Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden resigned this morning amidst a continually firestorm of controversy surrounding the team’s Latin American academies. That’s the kind of issue that could sink any number of MLB front office characters, but there’s something more significant about Bowden’s departure: It was precipitated by an alleged 16-year-old.
(Does this guy actually look 16 to anyone?)
For some reason, the coverage of Bowden’s self-axeing has focused on potential successors (here at FANHOUSE), bonus skimming (here at DEADSPIN), and how the controversy has overshadowed the Nationals’ somewhat promising spring training (here at the WASHINGTON POST). Yet there’s something more significant here: Bowden is out as the General Manager of an American professional sports franchise because he couldn’t verify that a 16-year-old was actually a 20-year-old. That’s right, Bowden couldn’t tell the different between a kid who was on the verge of drinking legality and one who couldn’t even drive in all 50 states … and he paid out a record $1.4 million bonus as a result.
Hey, the kid said his nickname was “Smiley”. When have you ever met a 16-year-old who wanted to be called Smiley? That should have been a big enough tip-off right there.
Instead, Bowden bought into tips from a Dominican Republic scouting department that now appears to have been receiving significant kick backs from signing bonuses. None of those pay days — we’re pretty sure fired Dominican chief Jose Rijo would have called them “payroll augmentations” — would have been as big as the one connected with Esmailyn Gonzalez, but it seems doubtless that there were a handful of other inappropriate cash pay outs.
Now, Bowden is out of a job, but Gonzalez, a young man who appears to actually be named Carlos Daniel Alvarez Lugo, may still have a future in the Nationals’ system. He’s older than he’s supposed to be, but his performance at low-level minor league outposts throughout his first two seasons has been impressive. Was it impressive enough to stand out if he’s actually four years older than he said he was? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean he’s going away. Rafael Furcal and Miguel Tejada have both had successful careers despite lying about their ages to gain MLB entry. And hey, after all, the Nats have $1.4 million+ sunk in him.