Let’s pretend for a second that you’re 18 years old. You live your life in abject poverty in a city in the Dominican Republic. You spend your days wondering where your next meal is going to come from. But there’s some hope for you and your family that one day you may not have to live like this.
You see, you have a gift–you’re an extremely talented baseball player. You’re so talented in fact, you’ve been approached by several people who want to represent you as your agent. You’ve worked out for a couple teams and they like what they see. Several of them have contacted your agent–they’d like to sign you to a contract.
There’s just one problem: teams aren’t willing to spend a lot of money on an 18-year-old. They are however, willing to spend a lot more on a 16-year-old with your talent. Your agent has a plan: there’s a 16-year-old kid who lives down the street from you who kind a looks like you. His family has agreed to let you have his identity for a small percentage of any bonus you might accrue.
You’re 18, you’re poor, and the one ticket you have to give your family a better life requires you to break the law. If any sane person reading this says that they wouldn’t do the exact same as someone like Roberto Hernandez did, or someone like Juan Oviedo did, than you’re lying.
Cleveland Indians right-hander Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, was arrested this past winter for committing identity fraud. The same thing happened to Juan Oviedo, formerly known as Leo Nuñez. As a result of their legal troubles, both pitchers have lost almost the entire 2012 season and both of been punished by Major League Baseball.
In fact, it was announced today after he received his visa, Hernandez will serve a three-week suspension. Oviedo was suspended for eight weeks.
The natural reaction of most fans and the media has been to treat these players with scorn. Rather than being treated like it is–a socioeconomic issue whose scope extends far beyond the reaches of baseball–we act as though these players are somehow devoid of character and filled with greed.
And therein lies the problem: until the larger socioeconomic issues are addressed–both by major-league baseball and by the Dominican Republic and the U.S. more generally–these kids will continue to try to find a way out of their desperate situations any way they can. And we shouldn’t blame them, because we would do the exact same thing.
A ton of media attention has been given to the documentary produced by Bobby Valentine called “Ballplayer: Pelotero” which claims to expose the shady dealings of Major League Baseball teams in the Dominican. Commissioner Bud Selig even publicly criticized Valentine for his involvement with the film.
I for one, can’t wait to see it. It may finally expose the role of MLB and other structures of power in Latin America. Maybe then we can stop blaming teenagers for the problems caused by those in power.
And the rest:
The Padres have extended Carlos Quentin [Getting Blanked].
Turns out the Yankees might be interested in Rick Ankiel after all [Adam Kilgore, Twitter].
Despite being just a game and a half out of the final playoff spot in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays look intent on trading right-handed pitcher James Shields. The Angels and Tigers appear to be the strongest candidates to acquire his services [Jon Heyman, CBSSports].
Today in LOLZ: Recently traded Francisco Cordero is the Houston Astros’ new closer [Zachary Levine, Twitter].
Cubs right-hander and prime trade target Matt Garza left yesterday’s game a triceps injury. He’ll be reevaluated today [Carrie Muskat & Rowan Kavner, MLB.com].
Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez will miss several more games with an infection in his hand [Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post]. I can empathize, Hanley.
You know what would suck? Getting fired on your birthday [David G. Temple, The Platoon Advantage]. Does anyone want to replace The Common Man?
Wait, Alex Rios is good again? Sorry, I can’t live in that world [Matt Klaassen, FanGraphs].
A closer look at yesterday’s Brett Myers trade [RJ Anderson & Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus].
Alex Anthopoulos: Math Ninja [Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus].