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Prospect Lied About Name, Age

In 2006, the Washington Nationals signed a shortstop from the Dominican Republic. They gave him a bonus of $1.4 million. They welcomed him with a news conference. The unprecedented ceremony was meant not just to announce this particular signing, but to underscore Washington's intent to scout -- and scout well -- in the Latin countries after years of inactivity.

Today, the Nationals have learned that the gem of their Dominican scouting program isn't who he said he was.

According to a report on SI.com from Melissa Seguar, the shortstop once known as Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez has falsified his name and age. His true identity: Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo. His true age: 23, or four years older than the Nationals believed. According to current data, the Nationals list Gonzalez's birthday as Sept. 21, 1989.

Once the sun comes up, I'll post some reaction from Nats camp today. Gonzalez/Lugo wasn't invited to big league spring training this year, but he was listed just last month by Baseball America as Washington's 10th-best prospect. Obviously, the revelation about his age reduces his value. The revelation also provides a reminder about the perils of scouting in the Dominican Republic, where already the Nats have a spotty track record. (Their international scouting activity has again receded since the high-profile Gonzalez signing, in part because of an FBI investigation into the team's -- and baseball's -- practices down there.)

Gonzalez/Lugo -- gotta admit, I don't know quite what to call him -- has spent the last two seasons in the Nats organization, playing both years in the Gulf Coast League. In 2008, he hit .343 in 51 games and won the GCL batting title.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 18, 2009; 5:17 AM ET
 
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Comments

Fire Jim Bowden, please.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 18, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

If Jimbo keeps his job after this, I am turning in 5 years of Season ticket stubs.....Stan must make take questions......no comment is not what I expect from the team President.

Posted by: JayBeee | February 18, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

The hits just keep coming: OP yesterday, then this nugget. At some point, someone in a position of authority has to sit back and say "enough." The house needs to be scrubbed clean.

Stan: you're at that point. Enough.

Posted by: joemktg1 | February 18, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

At the very least, the Nationals need to seek out a new partner in the Dominican Republic. Rijo's name has been linked to far too many negative stories coming out of there for the Nationals to continue investing there.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

A Dominican lied about his age?!?!?!?
How much did Frank Bowden win at Rick's American Cafe?

This should be a baseball cliche...
"Our bullpen's been as reliable as a Dominican birth certificate."

Posted by: WmarkW | February 18, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

This is just so weird. I'd really hate to be Bowden right now. I mean, what do you DO with this information??

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I'd really hate to be Bowden right now. I mean, what do you DO with this information??

Posted by: NatsNut | February 18, 2009 7:43 AM

You come to the realization that you've made too many mistakes in too short of a time period, and you prepare for your stint on the MLB Network before Stan walks through the door.

Posted by: joemktg1 | February 18, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Ooooh, good point, no MLB general manager has ever been fooled about a Dominican's age before! This is truly a new low!

I'm terribly disappointed. We thought we had something, but we didn't. Cut his contract, but then try to get one again and put him at Potomac. He did show some talent, even if it's drastically lower than we thought.

How does one discover this?

Posted by: Section506 | February 18, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

If Lugo/Gonzales signed the contract under a false name, wouldn't that invalidate the contract? Sue for the return of any paid salary/signing bonus and part ways. If you really like him, re-sign him. I wouldn't imagine a 23 year old in rookie ball is going to be in high demand.

Posted by: fushezzi | February 18, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

@S506 - Yes, MLB GMs have been fooled by Latin American prospects before and they will be fooled again. The larger point is the pattern that is developing in the DR. There is so much negative news coming from down there that someone needs to be held accountable. Whether that ends up being Bowden or Rijo or Baez, someone ultimately needs to be held accountable for the foul ups.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I don't know who the fall guy should be for this. But, shouldn't the majority of the blame fall on the person who, ya know, lied? So, that would be Lugo. It is easy to sit back with hindsight and say, "Bowden should have known the kid was actually 20 when he signed him." Really? I don't know the procedures behind international signings, but since the Smiley signing ocurred after a few high profile age issues, one would think that a birth certificate was involved. If not, then yeah, Bowden or Rijo or someone was stupid. If the kid says he's 16, others say he's 16 and a Dominican birth certificate says he's 16, then how on Earth is someone supposed to ascertain that he isn't 16?

This will serve to drive the Nats even further behind in the international markets because the Lerners will be extremely wary of paying big time bonuses to guys who may not be what they say they are. I don't know what the international signing rules are, but they should also be examined. This is just another piece of anecdotal evidence to support the idea that something is broken in the system.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 18, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

4 years older. wow.

i wouldn't fire bowden. i doubt i would ever work with rijo again though.

Posted by: longterm | February 18, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

@Cavalier - I agree with you ... to a point. The part that needs to be addressed by the Nationals is why the negotiations took place with a childhood friend of Jose Rijo instead of the agent named in the article. The fact that the Nationals paid twice the amount of the nearest competitor combined with who did the negotiations raises some serious questions.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Brian-thanks for that info...I read the childhood friend part, but the twice as much as the nearest competitor part I must have missed. That is a good point, and adds fuel to the fire about the kickback rumors. If they turn out to be true, the Nats truly need to track down who was responsible for that and get rid of them as soon as possible.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 18, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

...sigh...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm thinking the contract is void because Smiley/Lugo misrepresented a material fact - namely, his age which decreases his value. The Nats didn't get what they bargained for because of his misrepresentation. There was no meeting of the minds.

Posted by: frog7694 | February 18, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

This looks bad for Rijo. I think if anyone is the fallguy here it's him. Who would be surprised if he ended up serving some time in a "Federal pound-me-in-the-a**-prison" when the FBI is done with this thing. The Nats need to get some distance from him on this fast. The more that gets dug up the more things stink.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 18, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

This is classic Washington intrigue. Who knew and when?? Bowden could have worked for Nixon in a heartbeat, or maybe it is the other way round. But someone knew this kids age and was pimping him to the Nats. The question is who knew how much and when. Did Rijo know and not tell Bowden. Then Rijo is gone. But if I am Stan Kasten and the Lerners and I knew there was an investigation of kickbacks on this one, and now the kid is 23? You have to feel played like fools big time and I am not certain you should want to listen very long and hard to pleas of innocence. Maybe before they call Bowden in to hear his side they should play the testimony of Palmiero, the piece where A-Rod looks deadpan at the interviewer and denies roids. Then bring Bowden in to listen to his story.

Posted by: Juliasdad | February 18, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Will he ever get back into the country now, under either alias?

If Gonzales was good enough to fool people for two years then how much of this is Bowden's fault? Rijo gets discredited and the buscones get discredited. Is it really up to Bowden to do all due dilegence on every signing in the DR? Has anyone in the organization who has worked with Gonzales on a personal level the last two years come up and said that he doubts that this kid was really 16 when he signed? I have the feeling that the branch of the organization that deals exclusively with the Spanish speaking boys has ways of protecting its own.

Posted by: driley | February 18, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Ok - this turns my stomach. I don't care if Bowden in fact did or didn't know - clearly the Dominican aspect of the program has been running amok, rumors of kickbacks, now THE TOP Dominican prospect turns out to have lied. Somebody needs to be fired, and it needs to be the person who has ultimate authority for the Dominican program.

Chico, this is a big story - not just about Lugo lying, but about who knew what when, about Brian's question about why the negotiations were handled with a friend of Rijo's, a question about whether or not this is actually linked to the FBI investigation, a question about whether anybody other than Lugo is legally liable (and if you don't think the Lerners are going to sue to get that 1.4m back, you're crazy).

Ugh - what a mess.

For all that said, Lugo is still an interesting, but hardly top-notch, prospect.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | February 18, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I don't think you can hold Bowden accountable for this (just as you couldn't hold people accountable for Tejada's eventual admission that his age was falsified as well) UNLESS it turns out he was complicit in the deal to give his buddy Rijo more money.

As for Jose Rijo, this should spell the end of his involvement with our team. The negotiations surrounding this player

As for the Nats, another setback in player development for us. Big time. You have to think they've been considering Smiley as the heir-apparent to Guzman perhaps by the time Guzman's 2yr deal is over. Plus, he probably doesn't get his Visa back so his career is essentially over. awesome.

Posted by: tboss | February 18, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

seriously? There's so much wrong with this:

1) If you lie about your name, doesn't that make it tricky to cash those $1.4M checks?

2) Why would you pull all this to play for the worst team in baseball? At least get a job with a team that is famous or a team that is good.

3) MLB and the Nats and the professional sports trainers and doctors can't tell the difference between a 23 year old and a 19 year old?

4) at 33 my body is at the edge of a professional athlete's plateau. I would hate to have people believe I'm 29 right now and just sucking. And a 37 year old player just can't perform like a 33 year old.

Posted by: ihatewalks | February 18, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

If Smiley was the future at SS and we essentially write him off now, what do you give to FLA in trade for Hanley Ramirez (after an extensive background check to make sure he is who he says he is - seeing that he's from the DR as well). Would you be willing to part with the Strasburg pick to get him?

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 18, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

incroyable! inconceivable, even; heavens to mergatroid! i have hired alex rodriguez as my media advisor!

estoy firmado!! go away FBI!

and we want our money back!!!

YMOS JimB

Posted by: dhfrancoise | February 18, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I hope that the team is preparing to address this issue and that a more substantive response than "no comment" will be issued.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I think Espinosa is the heir apparant at SS, everyone seemed to think "Gonzalez" was headed to 2B. Steven King, your stock in the organization just went WAY up.

Here's my take as crisis manager;

1. Cut ties with Rijos and the DR operation

2. Report EVERYTHING you know to the FBI, this is a fraud case now.

3. After #2 is settled you'll seek restitutuion against the guilty parties (sue for dollars)

4. Fire Jim Bowden? I think you hold a presser today to announce JimBow's resignation. Give him a big pat on the back for "all he's done for this organization", but "Jim Bowden today offered his resignation as General Manager of the Washington Nationals, the ongoing investigation into the practices by employees of the GM's office have made it impossible for Jim to effectively carry out the duties of his position." Then you name Rizzo as interim-GM, you can even keep JimBow on as a paid advisor or something pending the outcome of the investigation, if you need to keep Mark Lerner and Adam Dunn happy about JimBow being OUT.

Turn the page...

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Brian, I presume by "accountable" you mean "appropriate action following a thorough investigation" and not "fire someone." If so, then I agree.

Posted by: Section506 | February 18, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

If the kid says he's 16, others say he's 16 and a Dominican birth certificate says he's 16, then how on Earth is someone supposed to ascertain that he isn't 16?

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 18, 2009 8:40 AM


Inconceivable? FYI: we did the growth rings on the tree thingy; my new plan is to have Smiley Lugo lead the PNats to their second consecutive title. Buy your season tickets now.

Estoy firmado! Go away FBI! And all you CSIs too! YMOS JimB

Posted by: dhfrancoise | February 18, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Excuse me!

We did doo doo diligence. Yes we did.

Estoy Firmado! Go away FBI and all them other agencies! YMOS JimB

Posted by: dhfrancoise | February 18, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

NO COMMENT....That would be my answer also, at first. The Nats need to investigate further to be sure the SI report is true. If it is, then action will need to be taken. I would want to find out just how this happened and where the blame may lie. Then and only then, would I decide on who goes/stays, or whatever. Further, it might not mean the end to the players career. Advance him a little faster thru the system and see how he handles it before cutting all ties.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 18, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I bet guzman wishes this story broke before he signed with us

@ ihatewalks

1)guy had a birth certificate so you can probably get a bank account down there or just funnel it through a check n go
2)because the nats were desperate and eager to pay you the most
3)um, would you to cut through his femur and count the rings or perhaps carbon date him?
4)what?

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I think FLA would take back Josh Willingham for Hanley. Now THAT is a deal that I could support!

:-)

Posted by: BoteMan | February 18, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I think that the 1.4 million is long gone. Nobody is getting that back

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

@S506 - "appropriate action following a thorough investigation" versus "fire someone."

This isn't new news ... in general. This is all part of a broader issue regarding the way the Nationals are operating in the DR. There is too much to lose retaining Rijo & Baez at this point. Their credibility in the DR is going to be influenced by their presence. They need to be terminated.

I tend to agree with some of the recommendations above concerning Bowden. Figure out a way to politely show him the door through a resignation.

At some point, the Nationals need to turn the page from the continued bad press that seems to swirl about him.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

heh: Give him a big pat on the back for "all he's done for this organization"

by "pat on the back" perhaps you mean "punch in the sack"?

@makplan20002:

3) come on ... these professional trainers and athletes can't tell the difference between a man's development at that critical stage? FOUR YEARS? Really?

4) I'm just saying this is a pretty shortsighted thing to do for anyone with an intent to have a full "career" in baseball.

Posted by: ihatewalks | February 18, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

First and foremost people, don't blame the victim. It's not your fault your wallet got stolen. It's not your fault someone hit you. It's not your fault that the other guy ran the red light.

A crime has been committed, but that does not mean that reasobable precautions were not made. My wallet was in my pocket, I said nothing to deserve getting hit, and I had the right of way when the other car struck.

Whether you are an Owner, President, or GM you have likely taken a number of precautions to ensure that your investment was good. You have to rely to some degree on the honesty of others.

Now the question is, what to do wtih a) the asset, b) the legal case against player and agent, and c) the visa/INS case which is about to be opened.

Do you keep the asset - because it looks like the guy can actually play middle infield - or release and prosecute him?

How does that work? WHat have other teams done in this situation?

Posted by: natbisquit | February 18, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I never boo our own players but in this case the crooked bastard has earned an exception.

I wish they could void the deal, take the signing bonus back,, dump him in the D.R., black balled from the M.L.B, and prosecute him and his pimp for fraud. That would put an end to this nonsense and probably most of the crooked player pimps as well.

Posted by: thom202 | February 18, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Only way he gets fired is if team is just looking for reasons to fire him and this is the first close enough good reason.

If the standard is to fire our GM over a GCL player lying about his age some three or four years ago, I just don't see how we'll ever keep anyone on the job more than a month.

This still reads like small potatoes to me. Fix the problem and deal with the next one.

Posted by: longterm | February 18, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

@longterm - It's not the Lugo thing in isolation, it's another chapter in the ongoing issues the Nationals have been having in the Dominican Republic. Something is definitely amiss down there and Bowden is where the buck stops.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

@longterm - It's not the Lugo news in isolation. It's another aspect of the ongoing investigations of what the Nationals are doing in the Dominican Republic. Something really stinks down there.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

It's not the Lugo news in isolation. It's another aspect of the ongoing investigations of what the Nationals are doing in the Dominican Republic. Something really stinks down there.

Posted by: Brian_ | February 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

@ ihatewalks

There were plenty of 16 year olds in my HS who could pass for twenty. What if he was twenty and looked 18? Lots of 16 year olds can look 18. Age groups can have varying appearances. Maybe he was a very slight underdeveloped or late developing 20 year old. Then he says hey, I can pass for 16 and seem good for my age. Let me get one giant paycheck. He might not be concerned with a career. You can forego the long career if you get paid 1.4 million especially if you know you wont have one anyway

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

New post, with update. ^

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I'd tell you all about the new post, but I could not possibly comment.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 18, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

@ihatewalks
the appearances of people between the ages of 16-20 can vary greatly
gonzalez was likely a small late developing 20 year old without a future and just wanted a 1.4 million dollar check. a long career was secondary to the one payday

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

@ ihat

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't think you fire Jim Bowden for not knowing how old Gonzalez/Lugo is/was, he gets fired because;

1. He sent 1.4 million of Uncle Teddy's money down a rabbit hole

2. Rijos and his buddies (hired and supervised by JimBow) were complicit in the fraud. The skimming scandal the manner in which the negotiations took place and the fact you paid double the best offer all scream out FRAUD!

3. The only way to start regaining the organizations reputation is to cut ties with the people who got you into this and try to start fresh.

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I don't think you fire Jim Bowden for not knowing how old Gonzalez/Lugo is/was, he gets fired because;

1. He sent 1.4 million of Uncle Teddy's money down a rabbit hole

2. Rijos and his buddies (hired and supervised by JimBow) were complicit in the fraud. The skimming scandal the manner in which the negotiations took place and the fact you paid double the best offer all scream out FRAUD!

3. The only way to start regaining the organizations reputation is to cut ties with the people who got you into this and try to start fresh.

Posted by: estuartj | February 18, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@ ihatewalks

the apperances of people between 16 and 20 can vary greatly.

gonzalez was likely a smallish, late or underdeveloped 20 year old who could have looked 16. he probably knew he had no real future so he went for the 1.4 million dollar check. if he had a long career then great. but the one time pay day was the main prize

would you rather a guaranteed mil or a 1% chance of making 10's of millions?

give me the guaranteed mil

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Who cares who the heck he is. Who cares if he can even read or speak English. Can he hit the ball consistently in play? Can he hit home runs? Is his defense good? It's not like we're getting him citizenship, we just want someone to play ball, and play it well.

Posted by: SUMB44 | February 18, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Ugh...this is the week we're supposed to be talking about "who's playing first?" and "can Lastings be a lead-off man?", not this crap.

Jimbo needs to go. Between Spring training DUIs, getting beat by his woman, shady dealings in the Dominican. Even the good stuff he does is tainted, like shamming the Reds into taking Gary Majewski's busted arm. The guy is an embarrassment to the city of Washington - there I said it - which is a pretty tall feat considering our former mayor is a crack head.

Posted by: MBUSA | February 18, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Ugh...this is the week we're supposed to be talking about "who's playing first?" and "can Lastings be a lead-off man?", not this crap.

Jimbo needs to go. Between Spring training DUIs, getting beat by his woman, shady dealings in the Dominican. Even the good stuff he does is tainted, like shamming the Reds into taking Gary Majewski's busted arm. The guy is an embarrassment to the city of Washington - there I said it - which is a pretty tall feat considering our former mayor is a crack head.

Posted by: MBUSA | February 18, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Ugh...this is the week we're supposed to be talking about "who's playing first?" and "can Lastings be a lead-off man?", not this crap.

Jimbo needs to go. Between Spring training DUIs, getting beat by his woman, shady dealings in the Dominican. Even the good stuff he does is tainted, like shamming the Reds into taking Gary Majewski's busted arm. The guy is an embarrassment to the city of Washington - there I said it - which is a pretty tall feat considering our former mayor is a crack head.

Posted by: MBUSA | February 18, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't trust Bowden to be my latex salesman.

Posted by: theskinnypost | February 18, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

How much is "Homeland Security" costing the taxpayer? If an uneducated (read - from an extremely poor background) Latino can get in to the country...

Posted by: goexpos2 | February 18, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey I know this is off-topic but Wash Business Journal has an interesting story about the Nationals picking a new food concessionaire and making significant changes/improvements to the Red Porch, including openable windows and a better view of the field.

http://washington.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2009/02/16/daily24.html

Posted by: Meridian1 | February 18, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

@ ihatewalks

the apperances of people between 16 and 20 can vary greatly. the were several 16 year olds in my HS who could have passed for 20. and there are some 20 year olds who could pass for 16

gonzalez was likely a smallish, late or underdeveloped 20 year old who could have looked 16. he probably knew he had no real future so he went for the 1.4 million dollar check. if he had a long career then great. but the one time pay day was the main prize

would you rather a guaranteed mil or a 1% chance of making 10's of millions?

give me the guaranteed mil

Posted by: makplan20002 | February 18, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

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