As another federal investigation gathers steam, the Washington Nationals and, apparently, the Cincinnati Reds -- and Major League Baseball by extension -- are sure to be embarassed by allegations now raining out of the sky regarding current Nationals General Manager and former Reds GM Jim Bowden.
Below are links to two stories detailing the alleged skimming of signing bonuses from players out of the Dominican Republic, one from CBS and one from Sports Illustrated.
When it comes to Jim Bowden, he's always been a slick fast talker of a GM. He was responsible for what I continue to contend could be the worst trade in Reds' history, bringing Ken Griffey, Jr., to the team in 2000 and essentially mortgaging the team's future while accomplishing virtually nothing in the process. Outside of that for me, there is no love lost in the Reds' camp for old Leatherpants, who earned the nickname for his penchant for wearing leather pants. He was the mastermind of such moves as firing Reds' manager Tony Perez 44 games into the 1993 season BY VOICEMAIL. He couldn't even face the guy straight up! And after going to the Nationals in 2004, he helped engineer a trade with the Reds in 2006 that is still talked about in Reds' circles because Nationals' pitcher Gary Majewski, a featured player in the trade, had received a cortisone shot just prior to being traded to the Reds. (After the Reds filed a grievance in 2007 and the trade was investigated, it was determined there was no wrongdoing on the part of Bowden or the Nationals.)
What disturbs me more is to see Jose Rijo's name mentioned in connection with this mess. Rijo is a special assistant for the Nationals, and he has now been linked to a prospect from the Dominican Republic who was older than originally reported during first contacts with the player. Rijo has always been one of my favorite Reds' players and one of my favorite players of all time, but now that could be tarnished.
I would think that many fellow Reds' fans feel the way I do -- it would serve Bowden right to have karma bite him in the butt if he has been involved with skimming signing bonuses. And, certainly, based on what is being reported, the activity goes beyond Bowden and whatever Rijo might have done. But to see Rijo being thrown on the heap with Bowden would be a hard pill for me to swallow. Right now, both are ducking media contacts, but I would venture to say that won't stop those media outlets from pursuing Bowden and Rijo like feral dogs on the scent of tempting prey.
So, it's obvious Bowden has traded those leather pants for snakeskin, and maybe some of the proverbial snake oil we often hear about. But, pending outcome of the investigation that is ongoing, will he be able to cozy up and play "Let's Make A Deal," or will he have to trade in the leather and snakeskin for DOC grays? Stay tuned to your nearest sports information source, sports fans, this one's not over and will likely be an underlying topic of conversation for the entire MLB season, with athletic, political and social dimensions, considering the number and quality of baseball prospects coming out of the Dominican Republic and what a shot at a professional baseball career can mean to so many of those recruits.