What did Stan Kasten know and when did he know it? President Stan took time out from his busy schedule manufacturing life-size, functioning Scott Boras voodoo dolls to make some generic comments about the Mitchell Report. Kasten declined to specifically address questions about catcher Paul Lo Duca, but he did say that clubs were not given advance notice of players to be named in the Report. Lo Duca was signed to a 1-year, $5M deal just days before George Mitchell made his findings public.
I have no problem believing that the Nats didn't get a sneak peek at the Report. What I find harder to believe is that Stan Kasten, savvy baseball man that he is, had no idea that Lo Duca might be a candidate for inclusion in the report. Kasten, Jim Bowden, Mike Rizzo and Bob Boone have decades of combined major league experience. One thing the Mitchell Report made abundantly clear is that baseball's front offices were not oblivious to steroid use in their clubhouses. They may not have appreciated the depth or breadth of the issue, but particularly with respect to Lo Duca, steroid use was factored into the cost of doing business. (Mitchell Report, pp 208-211.)
In October 2003 the Dodgers management was (at least internally) openly discussing the impact of steroids on Lo Duca's trade value:
Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this.At that same time Mike Rizzo was the Scouting Director for the Dodgers NL West rivals the Arizona Diamondbacks, a position he would remain in until coming to Washington. Jim Bowden's ten years as GM of the Cincinnati Reds was coming to an end and Stan Kasten was concluding his immensely successful tenure as President of the Atlanta Braves franchise. Bob Boone, a former special adviser to Bowden in Cincinnati, had two sons playing in the major leagues. I doubt that any of these men heard anything specific about Paul Lo Duca's alleged steroid use, but they were all in position to hear rumors, allegations and insinuations of steroid use from players and clubhouse personnel who would know.
Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives.. . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That’s his makeup. Comes to play.
All of which leaves us where? We know that Lo Duca's contract was finalized and his introductory press conference scheduled just days before the release of the Mitchell Report, along with contracts for players like Andy Pettite and Eric Gange, and at the same time Miguel Tejada was traded Baltimore to Houston. We can be fairly sure that Lo Duca's name was not leaked, since it did not appear in any of the pre-report speculation. We know that Lo Duca has made no public response to the Report, though he has apparently spoken to the Nats.
According to Bill Ladson we also know that Kasten "wished... he had known about the allegations during [Lo Duca's] contract negotiations" though he doesn't say what, if anything the team would have done differently. Finally, and sadly we know that in all probability there is nothing to be done about it now, as Lo Duca's contract is guaranteed and unlikely to be voidable on the basis of mere allegations of past steroid use.
Speaking of massive failures in vetting, Elijah Dukes is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. If you want to try to put a positive spin on things, A) this all went down before he became a National, so it was probably factored into the "one strike and you're out" discussion, and B) maybe this shows that the death threats Elijah sent to his ex-wife weren't personal, they're just the way he ends every relationship. Ye Gods.
UPDATE: The latest domestic violence charge filed against Dukes was dismissed this morning when the complainant failed to appear in court.
Suddenly the serial acquisition of Garrett Guzman, Willie Harris and Rob Mackowiak begins to make a little more sense. At this point Dukes just cannot be considered a sure-fire contributor to the 2008 Nationals. I miss Glenn Gibson a little more each day. As always, Bugs & Cranks is good for a slightly more sympathetic take (though David, I'm pretty sure you can still send text messages from the DR to the good ol' US of A, particularly if you're on a family share plan. And Elijah has to be on a family share plan, right?)