Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who's Smiling Now?
So remember that kid "Smiley" Gonzalez that the Nationals signed when he was 16? A little over two years ago Smiley inspired people, like Todd Jacobson of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star (I didn't even know Lance Star was in prison.), to gush:

Esmailyn Gonzalez drives his gleaming white Cadillac Escalade through the narrow and pock-marked streets of Pizarrete, stopping often. He is 16 years old, he is almost a millionaire, and he's a celebrity.

Townspeople wave from storefront bars and fruit stands, approaching the driver's side window to offer handshakes and greetings. He picks up one woman and gives her a ride to the bus stop.

And when he pulls into the small plot of land on the edge of sugar cane fields that has served as home for the last 16 years, his sport utility vehicle sticks out like a bulldozer in a cornfield.

What an inspirational story, I remember that I teared up at the time.

Turns out, Smiley is really Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo (that's right -- Carl Lugo!), and he's now 23, not 19, which is how old he would have been if he really was 16 back in December of 2006. Evidently, a key part of the scam was that he figured that no one would ever suspect a guy named Smiley of lying about stuff. Sure fooled the Nationals, who gave him $1.4 million dollars. His next most aggressive suitor, the brilliant minds at the Texas Rangers, were thinking more like $700,000.

Smiley had a great year last year in the Gulf Coast League. A great year if he was 18, but not such a great year when you figure he was four years older than the kids he was playing with.

They really saw Jim Bowden coming on this one.

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