I'm not saying it's right, but were I raised on a dirt floor in the Dominican Republic and found I could throw a baseball a little, and that seemed like more fun than, say, working a tobacco farm for a few pesos a day, I'd change my name to Doris Day and wear a wedding gown for a shot at professional ball.
Several months ago, we learned Juan Carlos Oviedo had opted once upon a time for Leo Nunez.
Carmona (nee Hernandez), according to reports out of the Dominican Republic, is actually 31, or three years older than the Indians believed him to be.
Which brings to mind the reaction out of Anaheim a decade ago when it was learned Ramon Ortiz was 28, not the 25 that was in their records. Vice president Tim Mead mused, "We're excited to have a more mature, knowledgeable pitcher."
Sure enough, a wiser Ortiz won 31 games over the next two seasons, the best years of his career.
Life may not be as mirthful in the Carmona camp, given he was not only discovered to be allegedly using someone else's name (and birth date), but arrested for it outside the U.S. consulate in Santo Domingo on Thursday.
This comes not three months after the Indians picked up Carmona's $7 million option for 2012. And four since Carmona stumbled away from a season in which he was 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA.
Carmona signed with the Indians in 2000, supposedly as a 16- or 17-year-old. Turns out he was perhaps as old as 20. Two years later, while Carmona was playing rookie ball in Burlington, N.C. (and presumably still getting used to answering to "Fausto"), Rafael Furcal, Bartolo Colon, Neifi Perez and Ortiz, among others, were discovered to have lied about their ages. Years later, Miguel Tejada and Vladimir Guerrero were found to have shaved a year or two from their birth certificates. In March 2009, MLB investigated at least 40 cases of age irregularities among Dominican Republic prospects.
While age management is a profession in some parts of our culture – I'm based in Los Angeles, remember – it's exasperating for baseball. Scouts sent to Santo Domingo are asked to project 16-year-old waifs into something like 22-year-old professional ballplayers, and it would help to know if the kid is as big and mature as he's going to get. Of course, the likes of Tejada and Guerrero – and, presumably, near countless others – worked out just fine. But, when millions of dollars are at stake and the discussion turns to an international draft, it would be somewhat important to separate the boys from the grown men.
This is not to cast judgment on the young men who view their nation's reputedly lax record keeping as a welcome loophole when the American scouts arrive, or on those who use the anonymity of a rural upbringing for the same cause. For the same reasons an athletic but malnourished boy might happily roll up his sleeve for a few CC's of synthetic, over-the-counter muscle, so might he swap birth certificates with a clumsy cousin.
If an edited date of birth and a strange new name got young Roberto Hernandez Heredia into a tryout, onto a mound, and into a scout's line of sight, you think he regrets that during his few hours in prison today? I wouldn't.
Assuming he gets the $7 million he's got coming this season, he'll have made $22 million in his career. Against the alternative, think that's worth running around with someone else's name and birthday for 12 years?
As a business, baseball must try to authenticate the ages and identities of every one of those kids who borrows a glove, wobbles onto a rutty field and hopes to become the next Miguel Tejada.
I get that.
But, as a person who sympathizes with that kid, whether he's 16 or 19, whether he's Roberto or Fausto, I can only say, "Que Sera Sera."
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