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Major League Baseball Scores
- Updated: January 23, 2011
Major League Baseball scored a significant victory recently when Dominican authorities arrested a prominent MLB scout and charged him with fraud and document forgery in connection with young baseball prospects.
Victor Baez was regarded as one of the most successful Dominican scouts and ran his own baseball camp that sent dozens of players to MLB camps with lucrative contracts. But Dominican officials and MLB investigators allege that Baez hid the true identities and ages of his players by providing fraudulent documents. In many cases, this allowed him to extract higher bonuses for players.
Scouts like Baez traditionally take a large chunk of bonuses when their prospects are signed. Prospects in the Dominican Republic can sign at age 16, but their value deteriorates with age, creating the incentive to falsify age and identity.
About a year ago, MLB launched a reform movement aimed at addressing problems such as age and identity fraud, as well as steroid use by prospects and skimming of bonuses. In the past, baseball officials confided in me that the lack of cooperation from Dominican authorities was hampering reform.
Dominican Police Colonel Maximo Baez said the arrest of Baez was the result of a new initiative to investigate and arrest scouts who traffic in fake documents, visas or passports, explaining, “The objective of this new focus on the part of Dominican authorities is to further avoid victimization of Dominican citizens who fall prey to manipulation by document fixers.”
Major League Baseball instituted its own crackdown on age and identity fraud, including the use of fingerprints as verification, a practice advocated more than a year ago in the INFORMER. Discovery of such fraud has resulted in the voiding of numerous contracts worth millions of dollars over the past year.
According to MLB spokesman Patrick Courtney, a Dominican player blew the whistle on Baez, saying the scout provided him with documents to create a new age and identity. “We turned over what we had to the (Dominican) authorities, and they took it from there,” he said. “This is the way it is supposed to work. It’s a sign they are involved and interested in the issue.”
Puerto Rican attorney Jorge Perez-Diaz, who currently heads baseball’s reform efforts in the Dominican Republic, acknowledged the cooperation of the U.S. consulate and Dominican authorities in the effort to address the issue of fraudulent documents.
Baez told the New York Daily News last year that he helped 53 players get contracts with professional teams, adding that he did so without using false documents or providing his players with performance-enhancing drugs.
The arrest of Baez is a positive step because reform in Dominican baseball cannot succeed without cooperation on both sides of the equation. The arrest signals the willingness of Dominican authorities to work in tandem with MLB to address corruption in Dominican baseball and I believe it is a major turning point in the reform movement.