Yet another Latin player is discovered to be someone other than whom he claimed to be. Actually, that’s not entirely fair — most of these guys (Pedro Feliz, Miguel Tejada and Vladimir Guerrero, to name three) only get caught lying about their age, shaving off a year or two in order to draw more interest and bigger signing bonus when first scouted.
The trend, if Juan Carlos Oviedo nee Leo Nunez and now Carmona/Heredia can be considered a trend, is to assume another (younger) person’s identity. This is almost certainly the result of requiring foreign players to provide more substantive documentation as to their birth dates now than was once the case, making it easier to pretend to be someone else entirely — someone who, of course, just happens to be younger.
Carmona/Heredia shaved three years off his age (he’s really 31 instead of his previously claimed 28), which for some reason strikes me as particularly egregious. Three years is a long time in the life of a professional baseball player and claiming to be that much younger than he really is is little less than fraud. That third year bothers me a lot more than the first one or two.
That being said, now that he’s a proven major league starter, it really doesn’t make that much difference. The Indians recently picked up a $7 million option on Carmona/Heredia and at either age — 28 or 31 — he’s probably going to be the same pitcher in 2012. On the other hand, if the Indians had committed to a long-term deal on this pitcher, they’d have every right to seek cancellation on the grounds of intentional misrepresentation.
When this happened to Nunez/Oviedo last September (the truth coming out, that is), he was forced to leave the country and return to the Dominican Republic with three weeks left in the season. The Marlins immediately put him on the restricted list, which meant they didn’t have to pay him while he didn’t play, and they could also fill his space on the active and 40-man rosters.
As a practical matter, I don’t know if the Marlins withheld his last three weeks of salary. I certainly hope they did since he couldn’t play as a direct result of being a liar and a cheat. Yeah, I know these guys are just trying to escape grinding poverty in their home countries, but misrepresenting the facts in order to get a better deal is still lying and cheating.
The latest on Nunez/Oviedo is the Marlins just gave him a $6 million contract for 2012. However, it’s anyone’s guess when the U.S. government will let him back in the country, and the article linked to above suggests the Marlins won’t be paying Nunez/Oviedo anything until he’s back in uniform.
That may be awhile. Not surprisingly, since 9/11 the U.S. government has taken a very dim view of individuals who have entered this country pretending to be someone they’re not. Also, even though he and Carmona/Heredia are big-shot, million dollar ballplayers, and not potential terrorists, the government takes a long time to straighten these kinds of situations out.
Frankly, it’s one time I’m glad the wheels of government churn at a snail’s pace. Taking a year or more to let these guys back into the U.S. would send a strong message about the consequences for prospects who lie about who they are. Nunez/Oviedo and Carmona/Heredia don’t deserve special treatment the rest of us don’t get just because of they’re well-paid ballplayers.