Goodbye Fausto! Hello Roberto!
As reported last week, 28-year-old Fausto Carmona is Roberto Hernandez Heredia and perhaps 31 years old.
There are implications here for Carmona-Heredia, for the Indians and, most importantly, for professional baseball and the uneven way it deals with international players.
Since being released on bail, The Sinkerballer Formally Known as Fausto has been apologetic but tight-lipped. He reportedly paid for a false identity that may have incorrectly represented his age. He may have been making periodic payments to maintain the false identity. He eventually balked at paying and somebody talked, leading to his arrest.
He is not the first Latin-American player to take this route. (Last year’s most publicized example was Leo Nunez.)
So Heredia lied. But did he do anything wrong to the game of baseball? Does lying about your age and name affect anything about playing the game?
It does not.
While the lies are certainly deplorable, they do not affect the player’s ability on the field. People will say that, because his age is uncertain, it could be advantageous for him to have people think he is younger. It could lead to larger bonuses and salaries. He’ll appear more successful since his ability will be compared to that of players younger than him.
But these are issue of deceit based on the current economic model and do not affect the play on the field.
If the same player was actually three years YOUNGER, would we be willing to rectify the situation financially? What happened, as before, is a player found a way to take advantage of the economic system in baseball. For him to be successful, he still had to demonstrate ability and skill.
In doing so, he allegedly broke laws in at least two countries* but he never de-skilled the game. While the misreported younger age would have been helpful during his development, the lying did not give him specific extra ability, or his ability to ignore Lake Erie Midges that Joba Chamberlain could not. Carmona’s lies do not hurt the on-field play of baseball.
* I have no idea if Canada would say anything about a player such as Carmona entering the country with false paperwork. I’m not even sure Canada would prosecute, but I am fairly certain that it is against Canadian law.
When looking at a situation like Carmona’s, I look directly at those running Major League Baseball and the teams. Lying about one’s identity is so advantageous for a specific set of players that it outweighs the risk of punishment. Instead of demonizing players like Carmona and Nunez, it is time to look at the system.
In Japan, younger players are able to develop in a system that gives them the ability to play in their homeland with the possibility of moving to the major leagues in America. In Latin America, players feel the need to break the law to be part of the system. So in one week, Yu Darvish, who has never pitched in even the minor leagues in America, got a $60 million contract after a team paid $51.7 million for the right to give him that contract. During that same week, we learned that, once again a player lied about his identity in an effort to get a portion of that amount of money.
In the end, both players will succeed or fail based on what they do on the field. How they got the opportunity doesn’t affect their ability on the field.
Major League Baseball needs to address the differences. If baseball officials are going to continue to encourage teams to deal individually with international players, they need to address the extreme differences in the system. It is not an easy task. How can baseball expect players not to take the route of Carmona and Nunez when the Darvish situation points out the inequity?
As for the Indians:
While Carmona has not lived up to the promise he flashed in 2007, he has shown, when healthy, to be able to provide a decent set of 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings each year.
In conjunction with this news, it appears the Indians finally pulled the trigger on obtaining Kevin Slowey. The Indians have been interested in him anyway, so this was not in direct relation to Carmona’s issues, but the trade was probably hastened. Carmona will likely end up on the restricted list, leaving the Indians with a hole in the rotation but with an extra $7 million. The Indians gave up Zach Putman, a young pitcher who may have competed for a bullpen position this year.
The Indians have other options for the rotation. David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez will be among those who compete with Slowey for spots behind Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe. In the end, the Indians’ depth should be able to cover for Carmona’s absence with limited hardship.