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Dominican players and identity fraud: “these are like time bombs”

Jan 29, 2012, 8:30 AM EDT

Fausto Carmona, Roberto Hernandez Heredia

In the wake of the “Leo Nunez” and “Fausto Carmona” identity fraud incidents, the New York Times has a story in which people around baseball talk about how widespread the problem is feared to be:

Few in baseball were surprised that two well-established players had misrepresented themselves. The fear is that the problem could be much more widespread. One agent said more than a dozen players could soon lose their contracts because of age and identity issues.

“These are like time bombs,” Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president for baseball operations, said by telephone from the Dominican Republic while scouting there last week.

For his part Newman, as well as others in baseball, believe that the problem will get better. Still: as long as there are millions to be gained by an 18 or 19 year-old passing himself off as 16, this problem is going to persist.

  1. eshine76 - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    When I worked in minor league we had a SS that was great defensively, but struggled at the plate. As a 19 yr old in High A, the big club was willing to work on his development. 9/11 happened. The next year we had a guy with the same skill set who looked just like him, but was 23. He didn’t make it that year…

  2. lewp - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    MLB nededs to hire me as a Trusted Enrollment Agent and Trusted Notary, to verify these players before they sign a contract. I will work cheap….pluse expenses and travel. (smile)

  3. Old Gator - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Why will the problem get “better”? Is life in the barrios of the Dominican going to improve by itself? It will get “better” when baseball creates a healthier and fairer environment and standards for evaluating talent and drafting young ballplayers. Clearly, if these players who are in trouble now or will be shortly were actually a few years older than thought and succeeded anyway, the age differential didn’t really make much difference – and the financial differential was based on specious premises to begin with.

    • paperlions - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:52 AM

      Agreed. The problem is that so many MLB teams are willing to pay so much more for 16 yr olds than 18 yr olds with similar skill sets based on the premise that those 16 yr olds will have a higher ceiling. It isn’t clear that such is the case, or even the best investment strategy from a dollar per production standpoint, as so many guys signed as 18/19 yr olds do just fine once they get some more formal training and experience.

      • anjichpa - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        Many guys signed as 18 and 19-year olds indeed do just fine with more experience and training. However, I strongly believe targeting younger players IS the better investment strategy when looking purely at their on-field returns. The following article examines the relationship between age when a player is drafted and on-field returns. While the draft can’t be assumed as a great corollary to the international free agent process, the article actually argues that teams have historically UNDER-emphasized youth in the draft to a highly inefficient degree.

        While scanning MLB’s 2012 top 20 is a highly flawed measure, it also seems to demonstrate that youth plays a very strong role in success. Of the top 20 prospects (an admittedly arbitrary cut-off point in an already piss-poor methodology), just 3 attended college: Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, and Danny Hultzen. Bauer is an exception, as he was not (to my knowledge) drafted out of high school, but both Cole (1st round) and Hultzen (10th round) eschewed signing as high school draftees to attend college. Given the selective pressures of that go into signing out of high school, it’s not difficult to imagine a world where neither had attended college.

        I understand that there are significant flaws to equating the data above to the IFA process- and also that the data is correlative and not causal- but the data strongly suggests that baseball’s emphasis on age is not just an old truism. Rather, it suggests that age relative to level of competition is an extremely important factor when evaluating young players. Playing up to the level of older competition is predictive of future success. Dominating an older level of competition is predictive of future stardom.

        I could go on for hours arguing my point, but I’ve tried to keep it somewhat brief. As a final note, I’m not attempting to argue from an ethical standpoint, only as a glimpse at prospects’ return on investment.

  4. proudlycanadian - Jan 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    This reminds me of a former Blue Jay outfielder from the Dominican Republic named Junior Felix. He was “21” when he hit a home run in his first at bat for the Jays. Suspecting that the was older than he said he was, they traded him to the Angels in a package for Devon White. When the Marlins claimed him in the expansion draft they thought that Felix was 25. They quickly found out that he was at least 30 and was possibly 35. Junior had a brief but relatively lucrative major league career. He made $2,773,000 from 1989 to 1994.

  5. rft1906 - Jan 29, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    I remember being a skinny sixteen year old senior looking for a scholarship. Looking back sophmore year in college at 18 I was 6’2″ and 210lbs. It would have been nice to be a little dumber. 18 yr old that size same talent forget scholarship looking at the draft. This is sort of the luxary pujolls had…how much older is he….

    • paperlions - Jan 29, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      Probably 0 years older. Again, NOT the same. Pujols wasn’t signed from a DR training facility, he family emigrated to NY when he was a young teen and not a baseball prospect. He is now a citizen of the US and has gone through all of the background checks and such…..there really is no comparison of him to guys signed by teams directly out of the DR.

      Shockingly, Pujols’ career trajectory is exactly what you would expect so far from someone claiming to be the age he claims to be…he best years occurred at the “right age” and his decline started at the “right age” as well.

  6. rft1906 - Jan 29, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    If I wasnt born in US, I would of went back to DR. Traded places with my younger cousin and shared the wealth…. Thats where carmona made a mistake didnt want to share enough…..

    • cur68 - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      Arguably, his mistake was entering into a contract with stupid people. Think about it: he owns them as much as they own him. They blabbed & he now stops paying, still gets to be an MLB player, and they get squat except for a little thing known as “criminal charges for extortion”. From a likely stand point of not already being worth millions they are out all that money he would have had to keep paying and they may go to jail.

      He, as a millionaire several times over, is just fine. Even if he loses part of his future contractual earnings its less meaningful to guy who made 15mil in his career so far. This whole business is a cautionary tale for people entering into this sort of illegal agreement: revenge will cost you as much or more than it costs the rich guy.

      • Old Gator - Jan 29, 2012 at 2:48 PM

        In all of your medical experience, you’ve surely come across some great recipes for cake, but have you even heard of an experimental drug to treat abject stupidity (which differs from “mere” stupidity the way morbidly obese differs from merely obese)?

      • Old Gator - Jan 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        Oh yeah, incidentally – I baked a couple of my signature carambola upside-down coconut rum cakes day before yesterday. I owe you a slice for guessing Suttree a few days ago. I’m still trying to figure out these customs forms….

      • cur68 - Jan 29, 2012 at 5:03 PM

        Coconut rum cake? Glad you didn’t mention that was on the table ’cause I’d have seized up under pressure. Might have said “The Cat in the Hat” instead of “Suttree”. I don’t do so well under pressure: that’s why I stick to NICU nursing. Infants don’t try and kick your head in or call you vile names while you’re attempting to stab them with something therapeutic.

        Ironically, my masters work, which required the medical ethics board’s clearance and medical supervision, is partially on the potential development of stress responses in relation to sensory deprivation or painful stimulus in relation to sweet taste or food stimulus in preterm infants (<- helluva section title, eh?). Coconut rum cake is a far superior reward for stress than sugary water: wonder if I can get permission to test that for truthiness?

      • Old Gator - Jan 29, 2012 at 9:15 PM

        Oh hey – wait a minute – I was to busy making my famous seafood marinara sauce and completely missed the great joke. These guys are time bombs. Get it? Time bombs!


  7. metalhead65 - Jan 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    maybe if they put half the effort into getting a education and trying to improve their quality of life that they do in trying to become mlb baseball players, the DR would not be such poverty striken third world country.

    • crisisjunky - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      an education

  8. dondbaseball - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Paperlions hit the nail on the head, with regards to 16 vs 18 with similar skill. Regardless of Carmona’s age, he turned out to be a good pitcher, capable of getting major leaguers out. I do not condone his actions but it does point out the MAJOR flaws in the system that skews towards claiming a younger age. I think an International draft requiring ALL players to be 18 will help. At the moment, American teens are penalized because we have documentation proving ages and they will be overlooked vs. a 16 year old dominican/venezulan/columbian. It also explains why the Puerto Rican players have diminished because of their being placed in the draft. Taking advantage of ANY 16 year old is wrong and I simply don’t understand why we think it is ok to “draft” players of that age. It will always be ripe for fraud.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      I think an International draft requiring ALL players to be 18 will help.

      This doesn’t help at all. For one, players need documentation to play here anyhow. Simply adding them to a draft won’t change matters one iota. Two, it’ll make things worse for the players which you showed in a following sentence. Being added to the MLB draft has killed baseball in Puerto Rico, not enhanced it.

  9. brewcrewfan54 - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Considering the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez signed a contract for a couple million dollars and got in zero trouble that I’ve heard of for his false identity There isn’t mich reason for these guys not to try it. Make the punishments harsher and maybe they think before doing it.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      He was arrested, might have his contract voided with the Indians and could be barred from entering this country…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        Sigh I’m an idiot. Too much Carmona thinking. Apologies

  10. rft1906 - Jan 29, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Most these ballplayers come from circumstances where getting an adequate meal seems almost impossible. Much less the opportunity to obtain an education. The opportunity to become a ballplayer is no one will pass up. We will all be surprised how many inconsistencies will come up in the future. People everyday risk their lives in order to get to this country. For what we take for granted, a meal, job or education. With the chance of millions of dollars. MLB has taken a blind eye for their own convinience. Similar to the immigration in our great nation, in an election year you worry about whos cuting your grass or making that meal in the kitchen of that restaurant.

  11. rft1906 - Jan 29, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    Here is one for the Dream Act. Do you know how many kids have come to this country with a family members identification and have assumed their identities. That is why I mentioned becoming my cousin. It happens……Ive heard pujols parents are actually his uncle and aunt. They are rumors but could be.

  12. Jonny 5 - Jan 29, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Awww man. These Dominican players… Next we’ll find out A-rod’s real name is A-hole. Vlad Guerrero? C’mon now. If I were to invent a name that sounds Dominican and bad to the bone all at once what would it be?Hmmm?

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