but...forgetting Maekawa, for the players, who are already on the roster (Flores, Ayala, Colome, etc.) doesn't someone in the front office need to take some level of responsibility to make sure that all of these hiccups are smoothed out, in January so that these guys can report on time.

BTW, I'm not knocking the Nats FO. This seems to be a problem with a number of clubs.

Posted by: Catcher50 | February 16, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Just what I wanted to read, another mea culpa from another exemplar of creeping idiocy.

I'm not sure what else Lo Duca could have done or said today, short of falling onto his sword. That the Nats do not need. What the Nats need is for him to heal and get busy on earning his $5M.

Nothing says I have to be Lo Duca's Best Fan Forever. But I'll say it again: the real villains in this drama are named Selig and Fehr -- not Lo Duca and the other bit players (who, nonetheless, if they want to admit to, or are found guilty of, criminal stupidity, will get no argument from me).

If we have to turn a Federal spotlight on anyone, let it be the industry leaders. More hand-wringing or defiance by players we don't need. What I need is for the temperature to ratchet up about 40 degrees from where it is now, and for the calendar to march forward to Opening Night.

Posted by: Hendo | February 16, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

That question on Visas was on my mind to except I tend to blame Nats Front Office....Dave you have seen this for years, is it something that could be avoided with proactive Nats FO Steps?

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Yeeeehaw. Stuff like Lo Duca being named a former badguy is officially old news. Time for actual baseball.

Thanks Dave.

Posted by: nattaboy | February 16, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Dave, here are a few things I'm hoping you'll cover. Please ask LoDuca if he'll be doing anything to make up for his mistake. Maybe some public service announcements or something like that.

Not LoDuca related: what's Space Coast stadium looking like? Did we get a new jumbo tron? Please post some pictures.

I'd be interested to know whether Dmitri Young and Dukes are working out together. What's the plan there?

Has Dmitri been working out in the off season? Has he lost any weight? Hopefully he'll be in good shape. I'm really looking forward to seeing how things work out there.

Posted by: Nats Fan | February 16, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Forget Dmitri- we know that Ray King lost 23 pounds, and I want to see what a thinner Ray King looks like!

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 16, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to know what position players are in the V working out and hanging out in the clubhouse.

Posted by: 6th and D | February 16, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

"That question on Visas was on my mind to except I tend to blame Nats Front Office....Dave you have seen this for years, is it something that could be avoided with proactive Nats FO Steps?"

Post 9/11, visas for foreign nationals working in the US have become increasingly hard to obtain. Even for those persons who are fully qualified for such visas and have employer sponsorship, the bureaucratic hoops that must be jumped through have been increased exponentially from what they used to be. For instance, it used to be possible for the foreign national to obtain a visa without personally appearing at the US embassy in their home country, but no more. The person must show up at the embassy during regular office hours to obtain the visa, even if the embassy is hundreds of miles from their place of residence. No proxies, no phoning it in or mailing it in. This puts the onus for obtaining the visa entirely on the player. Short of assigning a hand-holder to follow each player around and make sure he meets all his visa appointments on time (and imagine the visa problems the hand-holder would have if he himself wasn't a citizen of the player's country) there is literally nothing an MLB club could do to make sure its players won't have visa problems. So in this case, JayB, much as I know you'd like to, you can't blame the Nats FO.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | February 16, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

anybody else watch psych on USA? last nite in the episode there was an Austin Kearns name drop. took me by suprise

Posted by: love | February 16, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Here is my shameless hope for the Lo Duca situation. I hope that baseball, and everyone else, is too tired of this to open up another inquiry right now. Gary Bennett was too small a fish to fry. Andy Pettite is apparently getting away with this be telling a series of partial truths. Jason Giambi never did anything but apologize like Lo Duca did, and then suffered no consequence beyond having to give limited information to Selig.

The list goes on- Gary Sheffield has not been suspended even a game, and he claimed the ludicrous lie of not knowing what he was using. Sammy Sosa was allowed to play dumb before Congress, yet got another full year of playing time without suspension.

I want Lo Duca to play. The Commissioner's method of meting out justice for steroids involves a daisy and some version of "he loves me, he loves me not, apparently". Let's start the year with a little luck, and have Lo Duca be one of the many who gets off scot-free.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 16, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Austin Kearns name drop? Wow, that is pretty obscure, unfortunately.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 16, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

419,

If there truly is nothing that the FO could do then the players should be fined. Players not showing up for the first day of work, after a 6 month vacation is not acceptable. If the Nats hold players accountable for (remember the salaries we are talking here) then perhaps players will do what it takes to get to camp on time so they can get paid the millions they expect.

But, you are correct I still feel the Nats could do a better job getting these guys into camp; if not with education then with fines.

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

JayB-

I would have mercy on Jesus Flores, at the very least. I can't imagine that the Venezuelan government is all that sympathetic to issuing visas for the US right now. Also, given how there are problems from other Latin American countries every single year, I have to imagine that there is a real hurdle of incompetence, corruption, or maybe just lack of resources that needs to be dealt with.

Keep in mind how incredibly backed up our own passport system has been. Our ball players and our front office have only so much power when it comes to this kind of thing.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 16, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

JayB, remember these are basically kids we're talking about here. High paid kids, yes, but kids nonetheless. And they have not all been on a "six month vacation" either. Many of them have been playing winter ball in a country that was neither the US nor their home country. You become an employee of a company that requires you to work in multiple countries worldwide, none of which you are a citizen of, and see how easy it becomes for YOU to get around in a timely fashion.

Nevertheless, if any one of these players was truly negligent I'm sure they will be disciplined, although neither you nor the press may ever hear about it.

Posted by: Section 419+1 | February 16, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

half st:

even more obscure because it came in a cinncinati context

Posted by: love | February 16, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I think that JayB is way overboard in dumping on the Nats FO. As I said, earlier, this is a problem that has cropped up with a number of teams. If I remember there was a problem a couple of years ago with a Canadian involving another club (sorry, as I grow older my mind becomes more sieve-like and I can't remember which club).

I do agree with 419+, other than providing a hand-holder for each player, it would be very difficult for a baseball team to provide all of the required baby sitting. This is exacerbated by the fact that a player may be traded or sign with a club a short time before ST begins. Let's also remember that very few of these young men are sufficiently aware of the ins and outs of the Visa process and/or are not really geared to deal with these situations. They have spent their whole lives completely focused on getting to the point where they can play pro ball. And, yes, the process has become significantly more involved since 9/11 and with the current debate over undocumented aliens, is not likely to abate over the next few years.

Maybe the answer is that, in those countries that have a significant number of Major League and potential major league players (D.R., Mexico, Venezuela, Korea, Japan), MLB should station an agent, familiar enough with the rules and process to make sure that the young man is reasonably able to get to S.T. on time.

Posted by: Catcher50 | February 16, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

jayb, it's not a nationals thing, it's a baseball-wide issue and it's been an issue at least since 9/11, and i'm pretty sure i remember seeing visa issues for players even before that.

without knowing specifics of *what* the visa issues are, it's hard to specially nail the player for the problem. all kinds of things could hold up a visa, and some of them could crop up at the last moment. unless, i guess a player could decide to head to the U.S. a couple weeks ahead of time, thus leaving time to deal with potential issues.

now if the club knows the player knew about an issue in advance and ignored it until the last minute, that should be a fineable offense. but seeing what my boss recently went through to renew her visa, i can see how some little thing could easily screw it up.

Posted by: 231 | February 16, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Also, remember that "visa problems" is a catch-all phrase that covers a multitude of issues from minor to serious. For instance, Ayala was in DC in December for a Nationals PR event. It could very well be that even though all his papers are in order he was detained by immigration at the airport with questions like "Why are you returning to the US again so soon after leaving?", causing him to miss his flight. Or perhaps one of the guys has someone with the same name on the No-Fly List. That even happened to Ted Kennedy, remember? I wonder if he got fined for that?

Posted by: Section 419+1 | February 16, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

new post

Posted by: natsfan1a | February 16, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Not a big issue and yes it has been an issue for many clubs before and more after 911 but I want my club to be what it says it is "world class" and that means being better than the rest in all areas, and yes I am willing to wait....just want progress made each year. Hey anyone got their tickets yet?

Posted by: JayB | February 16, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

A repeat but I wanted to make sure someone read it. (Last time, just before an update)
I agree with a post that questioned the degree of 'badness' ascribed to Milledge. He's a kid, got carried away a couple of times. Personally, I believe this will be one of Bowden's best trades, ever.
Now, check out the transgressions of, shall I say more prominent players, those household names. You know-the ones who perjure themselves, cheat, lie, (guess that's redundant) and are very rich despite these traits.
What's a few high-fives and rather questionable lyrics.
Couple of good posts Positively Half St. not that you need my approval.

Posted by: Jeeves | February 16, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Jeeves- I certainly would never turn down a friendly compliment. Thanks.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | February 17, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

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