For years, ballplayers from the Dominican Republic have had to deal with the suspicion that they're all older than the age on the back of their baseball card.
Now they'll have to battle doubts about the name that's listed on the front.
Reports out of the Dominican Republic on Thursday say that Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona has become the second pitcher arrested this offseason for using a false identity. According to reports, the 28-year-old Carmona is actually 31-year-old Roberto Hernandez Heredia. He was arrested while trying to renew his visa at the American consulate in Santo Domingo.
Last December, Miami Marlins reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo was arrested in the D.R. for using a false name (Leo Nunez) and age (28 instead of 29). The deception, however, didn't matter much to the Marlins, who just re-signed Oviedo to a one-year deal worth $6 million (the contract is dependent on the successful resolution of the legal matter).
What this means for Carmona is anyone's guess. The right-hander just completed a four-year, $15 million contract with the Indians and now the team has three club option years in front of it. A $7 million option for 2012 was exercised back in October and it's unknown if the Tribe will take any legal recourse because they're getting a pitcher who's three years older than they thought.
"We were recently made aware of the situation that occurred today in the Dominican Republic and are currently in the process of gathering information," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti told MLB.com. "We are not prepared to make any additional comment at this time."
As ESPN.com's Jorge Arangure notes, the Indians can't feel too bad about the arrangement to this point. Carmona won 19 games and was an integral part of the 2007 team that was one ALCS collapse away from the World Series and it's not as if they've sunk mega-money into him. Maybe it will affect those final two option years, but I'd be surprised if they quibbled over the $7 million if he's able to return to the U.S. and pitch in 2012.
Considering that Carmona might not have received a pro contract had he not taken this route to adopt a younger age, I don't think too many of us can begrudge his choice. People in desperate situations tend to do desperate things, especially if they're under pressure from outside influences. It's hard to say you would have done anything differently if you were in the same situation.
But it also introduces another layer of mystery to the players we cheer for (or curse) each game. How many of these names have belonged to these men since birth?
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