Monday, March 30, 2009
Prospects may face immigration issues
By Peter Gammons
Commissioner Bud Selig has given Major League Baseball's security division an open checkbook in an attempt to clean up off-field scandals in the Dominican Republic and other foreign countries.
Major League Baseball has officers in the Dominican Republic who are cooperating with the FBI in at least two major scandals implicating the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals involving falsified birth records, kickback scandals and smuggling of performance-enhancing drugs that evaded security -- and former Sen. George Mitchell's investigation into the use of PEDs in MLB -- until recently.
One MLB official estimates that there are more than 70 young players who are being detained in the Dominican and other countries, and one club official said it is his understanding "there are some big so-called prospects on the list."
If the players are found to have falsified their names, birth dates or other information, they may not clear immigration.
"It's no different from any other immigration situation when it comes to American jobs," one general manager said.
The Commissioner's Office became heavily involved in these matters when White Sox personnel director Dave Wilder was found to have smuggled cash into the United States, and the resulting investigation revealed a major scandal involving kickbacks of cash that was supposed to be bonus money paid to teenage prospects.
According to security sources, White Sox general manager Ken Williams was "distraught" by what happened, and opened every team computer and book to MLB investigators. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf was outraged because of what had been done to poor players from Latin countries, and reportedly has been a driving force, along with Selig, in trying to solve these problems.
Baseball union head Donald Fehr said recently that the union will attempt to ensure foreign players mentioned in reports of use of PEDs are treated the same as U.S. citizens.
Peter Gammons is a studio analyst on "Baseball Tonight" and "Baseball Today." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.