Well, this is kind of weird. Dominican infielder Willy Aybar, who injured his wrist over the winter playing in the Dominican Winter League, apparently took off for 3 days without letting club officials know where he was. Aybar has been suspended for three games.
Back when he was a Dodgers’ prospect, Aybar was the subject of the most highly publicized expose to date on the rampant corruption that pervades the buscon system in the Dominican Republic. Signed for $1.4 million (close to the bonus at the time for a Dominican teenager) in 2000 after years of tutelage from legendary buscon Enrique Soto, Aybar received a great deal of press as a minor leaguer when the Washington Post got wind of suspicious activity regarding the first installment of his bonus check. The first installment, (about $490,000 after taxes) never actually made its way to the Aybar family after being sent to Soto through Aybar’s American agent Rob Plummer. All that came down to the family was 100,000 Dominican Pesos (about $6,000 back then – about $3,000 today).
You can read about the whole sordid business here.
Some choice quotes that give a sense of the character of the people involved:
A copy of the canceled check, obtained by The Post, shows two signatures: Willy Aybar’s and Enrique Soto’s. Guerra, who has examined a microfiche copy held by the Dodgers, said Aybar’s signature did not appear to match the one on his contract. Guerra said Aybar’s signature on the check “appears to be the same handwriting as the person who signed for Soto.”
“I never signed that check,” said Aybar, who had been unaware that a check needed to be endorsed before it could be cashed. “He must have signed it for me.”
Asked about Francia Aybar’s claim that Soto paid her 100,000 pesos, roughly $6,250, then put her on a monthly stipend of 30,000 pesos, about $1,875, Soto responded: “And how much should I have given her?”
And we can’t leave this one out:
Soto said he was unconcerned about the allegations. “I’m like Jesus Christ,” he said. “I’ve got the truth in the palm of my hand.”
American agents take between 3-5% of clients’ signing bonuses. Admittedly, stateside agents do not provide anything close to the services the buscones have to provide for their almost always impoverished, often illiterate clients. Nutrition, weight training, and instruction is undoubtedly worth a substantial cut of what these kids bring in, but there is a long way to go towards establishing standards to protect these kids. Aybar’s one of the fortunate ones – he actually made it to the major leagues and got another substantial pay day out of his talent that Enrique Soto can not touch.
The buscon system is the single biggest reason baseball needs to institute an international draft.
21-year-old Arismendy Arias, formerly known as 19-year-old Jose Luis Arias.
Credit: Hector Acevedo
For what it’s worth, Miguel Tejada no longer considers himself a home run hitter, preferring to rack up hits in pursuit of a high batting average. He’s been working hard to improve his hitting the other way as opposed to swinging for the fences, he told the Listin Diario.
Keep in mind “I’m not a home run hitter” was the yearly mantra of Ken Griffey, Jr. during all of his 50+hr seasons in which the pursuit of 61 was a legitimate possibility. However, a once in a generation stud in the middle of his prime with a perfect home run swing and mammoth natural power humbly saying he’s not a home run hitter feels a little different than an…ahem…31 year old SS who once had 35hr power and now has 25hr power saying he’s no longer about hitting the long ball.
If Tejada’s preference translates into a significant dip in power, it will be more dismal news for Oriole fans who are already suffering through the rapid declines of Melvin Mora and Javy Lopez and appear ready to take what projects to be a pretty lengthy turn as the new whipping boys of the AL East.
This is a direct response to a question I received in the comments section of my post on Arismendy Arias, and I figured it was worth its own post.
Reader Bill asks: “Do you know anything about Fernando Martinez’s age? There are rumors swirling about his real age. Can you find a definitive answer?
There are several rumors I’m hearing swirling around Martinez, from age to potential steroid use that caused 2 Dominican Mets’ scouts to lose their jobs, but nobody will confirm or deny anything. It’s worth pointing out that anytime a Dominican kid comes to the states and succeeds immediately at the age of 17, someone is going to float an age-related rumor. That being said, document falsification is very, very easy. and there’s a huge financial incentive to take advantage of it.
Easy + profitable = well, you do the math.
Of this year’s top international signings, I’ve heard age-related rumors (and reports of teams scaling down bonuses for undisclosed reasons) about pretty much everyone except Carlos Triunfel and Angel Beltre. With a guy like Angel Villalona, people are going to question his age just because of his size. (Then again, Villalona’s the kind of talent that pretty much makes age irrelevent) There’s a lot of “this kid’s cousin who knows a guy who trains with X in La Romana…” information floating around the DR for anyone interested in rumor-mongering to scoop up.
Unless the DR makes huge economic strides in the next decade and follows them up with substantial improvements to government infrastructure, age-gate and resulting rumors will never go away. Teams pay money to investigate players, but in a poor country, a lot of those guys can be bribed, and in general, it’s easy to find ways to sneak guys through.
There’s definitely a multimillion dollar “Juiced”-style book deal waiting for the first retired Latin American player to come forward, admit to falsifying papers, and write all the rumors down for hungry fans to devour. Hey, maybe I should pitch that to somebody and offer my services as a ghostwriter!
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