In May 2008, the White Sox fired senior director of player personnel David Wilder and scouts Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera and Victor Mateo after allegations surfaced that they had pocketed money earmarked for player signing bonuses. They’ve now been charged with crimes:
Wilder, 50, was charged with seven counts of mail fraud. He was considered a rising star in baseball’s front-office circles and was a close friend and a trusted adviser to White Sox general manager Ken Williams . . . Also charged were Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera, the Sox’s Latin American scout from 2004 to 2007, and Victor Mateo, who was the club’s scout in the Dominican Republic from 2006 to 2008.
The indictment alleged that the three illegally defrauded 23 baseball prospects out of the $400,000 from December 2004 to February 2008.
An interesting note related to this back when it broke: Oquendo worked for Jim Bowden when he was the Reds’ GM. Bowden, you may remember, was also being looked at in connection with the overall investigation into signing bonuses in the Dominican Republic. To my knowledge he was never accused of wrongdoing, and he isn’t mentioned in this report. Bowden’s trusted ally Jose Rijo was fired after some age-related scandals involving Dominican players. I’d be curious to know if either Bowden or Rijo are mentioned in the charging documents.
Beyond that: when this stuff hit the fan back in 2008, it led to a lot of articles talking about the state of player development in the Dominican Republic, the dangers of Buscones and all of that. I think there is still a lot of messiness involved in that whole process, but it’s probably worth acknowledging that though unsavory Buscones may be exploiting prospects, Major League Baseball employees are now officially charged with exploiting them themselves. My guess: no one’s hands are truly clean.
Such a dynamic is worth remembering when Bud Selig starts talking about the need for an international draft to “clean up” Dominican baseball. Because in some ways, MLB is just as much a part of the problem.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.