SBD/Issue 112/Franchises

Nats Officially Shift Dominican Operations As Fallout Continues

Nationals Officially Fire Rijo In
Fallout From Prospect Scandal
The Nationals Thursday officially "abandoned the training facility" in the Dominican Republic and fired Special Assistant Jose Rijo, "all part of the fallout" from the Esmailyn Gonzalez situation, according to Svrluga & Harlan of the WASHINGTON POST. While Nationals President Stan Kasten Thursday said that the team's Dominican prospects will "move into a different facility on Monday," the recent events leave "significant questions about the direction of the franchise's efforts" in the Dominican Republic. In addition, there are "almost as many questions about" Nationals GM Jim Bowden, "whose future Kasten did not address directly and whose relationship with Rijo goes back nearly two decades" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/27). In DC, Mark Zuckerman cites team and MLB sources as saying that a "portion of the Nationals' ownership group is pushing for Bowden to be fired by the end of the weekend." The sources indicated that "no final decision has been made about Bowden's future," and Bowden "continues to have a handful of supporters within ownership, most notably" Mark Lerner. Nationals employees said that they are "working under the assumption" that Bowden "won't survive and they expect a change will be made." Team and league sources said that if Bowden is fired, "expect the Nationals to promote" Assistant GM Mike Rizzo on an interim basis (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/27).

CAUGHT IN A RUNDOWN: In DC, Thomas Boswell writes amid "this mess, the right man has been given more authority" -- Rizzo. Kasten Thursday praised Rizzo for "relocating the Nats' entire operation in the Dominican Republic -- from one baseball complex to another -- in a 72-hour whirlwind of logistical, legal and leg work." Boswell added, "What engulfs the Nats these days seems like pure pain and embarrassment. And it is. But, mixed in, is progress" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/27). But in Philadelphia, Paul Hagen writes under the header, "Nationals Making Headlines For All The Wrong Reasons." The FBI investigation into the alleged skimming of bonuses paid to Dominican prospects is a "nasty, ugly mess," and it will "get only nastier, uglier and messier." While "nobody thinks the Nationals are the only team with baseball people who funneled off money intended for the players," there "probably isn't a franchise less ready to withstand this sort of spotlight" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/27).

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