Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kasten: Conspicuously, No Vote of Confidence

You can't read too much into it, but it was noticeable how Stan Kasten's comments on the alleged Dominican Republic bonus-skimming scandal did not include any kind of vote of confidence for Bowden or Rijo. He didn't vouch for the above-board nature of his organization's operation in the DR or back up Bowden's story that he wasn't even questioned as a suspect in the first place.

Even as Rijo was vouching for Kasten, saying the Nationals' president "Made it clear... He said, 'I want you to be aggressive, and I want you to stay away from wrongdoing.' Even if it means losing a player," according to the Washington Post, Kasten didn't return the favor.

Chico Harlan reports:

Kasten declined the chance to reinforce Bowden's assertion that the team has committed no wrongdoing, instead saying "that wouldn't be fair."

"I couldn't be more supportive of the effort to make sure that everybody is living by the rules," Kasten said. "Whatever is found, wherever it is found, across baseball, it's a good thing. We want things found out. We want things on the up and up. That's of the utmost of importance to us."

Ben Goessling of the Washington Times gives a little more of the same quote:

But when asked whether he was satisfied there is no wrongdoing in the organization, Kasten said, "I'm not going to talk about specific innuendos or allegations or rumors. That wouldn't be fair."

Of course, there are good reasons for him to remain above the fray and avoid appearing to rule out the possibility of wrongdoing. Like with the Mitchell Report, which Kasten referenced in his remarks as a model of self-policing by MLB (a dubious model, in my view), MLB needs to maintain the perception of objectivity in their investigation of their own wrongdoing. (Of course, this is a different situation, since they handed the situation off to the FBI, an actual law-enforcement agency, rather than a former front office director and with conflicts of interest galore.)

Still, at the very least Bowden and Kasten aren't on the same page on their media spin. Bowden (as usual) is focused on covering his own butt and shifting blame, while Kasten seems to be more focused on what's good for the game overall, even if I'm not quite persuaded by his Joe Friday act.

No slight to Chico Harlan, but I'd like to see the Post dedicate a little time to this story from a business page reporter, someone with some experience in corporate crime. There's a lot to this story that we aren't getting, and it's a shame that so far the Post has only reported what Bowden, Rijo, and Kasten have had to say.

And one other final thing: some people I'm sure assume given my point of view that I'm celebrating over this situation. I'm not. This is a really sad situation that I hope is more rumor than reality. Certainly, I don't wish Bowden or Rijo the kind of personal turmoil that comes with a serious criminal investigation. I don't want to see Bowden go to jail.

Even more than that, I feel for the kids in the DR who are really the victims here. Most of them growing up in abject poverty, baseball is a distant dream, a way out for many. The lives of a lot of these kids makes Hoop Dreams look like Hoosiers. To be exploited by low-lifes looking to make a quick buck... well, it just makes me sad.

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