Hidden in this interesting piece about identity fraud from Tyler Kepner in the The New York Times is the perhaps not so stunning realization that many of the people charged with evaluating, acquiring and displaying baseball talent don't know a thing about baseball. Sandy Alderson, the current general manager for the New York Mets, used to be the chief executive for the San Diego Padres. In 2010, he visited the Dominican Republic to discuss the issue of identity fraud on behalf of Major League Baseball and, in essence, to deliver an ultimatum.
"I had personally been burned on a number of occasions by identity fraud," said Alderson, now the general manager of the Mets. "One has to ask if one is prepared to make the same investment again. If you get burned too often, you may decide to go elsewhere. I think that hit home with them."
"I think they have come to realize that baseball is an important contributor to their economy in a variety of ways; you can kill the golden goose," Alderson said. "I think they understand that it's important for them to create an attractive environment for baseball to continue to invest in their country - an environment where clubs can rely on what's represented to be the case."
This arrogance has come to define baseball and is responsible for the perception that baseball is asleep at the switch. It is at the root of baseball's fundamental misunderstanding of what makes the game work. The players make baseball, not the other way around. It's why the League will be forever chasing the drug issue, never to get out in front of it.
Baseball has created its own monster. While the game is nothing without the players, it offers so much fame and fortune that the players are going to do whatever they can to not only play, but play as well as possible. If that means a player has to lie about his age or swallow 50 horse pills, he'll do it and baseball is powerless to stop it, really. "If you get burned too often, you may decide to go elsewhere."? Where, exactly? No one wants to see less than the best possible athletes play, regardless of the sport.
The most glaring quote is Alderson's regarding the importance of the Dominican Republic's need to create "an attractive environment" for baseball to conduct its business. Baseball believes it is responsible for making the game tick. Without the corporate skeleton the league provides, there would be no baseball. This is, of course, ridiculous. Without the players' muscle the skeleton is useless.
The issue of fraud is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed but don't kid yourselves Baseball. You still want—and need—the player, regardless of his age or name. And you'll go to the ends of the earth and jump through as many hoops as necessary to find him.
Baseball's Identity Fraud Problem May Be More Prevalent [NY Times]