07.06.08

LAT’s Baxter: MLB Dominican Kickback Scandal Afoot

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 11:26 pm by

For those waiting for the other shoe to drop concerning the May firing of White Sox personnel director David Wilder and two scouts, this may be the week. While there’s not much new about norte americanos running wild in Latin America spreading divisiveness, dollars and destruction, Kevin Baxter reports the Monroe Doctrine is about to become entangled with baseball in a big way, the money trail reportedly leading all the way up to at least one GM.

Federal agents, following up on baseball’s own two-month investigation, have been interviewing representatives of all 30 major league teams after the May firing of Dave Wilder, the Chicago White Sox’s senior personnel director, and two White Sox scouts.

According to the Chicago Tribune, investigators are looking into whether Wilder may have pocketed portions of the bonuses the White Sox gave him to sign Dominican prospects. Ross Rice, a spokesman for the FBI office in Chicago, said no criminal charges have been filed.

Wilder has said nothing publicly since his firing.

“The FBI’s going to all the organizations . . . asking players if they received or gave money,” said Clay Daniel, international scouting supervisor for the Angels, whose Dominican-based scouts have already been interviewed. “I’m sure they’re looking into scouts, personnel, people like that that may have had a hand in it.”

And it may go higher than that. Several baseball sources, all of whom said their jobs would be jeopardized if they spoke on the record about a federal investigation, say at least one general manager has already come under suspicion.

Peralta and officials in the commissioner’s office declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. But according to Daniel and others, the recent escalation of bonuses that teams are paying in Latin America has made it easier and more profitable to skim money from players and teams.

Dominican scouts, known on the island as buscones, or “searchers,” have been doing that for at least a decade. Many tell families up front they will take 30% or more of a player’s bonus when he signs, then play teams off one another in negotiations to drive that bonus — and, consequently, their cut — higher.

One thing the feds will investigate is whether team representatives have become complicit in that practice in exchange for a kickback. One National League executive, who insisted on anonymity, said he offered a $60,000 bonus to a prospect a couple of years ago only to have the buscon demand 10 times that much. Three months later, the executive said, the player signed with another team for more than $1.5 million.

“You think in three months a guy can improve by $1 million?” he said. “Something funny must have happened there. It’s not only the buscones. The first case was the Chicago White Sox. And you will see in the future, other names are going to be coming out.

“I don’t blame the buscones. I blame the major league organization’s people with the responsibility to approve that big bonus.”

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