New York Times' Writer Michael S. Schmidt On Dominican Prospects And The Problems Facing MLB.

New York Times' writer Michael S. Schmidt escaped the confines of the Sports section with a front page-front page article in the Sunday New York Times entitled, "Dominicans Try Shots to Boost Rising Players", about the lengths Dominican handlers or "buscones" are going to give the players under their guidance an advantage in their attempts to land a deal with Major League Baseball, "...that could yield signing bonuses of $10,000 to $3 million, of which the handlers receive 10 percent to 50 percent." 

Mr. Schmidt reports in the article that the handlers, "...make no secret," of the fact they are giving the players, "...injections of over-the-counter vitamins and painkillers...several times a week as they prepare for a chance to play Major League baseball," but , "Major League officials," according to Mr. Schmidt, are now saying:

"...they (believe) the financial enticement, combined with a culture ingrained with the notion that shots can improve performance, help(s) explain why Dominicans test positive for banned substances at a far greater rate than players from anywhere else."

What caught my attention, however, in what is really a disturbing article, is a paragraph late in the piece that immediately brought me back to last winter...

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What caught my attention, however, in what is really a disturbing article, is a paragraph late in the piece that immediately brought me back to last winter...when DC infield prospect Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez made national headlines, not because he was named the 10th best prospect in the Nationals' organization in 2008 by Baseball America, or because he took the '08 Gulf Coast League batting title, but because he was caught up in another situation that's causing MLB to take a hard look at how Dominican prospects are being handled, as Mr. Schmidt writes:

"Over the past three years, the handlers said, major league teams have become more interested in signing players at 15 1/2, the minimum age under Dominican law. They said that has prompted them to start giving young players injections and to make their training more strenuous. The handlers said that they now seek 11- and 12-year-olds and try to project how good they will be when they are 15 1/2, and that this has encouraged others to lie about their players’ ages.

"'It has forced guys that have a really good 19-year-old to present him as a 16-year-old; that’s if they don’t do the legal thing,' said Geovanny Blan Veras, who handles two pitchers."

Esmailyn Gonzalez, who had signed with DC as a 16-year-old prospect and would then have been 19 when he was named the 10th best prospect in DC's system, was, of course, revealed to Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, a 23-year-old infielder who had in fact lied about his age to earn a $1.4 million dollar signing bonus from the Nationals, who were then forced to embarrassedly admit that they had been duped, setting off a chain of events that indirecty, but eventually, led to the resignation of then-Washington Nationals' GM Jim Bowden. Luckily, the Nationals aren't mentioned in Mr. Schmidt's article...It is, however, a must read...

• "Dominican Baseball Handlers Stir Issues of Exploiting Youths" - Michael S. Schmidt -NYTimes.com

"In the Dominican Republic, boys are routinely receiving injections of over-the-counter vitamins and painkillers."

Further Reading:

• The Washington Nationals' Prospect Formerly Known As Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez...And Stephen Strasburg's First Start Of '09...? - Federal Baseball - Ed Chigliak

"You know, to say I'm disappointed doesn't begin to describe how I feel. I'm angry. I am very angry. We've been defrauded, and make no mistake -- this wasn't a college kid with a fake ID that came in and did this. This was a deliberate, premeditated fraud with a lot more to this story, and we are going to get to the bottom of it. There were many, many people involved in this premeditated fraud." - Washington Nationals' Team President Stan Kasten, as quoted in Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's article entitled, "I'm Angry, We've been defrauded."

• Washington Nationals' prospect "Smiley Gonzalez" is a Fraud; Who is to Blame? - Federal Baseball - Dave at Nats News Network

"SI.com revealed last night that a "Nationals Prospect Falsified Identity".  Esmailyn Gonzalez, listed by the Nats as being 19 years old, is really Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, 23. 

This is is yet another black eye for a Washington Nationals franchise that just can't seem to get out of its own way. Not even a full week has gone by since the signing of Adam Dunn, and the team gets this bombshell. It's not A-Rod big, but in the grand scheme of things it's plenty disappointing, on so many levels."

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