Friday, October 13, 2006

Rumor has it!

By: Jim Williams, The Examiner
Oct 13, 2006 12:35 PM (6 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 4 of 6,686 articles

Washington -. This time of year rumors are a very big part of Major League Baseball and the Nationals seem to be right in the thick of the spin cycle.

At around 2pm yesterday a wire service story out of the Dominican Republic stated that in the Thursday morning editions of the Santo Domingo newspaper Listin Diario, Nationals Special Assistant Jose Rijo told a radio a reporter that Alfonso Soriano turned down a $70 million, five-year contract offer from the club.

Meanwhile, back here in the states Examiner staffers burned up the phone lines and sent out plenty of emails in hopes of confirming the report. At first no one in the Nationals organization could be reached to either confirm or deny the wire service report.

I contacted baseball insiders at both ESPN and FOX and again no one seemed to have heard of the report or knew if the news of the contract rejection was real. A source at ESPN thought it odd that the story would not have come out of Washington and from GM Jim Bowden’s office. “Its just not Stan Kasten’s or Jim’s style to have Jose make such an important announcement,” the source told me.

By 6pm newscasts were broadcasting the story of Alfonso Soriano’s rejection of the Nationals offer. ESPN, FOX and other sports outlets had taken this flimsy single source wire service story and made it the gospel truth in their sports breaks.

Meanwhile, none of the baseball insiders that I had been in contact with all day long thought the story was true and were looking for some one, anyone to either confirm or deny it.

Finally at about 10:30pm a clearly upset Stan Kasten, the Nationals president, who had been traveling all day, issued a statement that he have no idea how the story got out and that it was a total fabrication. Not a single word of it is true and only I, Jim Bowden (Nationals General Manager) and Mark Lerner (Nationals Managing General Partner) conduct contract talk’s period. At present we have an ongoing dialogue with Alfonso Soriano and his agent Diego Bentz and if and when a deal is either accepted or rejected it will be announced by the Nationals communications staff. That is the way we do business.

So, the rumor mill rolled on all day and one wonders if it was a clever ploy by Diego Bentz to get some numbers out there to perspective suitors or just bad reporting. We will never really know for sure. We do know from a number of sources that the Nationals offer to Soriano is likely to be in the six year $70 to $80 million range. We also know that the newspaper account out of the Dominican Republic had the number that Benz was looking for at seven years and $110 million dollars. So you can understand the need for what we call in Washington a little leakage of the facts.

Don’t expect this to be the last rumor in the ongoing contract talks between the Nationals and Soriano let’s just hope the next one is handled better…

Meanwhile on the Nationals manager front ESPN baseball insider Buster Olney and a number of Chicago based media outlets are reporting that FOX analyst Lou Piniella and former Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Devil Rays manager is the front runner for the Cubs job. Also, the Cubs will ask the Padres as soon as Friday for permission to talk with manager Bruce Bochy and they will likely give Chicago and even perhaps the Giants the go ahead to interview the San Diego skipper. If that happens you could have a Bochy – Piniella race for the Cubs job. That scenario could put Joe Girardi in the Nationals dugout in 2007. Chicago wants to make an announcement as soon as next week and with Girardi having a second meeting with the Nationals yesterday you can bet if the Cubs name either Bochy or “Sweet Lou,” their man, Girardi will be in D.C. talking contract terms.

Welcome to the “hot stove league,” and with a real owner and a new ball park rising out of the ground in southeast, this off season is going to be fun.

The Examiner. All rights reserved.

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