Carmona’s Story is the American Way

I’m shocked by the fact that others are shocked that players from the Dominican Republic use fake names to get themselves signed by big league clubs.

In spite of the attempts MLB has made to rein in the rampant malfeasance than has gone on forever in countries not subject to the MLB draft, it’s still tantamount to the Wild West. Clubs aren’t going to be interested in a player who is above a certain age, so a determined player finds a way around that obstacle. These young, uneducated and dirt poor kids aren’t worried about the future and “what happens if I get caught?” They see an opening and they take it. Some of them—Fausto Carmona and Leo Nunez AKA Juan Oviedo—make it to the big leagues, get multi-million dollar contracts and craft a nice life for themselves.

Like the holier than thou response to those who used PEDs to keep their jobs or advance themselves—and make a lot of money—we see the same thing with the players who’ve used the names of others and lied about their ages as critics eagerly profess their own the concept of “right” and “wrong”—a concept that’s easy to say, hard to live by.

“Oh, I’d never do that!”

Really?

Never?

Carmona, whose real name is Roberto Hernandez Heredia and is 31 rather than 28, is the second player who’s been outed as using an alias since last summer. Leo Nunez of the Marlins was revealed to actually be Juan Carlos Oviedo. At the time, the Marlins had been receiving calls from teams interested in trading for Nunez and they turned them down flatly. Only later was it revealed why they weren’t talking about dealing him. What I don’t understand is why Nunez was allowed to pitch after the Marlins knew he wasn’t who he said he was, was living in the United States and working illegally. Shouldn’t the Marlins have been held accountable for affecting the outcomes of games by using a pitcher who didn’t have the proper documentation to be their employee? It all sort of went away and Oviedo is still with the Marlins and under contract.

That’s the point.

If Nunez/Oviedo couldn’t help the Marlins with his arm, there would’ve been greater outrage and “punishment” for deceiving them and everyone else by getting rid of him. Because he’s a power arm who strikes out a lot of hitters, all is forgiven.

With Carmona/Heredia, do the Indians really care all that much that he’s not who he said he was and is older than his stated age of 28?

Not if he gives them the 190-200 innings they’re expecting from him.

It’s an inconvenience but not a tragedy. The Indians exercised Carmona’s contract option for 2012 at $7 million in spite of him having pitched, at best, inconsistently since a 19-win season in 2007 in which he finished 4th in the American League Cy Young voting. He’s durable and can be quite good, so he’s worth the $7 million as Carmona or Heredia.

You can bet that if it were a pitcher with an onerous contract like A.J. Burnett or John Lackey, their respective teams would be so livid and offended that they’d have no choice but to nullify the contracts—it would be the “right” thing to do.

Plus they don’t want to pay them or keep them because they’ve pitched poorly.

If it was a fringe big leaguer or an organizational minor leaguer, it’d be much easier to make a great show of indignation by releasing the player for doing wrong. Since they’re established big leaguers, those inconvenient “rules” are flexible and based on what suits the team.

Whether Carmona/Heredia are allowed to pitch in the big leagues after this is the question and we don’t yet know the answer.

I don’t blame anyone who lies about his age or tries to find a way to get off the island and out of poverty by playing baseball. For many of them, it’s all they know how to do. Are they hurting anyone by using any means necessary to achieve their goals? They wanted the American dream and they got it. If you look at most major successes and dissect them, it’s unlikely that the story is neat and tidy. Moral ambiguity sometimes requires wiping away blood and fingerprints.

As for the clubs themselves, the Marlins made their decision with Oviedo and the Indians will probably make a similar decision with Carmona/Heredia. The AL Central is winnable for the Indians and if they’re going to contend, they’ll need that pitcher—whatever his name is. Since he can still fire a baseball at 90+ mph, he’ll be forgiven. When he’s no longer able to do that, he’ll be gone.

That too is the American way.

This is baseball—the National Pastime in more ways than one.

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