02.23.09

The “B” Stands For Baseball: FBI Focusing on Bowden’s History of Hijinks

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 3:52 pm by

Nationals GM Jim Bowden’s tenure in Washington is notable mostly for the fact that, even considering our nation’s just-deposed political leadership, Bowden (above) has somehow generally managed to be the most volatile, baffling and maligned chief executive in the city. Back in July, the Washington Post‘s Chico Harlan broke a story about the FBI’s investigation into allegations that scouts and other Nats front-office people were skimming money from the bonuses given to prospects. Harlan has a follow-up in today’s WaPo, but the bigger story is in Sports Illustrated, where Melissa Segura reports that the Feds are looking at Bowden’s connection with this sort of malfeasance going back over a decade.

A federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to baseball prospects from Latin America is looking at Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden as far back as 1994, when he was GM of the Cincinnati Reds, according to a baseball executive familiar with the investigation.

Two sources inside baseball say that a long-time scout in Latin America, Jorge Oquendo, 47, is the man who links the FBI’s investigations of Bowden and his special assistant Jose Rijo to that of former Chicago White Sox senior director of player personnel David Wilder. Last May the White Sox fired Wilder and two Dominican-based scouts after allegations surfaced that they had pocketed money earmarked for player signing bonuses. Oquendo worked for Wilder in 2006 and 2007, as well as for Bowden with the Reds in 1994 and again with the Reds from 2000 through 2003.

Considering the amount of money involved in these bonuses — yes, even those paid by the stingy Nats — this maybe isn’t that surprising. Considering Bowden’s rep for half-shady quasi-incompetence, it’s probably even less so. But considering the Feds’ ultra-aggressive but notably unsuccessful attempts to prosecute baseball’s bad guys — witness, for instance, the flatlined, ultra-pricey Barry Bonds investigation — maybe Bowden doesn’t have anything to worry about.

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