As you may know, Major League Baseball has been conducting DNA tests on prospects for several years now. What’s more, they often make the families pay for a test that costs $400. The reasons are understandable: teams want to avoid being defrauded out of millions of dollars by players who falsify their name and age.
The Nationals gave a $1.4 million signing bonus 16-year old Esmailyn Gonzalez before they found out he was 20-year old Carlos Alvarez Lugo. The Indians spent $15 million on a multi-year deal for Fausto Carmona before they found out he was three years older and his name was Roberto Hernandez. The amount of money at stake is so large that corruption is hard to avoid. Numerous officials were fired in the wake of a money-skimming scandal uncovered in 2008, including scouts from the White Sox, Yankees and Red Sox, and Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden. As Nationals president Stan Kasten said after the Gonzalez/Alvarez fraud was uncovered:
No teenager executed this fraud. There were a number of people involved in it… Falsified hospital documents. Falsified school documents. Other family members changing their identities. Bribes were paid. Really elaborate stuff.
That fraud is not just confined to a few high-profile cases. It’s widespread. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer story from February:
Last year, MLB investigators did background checks on more than 800 players who signed professional contracts in the Dominican Republic. In about 15 percent, fraud was found. MLB statistics say fraud was discovered in over 60 percent of the players investigated in 2002.
So it’s understandable why teams would want to turn to science to find a way to fight back. But they may be breaking the law. Read the rest of this entry »