I heard quite a rumor through the grapevine the other day, to wit that Jim Bowden and front-office types in other organizations may have made up Dominican prospects, signed them, and pocketed the bonuses.
That is, as I understand the rumor, they would have filed scouting reports on boys who did not exist so that they could embezzle cash from their employers. So long as the bonuses they assigned to these fictional prospects were small enough, they could simply stash the imaginary prospects in their Dominican academies and let the fictional players wash out after a couple of years.
The scheme tickles my funny bone—but then, I had no 401k to speak of when the economy tanked—and while I can’t substantiate it, I think it’s worth publishing for what it says about the murky Latin American talent market.
Two things I take from the rumor:
The bonus-skimming scandal is not the simple victimization story that it is sometimes portrayed as, and it is bigger and more complicated than we understand. While I don’t doubt that some advisors (I prefer not to use the pejorative buscones) rob or otherwise misuse their charges, it seems to me that the heart of the scandal is that FOTs and Dominican advisors have been inflating bonuses for the express purpose of skimming. If that’s the case, to what degree are the prospects victims?
The Esmailyn González affair makes a useful example: the most telling aspect of that story is not that the boy and his advisor lied about the prospect’s name and birth date, but that when the Nationals inked the player for $1.4 million, they reportedly doubled González’ next highest offer. To speculate, if González (now known as Carlos Lugo) did not receive the entire $1.4 million (minus his advisor’s take), has he been ripped off? I think it’s more accurate to say that he’s been used to rip off the Nationals.
(Meanwhile, the Nationals and the rest of the MLB clubs are invested in the Dominican Republic because, in addition to the exceptionally talented ballplayers to be found there, the DR is a developing country, and its economic conditions have allowed MLB clubs to mine talent more cheaply there than they can in the U.S. After many years of signing superstars for $10,000 bonuses, it’s hard to feel too sorry for MLB clubs now.)