DOMINICAN ISSUE CLEAN-UP AND A RISKY GAME

August 18, 2009

Nick Cafardo reported in The Boston Globe that, “After scandals involving steroids, the skimming of money from poor Dominican prospects by scouts,
questionable practices by buscones (or agents) and other baseball personnel, and age discrepancies, commissioner Bud Selig decided it was time to clean things
up.
So he commissioned a group headed by Sandy Alderson, former A’s general manager and Padres president/CEO, and including Mets GM Omar Minaya,
Twins GM Bill Smith, and Florida GM Larry Beinfest to look into it.
According to Alderson, the committee has pushed forward and after months of investigation, research, and interviews, the hope is that ways to resolve some of these ugly stories will soon come about. Alderson indicated that it’s up to Major League Baseball to figure out solutions, but he has also met with government officials in the Dominican Republic, seeking their cooperation in a relationship that should be beneficial to both parties.
The Dominican is important to baseball and vice versa. One of the largest talent pools in baseball is in the Dominican, where just about every major league team now has an academy that not only promotes baseball but teaches poor boys how to speak English and in some cases provides schooling, support, counseling, meals, clothing, equipment, and other essentials.
Alderson and the committee are looking into the buscones, who for years have represented young Dominicans and helped them strike deals with major league teams. The problem has been that the fees these people charge are not always consistent, and in some cases, they take significant money away from the player.
Perhaps a more stringent code of ethics is in order, with the possibility that buscones are held to the same scrutiny as American agents, who have to register and take tests to become player representatives.
Many of the issues could likely be solved with an international draft that includes Dominican players. There are teams who have benefited by being able to outbid smaller-market teams for players, and the feeling is an international draft would eliminate many of the backdoor dealings that may be inappropriate.
Alderson said he has spent much of the last 12 months visiting the Dominican and meeting with government officials as well as players and agents and members of MLB’s Santo Domingo office.
The steroid issue is one of the biggest concerns, because they are sold over the counter in the Dominican, though as Alderson points out, “It’s not unique to the Dominican,’’ that steroids are readily available in other Latin American countries as well. Many of the players who have been outed either in the Mitchell Report or in the list of 104 who tested positive in 2003 have been of Dominican descent.
According to USA Today, 42 of the 69 positive tests in minor league baseball in 2008 were players from the Dominican Summer League, but according to MLB figures, those numbers have been reduced significantly in 2009 – only 20 of 46 minor leaguers testing positive were from the Dominican Summer League.
Baseball also suffered a black eye when certain members of current teams tried to take advantage of the chaos and skimmed money off the top of the signing bonuses of Dominican prospects. The White Sox fired director of player personnel Dave Wilder, who once interviewed for the Red Sox’ general manager’s post, after he was detained by Customs for carrying $40,000 in undeclared cash after returning from a trip to the Dominican.
International scouts and personnel from the Red Sox, Angels, and Nationals were also fired for similar practices. The Nationals fired Jose Rijo, who was Jim Bowden’s assistant, and Bowden himself resigned, though he has maintained his innocence.
MLB devoted a full investigation to the topic, with many weeks of work in the Dominican. Selig followed that up with a commission to get to the bottom of it and make strong recommendations, which Alderson’s committee is getting prepared to do.
The age issue is also huge. For years, parents of prospects gave scouts and teams the birth certificates of their youngest sons so the scouts would be more apt to sign them. Prospects can be signed at age 16, but one of the things being looked into is to raise that age to 18.
Alderson sounds optimistic that both short-term solutions can be reached and long-term recommendations can be implemented to get a country with a hotbed of talent to conform to the rules and the code of conduct Major League Baseball expects.

 

 

 

 

From Phil Rogers of The ChiTrib, “The intestinal fortitude that White Sox general manager Ken Williams showed in making two deals that were perhaps a tad outside the box could either pay huge dividends in the form of a playoff berth or strap the team with two very expensive players in Alex Rios and Jake Peavy.
Williams deserves credit for rolling the dice, but the final judge and jury will be owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who does surprising things now and then, such as making a bid for the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. He loosened the White Sox purse strings because his GM, who has won one championship, felt strongly about the moves, and Reinsdorf is extremely loyal to his employees.
There are people within the organization who don’t like the moves, but they are willing to ride with Williams on this one.
Peavy is making rehab starts as he works his way back from an ankle injury, but an opposing GM said, “Even if Peavy can’t come back full strength and help the White Sox now, the feeling is they’ve invested in a good front-of-the-rotation pitcher for the future.
“Rios is a complete crap shoot. A lot of money [$60 million] for a guy we all think should be an excellent four- or five-tool player but who never seems to put it all together.
“Does he do it in Chicago? Could very well. Ozzie Guillen is either going to be very, very good for him or very, very bad. Don’t think there’ll be anything in
between.’’
Another AL GM said, “I thought he gave up way too much for Peavy, but Rios should play well in that park and environment. Got to love Kenny.’’
The White Sox are nipping at the heels of the Tigers for the AL Central lead and are going to have an impact in the playoff race. They play the Red Sox eight times, starting Aug. 24 at Fenway. Peavy is on track to return to the majors Aug. 28, a day after the White Sox leave Fenway, but that’s tentative. The Red Sox will play at Chicago Sept. 4-7.
With Peavy, the White Sox will have a pretty tough rotation of him, John Danks, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and either Freddie Garcia (who was 40-21 for the White Sox from 2004-06), Bartolo Colon, or Jose Contreras.”

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