Alex Rodriguez was allowed to play against the Chicago White Sox pending appeal of his suspension. Photo/Getty Images

Opinion: MLB’s Latino push fails with news of latest suspensions

The Major League Baseball drug suspension angle that few are talking about is that yesterday’s Group of 13 has one thing in common:  they are all Latino.

Antonio Bastardo, Nelson Cruz, Fauntino de los Santos, Fernando Martínez, Jordan Norberto, Johnny Peralta, Jordan Norberto, Césat Puello, Jordany Valdespin: Dominican Republic

Francisco Cervelli, Sergio Escalona, Jesús Montero: Venezuela

Evereth Cabrera: Nicaragua

And yes, Alex Rodriguez, who was born in New York City, but is pleading that his fellow Dominicans give him another chance: “My mom is spending a lot of time in Santo Domingo now and is always praying for me. I want to thank all my Dominican fans, this is a difficult time, I carry the flag on my shoulders and this protects me, also with God’s help. I am very Dominican. Very proud of being Dominican. Very proud that the Dominican team won the crown [at the World Baseball Classic]. I want to do a good job of being the face, not only of Dominicans, but also Latino baseball players and keep on going forward.”

While we are at it, let’s add Dominicans Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colón, Cubans Yasmani Grandal and Cuban Americans Danny Valencia and Gio González.

In fact, the only non-Latino who has been suspended recently is California native Ryan Braun, who was given his punishment a few weeks before news of Group of 13 was announced yesterday.

It is the ugly truth, but the reason is simple: MLB has always encouraged this behavior. As @edgeofsports wrote in his piece for The Nation, which he called the “Pink Elephant/Elefante Rosa”:

Almost all the suspended players are from the Dominican Republic. This isn’t coincidence or happenstance. It’s the set-up of our globalized national pastime in the twenty-first century.

Any serious discussion about performance-enhancing drugs and baseball needs to deal with the fact of who is getting caught. Major League owners choose to invest billions of dollars in Latin America to develop talent on the cheap in the school’s baseball academies. In the Dominican Republic, where 40 percent of the country lives below the poverty line, steroids are actually legal and available over the counter.

Do you need more proof? Check on the great documentary “Ballplayer: Pelotero.” That film clearly shows how in the end, MLB has created a system of slave-like proportions. The hypocrisy is laughable. Let’s tempt you with dreams of making millions and if you have to cheat a bit, wink, wink.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do think @edgeofsports’ column took it a bit too far. Not all Dominican ballplayers are cheaters, but many cheaters happen to be Dominican. First, he needs a better translator, but when almost all the players are Latino, there are problems. However, weren’t the Group of 13 caught for the Biogenesis scandal, the former “anti-aging” company based in Florida and not Santo Domingo?

Still, this sad story does create serious perception issues for Latino major leaguers. Remember when ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe wanted Melky Cabrera deported for getting caught? I am still waiting for Sutcliffe to scream that Ryan Braun should be arrested and jailed. It does reek of cultural arrogance.

That is why I think what All-Star Carlos Gómez, another Dominican, said yesterday was so important:  “None of those guys lack the ability to play this game. I believe having the wrong people around you leads you to commit such stupid acts, which sooner or later come to light. They all have plenty of skills. I don’t understand why they would do something this stupid.”

This is all about the current system, about the buscones (talent scouts) who thrive in a system that MLB has enabled for years. About the US-based centers that can slip you a PED or two. My cynicism for the game grew when the league eventually sold us a bill of goods in 1998 during the “Feel Good Summer” of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, so this latest news doesn’t surprise me. Yes, baseball players cheat, but let’s not pretend that MLB is all of sudden morally high and mighty here.

Baseball would have never survived as a major sport in this country without the influx of Latino ballplayers. But MLB has also been failing us for years. I hope the league vigorously takes its anti-PED campaign to the countries from where it pillages players. I hope they go after the “wrong people” who leech onto to the dreams of some many young boys who dream of making it big.

The legacy of the Latino baseball player is a strong one. Baseball should begin to respect that and stop exploiting it.

Then and only then will I think the game has indeed turned the corner on one of its ugliest chapters ever.

Opinion: MLBs Latino push fails with news of latest suspensions julio nbc final news NBC Latino News

Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond.  In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the NationNPRUnivisionForbes, and The New York Times.

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Franky Benítez and commented:

    My latest for NBC Latino. Really proud of this one.

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