A new development in the Smiley Gonzalez/Carlos Alvarez case
Nationals officials in the Dominican Republic knew of the fraud perpetrated by Carlos Alvarez -- the Dominican prospect once know as Smiley Gonzalez -- and his handlers shortly after he signed with the team, according to a report by SI.com based on court documents obtained by the Web site.
The documents, according to the report, show that former Dominican Academy Coordinator Jose Baez and assistant to former general manager Jim Bowden Jose Rijo knew that Alvarez was not who he said he was or how old he claimed to be, but did not alert superiors in the organization.
Rijo, who has long maintained his innocence in the ordeal that led to his firing and the eventual resignation of Bowden, called the report "made up" in a telephone conversation this afternoon. Rijo said he started hearing rumors about Alvarez's real age in late 2007 and mentioned it in passing to then-scouting director Dana Brown, but never took them seriously. Rijo said it was not his job to investigate, and given the widespread falsification of ages in the Dominican, he could not act upon the charges with certainty.
"If you're going to take a rumor about somebody's age in the Dominican, you're going to have to investigate the whole country," Rijo said. "You hear that comment about everybody."
Rijo also denied the charge he and Baez knew Alvarez's age shortly after he signed with the Nationals for a team record $1.4 million.
"I don't believe in that," Rjio said. "That sounds too stupid. Baez wouldn't be that stupid. Believe me. Baez wouldn't do [something] like that. At least he would have told me at some point that that was his real age to cover [himself]. And he never did. I have a hard time believing that."
Baez could not be reached for comment. He told Melissa Segura of SI.com that he denied any wrongdoing. "I'm going to show they did a dirty job," he told SI.com.
Nationals President Stan Kasten declined to comment on specifics of the case since it is ongoing, but he expressed confidence in baseball's handling of corruption in the Dominican. Kasten credited commissioner Bud Selig, baseball's department of investigations and Sandy Alderson, the official in charge of overhauling MLB's operations in the Dominican.
"I can tell you that even though we haven't been talking about it publicly, there is a lot happening behind the scenes and there is more yet to come," Kasten said in a phone conversation. "It's a matter that we aren't going to drop. I can tell you baseball is not going to drop it. I can tell you they have gotten a lot better. I think we have a realistic hope some day of cleaning up this problem for good, and the Nationals are at the forefront of at the effort.
"There is so much more going on behind the scenes on this case and a whole lot of others like it. We assure you there is a vigorous effort going on. Buscones and players and families of players who would lie and attempt to defraud teams will have to understand they are doing it at a grave risk."
As for the split personality at the center of the controversy, Alvarez, 23, remains in the Nationals' organization, playing in the Dominican. With the recommendation of MLB, Alvarez resubmitted a request to have a visa granted for him to play in the U.S. Kasten said the Nationals hope he can obtain a visa and continue his career in the Nationals' minor league system.
"He will get a chance to play wherever his skill would allow him to play," Kasten said.
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