SBD/Issue 111/Franchises

Nationals Fire Special Assistant Jose Rijo In Wake Of Scandal

Rijo's Dominican Republic Camp
Still Affiliated With Tigers
The Nationals have decided to fire Special Assistant Jose Rijo, the member of the team's front office "most closely linked" to the Esmailyn Gonzalez fraud, according to a source cited by Chico Harlan of the WASHINGTON POST. Rijo, who had worked with the team since '05, had taken a "forced leave of absence from his job" and returned to the Dominican Republic, where he owns and operates a baseball academy that the Nationals have used as their scouting base in Latin America. By cutting ties with Rijo, the Nationals subsequently have "cut ties with Rijo's academy -- the place where the organization and their now-infamous prospect intersected." Harlan notes Rijo's academy was "supposed to become the epicenter" of the Nationals' "new focus on international scouting." A source indicated that Nationals VP/Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo currently is in the Dominican Republic "seeking information about a new facility" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/26). ESPN.com's Jorge Arangure Jr. noted the Tigers also "use Rijo's complex and its academy and have a contract with Rijo to use the facility through this season." Tigers Assistant GM Al Avila said the team will "just continue to operate as normal" (ESPN.com, 2/25). However, Rijo yesterday said that he "hasn't been told by the club he has been fired." Rijo: "No one has called me to tell me what is going on. I haven't heard anything from the team. ... All I heard is rumor." In DC, Mark Zuckerman notes Rijo has "maintained his innocence all along" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/26).

THE DOMINO EFFECT? SI.com's Jon Heyman cites sources as saying Nationals GM Jim Bowden's "job is in jeopardy." The Nationals are said to be "seriously considering firing Bowden in the wake" of the Gonzalez scandal (SI.com, 2/26). The WASHINGTON TIMES' Zuckerman cites two Nationals sources as saying that they "did not expect a quick decision by Nationals ownership" on Bowden's job status (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/26). Meanwhile, an MLB spokesperson yesterday said that contrary to a published report, the Nationals have "neither requested nor been granted approval" from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to "forgo a rule that would require them to consider minority candidates" for a GM opening. The WASHINGTON POST's Harlan noted such a request would "indicate the team is taking steps to replace" Bowden, "whose job has been jeopardized by his role in an ongoing FBI investigation into the skimming of Latin American prospects' signing bonuses" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/25).

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