Major Leagues: Were Nationals scammed?
VIERA, Fla. ó A top baseball prospect from the Dominican Republic who received a $1.4 million signing bonus from the Washington Nationals lied about his age and name in what team president Stan Kasten called “an elaborate scheme.”
“This was a deliberate, premeditated fraud” that involved bribes, along with falsified hospital and school records, Kasten said Wednesday.
In July 2006, the Nationals signed a 16-year-old shortstop named Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez and held a news conference at which general manager Jim Bowden compared the player to Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Still known as Gonzalez, he wound up leading the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a .343 batting average in 2008.
But while the Nationals have been listing his date of birth as Sept. 21, 1989 ó which would make him 19 now ó Kasten said Wednesday that a Major League Baseball investigation determined Gonzalez is actually Carlos David Alvarez Lugo, born in November 1985 ó meaning he is really 23.