Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Mr. Kasten Comments
These are the few quotes that stuck with me from Team President Stan Kasten's conference call with The Media this afternoon about The Defrauding Of Our Washington Nationals by Esmailyn Gonzalez/Daniel Lugo. The Washington Post's Nationals Journal has the complete transcription.
Mr. Kasten knew well in advance of Sports Illustrated reporting the story:
I've known about this coming for the last couple of weeks; I got a heads-up a few weeks ago. I received confirmation from MLB yesterday, formally, that the player that we thought was Esmailyn Gonzalez was not.
Then went on to say that Baseball Operations had pushed this deal just as the hand-over was taking place from MLB to The Lerner Family. No one in the new ownership group was involved other than to commit the team to the deal:
We were awarded the team in early May , and really soon thereafter, within maybe two weeks or three weeks, right in the early stage of the transition, we did not yet own the team, Jim [Bowden] came to me and said his staff had seen this kid, they thought he was special, they thought he would command a premier bonus, and what was our appetite for that. And, obviously none of us had ever seen the kid or heard of the kid. But he described him, the staff described him, and we said, 'Yeah, we want to be aggressive, we'd back you on something like that if that's what everyone feels like.' So we did support their recommendation, and we went ahead and signed him on the first day we were able to, which was July 2.
What does that say about Baseball Operations?
And almost from the beginning, Mr. Kasten had his doubts about the signing:
Real soon thereafter -- I don't know if it was that summer (2006), but certainly by that winter -- I heard rumors that circulate around baseball that were some irregularities related to this Esmailyn Gonzalez signing, whether it was the amount of money or where the money wound up going or whatnot; I kept hearing this. And you know, it was disquieting to me, and so I went back to baseball and I asked for their help... So we're talking now 2007, and I said, 'I want to get to the bottom of this.'
For months and even a couple of years, Mr. Kasten had been working the background with MLB--feeling something was definitely wrong:
In the course of that (FBI) investigation, they've talked to a number of teams, and they are and have talked to our team as well. I think partially because of the Esmailyn Gonzalez rumors, but for other general reasons, too. And so this went on through the summer. But I kept hearing these rumors, and while I know this longer investigation will take a long time, I did go to them four months ago, six months ago, and said: 'Do this for me. Let me narrow this down for you guys. I keep hearing all kinds of things, but at least verify for me that he is who he is, and his birthdate is his birthdate. Surely you guys can do that.' And it took them this long, but they did crack through it.
There were a number of people involved in it (The Fraud). When you guys learn -- you won't today -- but soon you will... when you learn the lengths these participants went to perpetrate this fraud, you're gonna be amazed. Falsified hospital documents. Falsified school documents. Other family members changing their identities. Bribes were paid. Really elaborate stuff.
And when questioned on whether anyone within the organization was involved in the fraud, Mr. Kasten made his most important comment of the day:
I'm not going to say anything right now while the investigation continues, and you know, you know how I am about this. I am going to let all conclusions be reached. I want it pursued to the very end. The chips will fall where they may. I just want to uncover everything I can possibly uncover, and that's what I have asked baseball's help in.
Clearly, he didn't deny anyone's involvement--at least not yet. And by answering the question in such a way, Mr. Kasten put everyone within Washington's Organization on notice.
But I have to say that in the few years since Mr. Kasten came on board as Team President of Our Washington Nationals, I have NEVER experienced him so publicly upset over anything. You could tell his emotion was running high in the responses.
So where will those final chips eventually fall? This Esmailyn Gonzalez/Daniel Lugo Story is not going away anytime soon.