Good news for the Jacksonville Dragons: the league office has cleared the team of the wild allegations of game-fixing out by former reliever John Longroofan. “The league has thoroughly investigated Mr. Longroofan’s charges, and found them to be completely without merit,” read a statement issued by Patriot League Commissioner Jeremiah Mills.
Longroofan, a 20-year-old left-handed prospect whom the Dragons signed during spring training, posting an 0-1 record and a 22.00 ERA in 5 appearances with Jacksonville before being demoted in mid-May. He quickly became far better known for his outlandish behavior and obscenity-filled quotes than for anything he did on the field.
In mid-August, Longroofan went public with allegations that the Dragons bullpen conspired to throw games in league with gamblers. The young lefty claimed that his poor performance was related to his participation in the conspiracy, and that his bizarre behavior was meant as a mask. “I played it off like I was drunk or crazy, so they wouldn’t catch on that I was tanking,” Longroofan claimed.
The Jacksonville relievers vehemently denied any illegal activity, and the Dragons quickly released Longroofan after his charges came to light. But the league office conducted a detailed investigation of the accusations. They interviewed Dragons players and staff, discussed the situation with the Jacksonville police department, and attempted to locate people who might have knowledge of the conspiracy, if it existed.
“Even though I doubted Mr. Longroofan’s story from the beginning,” said the statement from Commissioner Mills, “I felt it necessary for the sake of the Dragons and the league to examine the charges in detail. The league’s integrity is my first concern, and I wanted to be certain that if there was any merit to the allegations, that we take swift action to address it.”
Longroofan did little to bolster confidence in his story during his initial interview with league investigators. Sources described his answers as vague and evasive, and he was unwilling or unable to provide details on the names of any gamblers or organizations involved, claiming that “they’d rub me out” if he named them. Investigators suspected that he was either drunk or on drugs during the interview.
Later, pressed to provide evidence to substantiate his claims, he produced a crumpled note written on the back of a fast-food wrapper that said in a wobbly script, “John: Good job fixing last night. We’ll leave the money under the clubhouse door.” Handwriting analysis suggested that Longroofan wrote the note himself using his non-dominant hand.
The further the league looked into Longroofan’s story, the more holes appeared. The reliever provided telephone numbers from which he claimed he’d talked to the gamblers. One number was that of a local Chinese restaurant; another belonged to a 90-year-old retired postal worker. After initially declining to provide names, Longroofan offered several, such as “Mike Hawk,” “Dick Long,” “Randy Schwang,” and “Hugh Jorgen.” Investigators discovered no evidence that such people existed. Nor were the Jacksonville police familiar with any organized gambling rings operating in the city.
The league also reviewed tapes of Longroofan’s pitching performances for signs of any intentional tanking. The league’s report pointed out that he rarely appeared in games whose outcomes were still in doubt, making it almost impossible that he would have been able to throw a game. “Typically, players involved in game-fixing will mix in some good outings to avoid suspicion,” the report stated. “Mr. Longroofan’s unimpressive record appears to be entirely due to his complete lack of pitching ability.”
The league also reviewed tapes of other Dragons relievers, but found no pattern to suggest game-fixing. Given that and the fact that investigators could find no hard evidence or other voices to substantiate Longroofan’s charges, the league exonerated the Dragons organization of all charges.
“Needless to say, I’m very happy with the findings,” said Dragons owner Eric Stetson. “On behalf of the organization, I want to thank the league for conducting a prompt, thorough, and fair investigation. I never believed the accusations for a minute, but it is a tremendous relief to have an outside investigation clear our organization.
“We can now head into the offseason without the cloud of these baseless charges hanging over us, and I can return my focus to building a championship team for our fans.”
The top priority for the Dragons this offseason will be finding a new manager, as they terminated Harlan Davidson the day after the regular season.