yasiel puig

yasiel puig

It’s well known that Major League Baseball gets a lot of its talent from Latin America, and more specifically Cuba.  Baseball is unique in the way that it recruits players.  Or maybe it’s not, but it’s certainly one that seems a bit unstructured. They do get players from the NCAA, but a fair bit of their talent comes from other places. While that is one “known” way that baseball players are recruited, there seems to be a shroud of secrecy around where the players come from, or how they’re recruited.

In a recent report by Sports Illustrated, we’ve learned that the U.S. Department of Justice has begun looking into possible corruption tied to the recruitment of international players.  This is mostly centered on potential violations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In addition, Sports Illustrated has learned that multiple alleged victims of smuggling and human trafficking operations have already given evidence to law enforcement agents or testified before a federal grand jury.

Sports Illustrated has also obtained a thick dossier of documentation that was provided to the FBI at the beginning of the investigation.  This evidence includes videotapes, photographs, confidential legal briefs, receipts, copies of player visa and passport documents as well as internal club emails and private communications by franchise executives in 2015 and 2016.  These documents offer quite the look into how this operation works. The operation is kind of impressive in terms of intricacies.  For example, it outlines how Caribbean smugglers traffic Cuban nationals to American soil, using third-country “way stations”.  In addition, it tells us how the underground pipeline ferries Cuban players to stash houses in other countries before they can even seek contracts with MLB clubs. Not only that, but it also includes how teams interact with buscones – who are the unregulated street-level agents who often have a financial stake in Latin American players.

If you didn’t know, you would probably think that I was referring to some kind of movie, right?  I mean, this sounds a bit like a work of fiction.  But it’s not.  The evidence provided to the FBI suggests the extent to which some MLB personnel are aware of this culture, and corruption.  Other teams are mentioned in this information, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are mentioned a surprising amount.  One document shows that Dodgers executives in 2015 went so far as to develop a database that measured the perceived “level of egregious behavior” displayed by 15 of their own employees in Latin America.

Internal Dodger communications show what could be called a “mafia” of people within their operations in the Caribbean and Venezuela.  How is this even possible?  This is Major League Baseball, and they’re literally dealing with criminals.  The evidence shows a lot of things that I think most of us didn’t realize was taking place.  Maybe we all turned a blind eye to what was really going on.  I don’t know about everyone, but I tend to hold sports leagues in high regard because I think they should be required to uphold certain rules and regulations.  It blows my mind when they don’t.  Or when they go around them.  How can they get away with this kind of behavior?

I think that there should be better rules in place to recruit players from other countries.  But there should also be better rules in place for recruiting domestic players as well.  What happens with this information remains to be seen, but it will certainly be interesting.