DRSEA INFORMER: Home Court Advantage

DRSEAlogoVolume III, Issue 2

By Charles Farrell

La Ventaja De Campo (Home Court Advantage)

In what looks like a continuing trend, a court in the Dominican Republic has ordered the New York Yankees to pay more than $750,000USD to Carlos Rios, their former director of Latin American scouting, after ruling that his firing was unlawful.  Judge Alexis Gomez Geraldino ruled in favor of Rios, who was dismissed in August 2008 for allegedly skimming $100,000 in bonus money from Yankees prospect Kelvin De Leon.  The judge said the charges against Rios were based on rumor and ordered the Yankees to pay him $762,878 in damages. The team plans to appeal.

In August 2008, the Yankees vacated the contracts of Rios and scout Ramon Valdivia for allegedly taking bonus cash from De Leon. Valdivia last year won a defamation suit against De Leon, who paid him $70,000 in compensation. Victor Burgos, investigating the case for Major League Baseball, acknowledged in court testimony that he made a mistake in a report accusing Rios of skimming money from De Leon, an outfielder New York signed in 2007 at age 16 for $1.1 million.

Kelvin De Leon

A couple of months ago, another Dominican court ordered the Washington Nationals to pay $40,000 in damages to a scout who was fired after signing a prospect who lied about his age. Jose Baez, the Nationals’ former director of operations in the Dominican Republic, sued the team for what he said was an unjustified firing after Baez and special assistant to the general manager Jose Rijo signed a player who identified himself as 16-year-old Esmailyn Gonzalez.

Esmailyn Gonzalez /Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo

The Nationals gave the player a $1.4 million signing bonus; Major League Baseball later discovered that Gonzalez was almost four years older than he claimed and also lied about his identity. His real name is Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo.

The judges in the case also directed the Nationals to pay Baez six months salary, plus other damages – including holiday pay and a severance package –  that will bring the total payment to almost $75,000.   Testimony by baseball investigator Nelson Tejada is said to have supported Baez’s assertion that he had nothing to do with Gonzalez’s age and identity change.

The two cases provide further proof that Dominicans have home-field advantage in their own country with regards to the courts.  The question now is whether MLB will be reluctant to pursue Dominicans for alleged misdeeds.  There is fear that some Dominicans, believing that Dominican courts are inclined to side with them, will be more likely to commit unsavory acts, further clouding the murky waters of baseball in the Dominican Republic.

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