Leo Nuñez of the Miami Marlins is actually Juan Carlos Oviedo, and a year older than we thought. Fausto Carmona of the Cleveland Indians is really Roberto Hernandez Heredia — and three years older. Who will be the next Major League Baseball player from the Dominican Republic to be accused of committing identity fraud? And how many more will come?
Reporter Tyler Kepner of the New York Times asked around, and one unnamed agent said "more than a dozen players could soon lose their contracts because of age and identity issues." It sounds like a big problem for MLB and the Dominican, which has produced 542 major leaguers and counting since Ozzie Virgil debuted for the Giants 56 years ago.
But New York Mets executive Sandy Alderson gave a curious answer when explaining what MLB's response might be if the fraud continues:
"I had personally been burned on a number of occasions by identity fraud," said Alderson, now the general manager of the Mets. "One has to ask if one is prepared to make the same investment again. If you get burned too often, you may decide to go elsewhere. I think that hit home with them."
He wants us to believe that baseball would hesitate to keep farming the Dominican for the next Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Manny Ramirez, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, Sammy Sosa, Adrian Beltre, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Tony Fernandez, Pedro Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, Aramis Ramirez — should I keep going?
Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Mario Soto, Francisco Cordero, Jose Mesa, Jose Valverde, Bartolo Colon, Johnny Cueto ... that's enough. The only thing that could keep MLB out of the Dominican is if everyone there started playing soccer and basketball instead of baseball.
Heck, how many MLB teams invest time, effort and money into players from Cuba? That country is almost a total mystery, and we have very little influence there. Anybody want to take bets on how old Yoenis Cespedes really is? And is that uncertainty going to keep the Cubs or another team from throwing him millions?
Sean Newell of Deadspin made a similar argument against Alderson's stance. I'd like to make an additional point. Don't you get the feeling, as long as we're feigning concern over fraud, that young Dominicans are as vulnerable to it as anyone? Notably absent from Kepner's story was Alderson's primary angle for visiting the Dominican in 2010 on behalf of MLB: To investigate and (presumably root out) the culture of skimming of signing bonuses and kickbacks that has led to federal indictments. The corrupt guys in those stories weren't ballplayers, but instead MLB employees and other middle men using the Dominican system to their personal advantage.
We're to believe that's all better now?
Ah, who am I kidding? Nobody here cares that players in a poor country lie for what they think is a better chance to play in the majors. And we surely don't care if some of these players are exploited. We barely care about exploitation of Americans. Finding the next Jose Reyes — no matter what it says on his birth certificate — that's Alderson's job.
Just keep getting the ballplayers, Sandy.
Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave — and engage the Stew on Facebook