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Take me out to the ballgame – if you have proper DNA verification

Submitted by on Wednesday, 22 July 2009 No Comment

Funny how baseball got serious about trying to verify Latin American player’s ages when the players started coming out ahead.

And funny how the solution – genetic testings – would again exploit teen-agers not literate in English but desparate for a chance.

Back when the Dodgers were falsifying birth certificates and signing Adrian Beltre at age 15, the team really didn’t care that he was a year too young. Scouts just saw a hot prospect and wanted to get to him ahead of the rest of Major League Baseball. And they wanted to get him on the cheap – a mere $3,500 signing bonus.

Ay, but now that a few players have  hoodwinked teams – Miguel Tejada  admits that he was 19 when he signed with the Oakland A’s, not 17 as he said at the time – baseball is “serious” about stopping  abuses.

The Tejada confession isn’t even the most embarrassing debacle. That distinction goes to the case that led to a Federal Bureau of Investigations probe into former Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, who has a distinguished resume as a sleazebag but might now have been caught doing something illegal and not merely disgusting.

Sources told Sports Illustrated in February that the FBI is looking into whether Bowden had been skimming bonus money from Latin American players for the better part of 15 years.

Those accusations came to light after baseball’s investigation turned 19-year-old Nationals shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez into 23-year-old Carlos Lugo. Gonzalez/Lugo had managed to scam Bowden out of a $1.4 million signing bonus – the biggest the Nationals had ever given an international player.

Things that make you go hmmmm … the next-highest bonus offer Gonzalez/Lugo had was half the amount Washington paid.

So now that baseball is embarrassed and the feds are poking around – BALCO was so much fun, let’s do it again! – MLB has a solution to its age-old age quandary. Teams are subjecting prospects to DNA testing, the New York Times reports today.

They’re testing the parents, too, to make sure they have the right kid. Um, Mom, is there anything you need to discuss with Dad before those results come in? They’re even testing siblings if necessary.

With their consent, of course. Baseball wouldn’t force anyone to do anything he doesn’t want to do. At least, not since the reserve clause that tied players to teams for life was declared illegal in 1972.

The problem: Under legislation set to become law in November, it will be illegal for American companies to require genetic testing from employees. While the Times says it’s unclear whether the law will apply to baseball, it certainly should.

Baseball has a long history of exploiting young Latin Americans. Teams hustle them off to “baseball academies” at age 10. They sign them to contracts at age 16 – or younger if they can get away with it – for a fraction of what they’d pay an American player.

Then, they rush them to the majors at 19 and flame them out by the time they’re 30. That’s what happened to Jose Rijo, another former Nationals executive tied to the Gonzalez/Lugo debacle.

Given all of that, why should baseball be trusted with genetic information on hundreds of people? Particularly since officials won’t say how long they’ll keep it or what else they’ll do with it.

And who would believe them even if they did say?

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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