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.