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Vsahajpal
01-22-2002, 03:08 AM
By Teddy Greenstein
Tribune staff reporter

January 21, 2002 11:14 PM CST

Time and time again last season, Cubs players and coaches marveled at the poise of rookie right-hander Juan Cruz.

After jumping to the big leagues in August from Double-A West Tenn, Cruz went 3-1 with a 3.22 ERA. He exhibited savvy mound presence, pinpoint control and a polished changeup.

"I'm still waiting for him to show his age," manager Don Baylor said in August after Cruz beat Braves All-Star right-hander John Burkett.

The wait is over. Cruz has shown his age—and this is actually his real one.

The Cubs acknowledged Monday that Cruz is 23 years old, not 21. His correct date of birth is Oct. 15, 1978, not Oct. 15, 1980, as listed in their media guide.

When Cruz signed with the Cubs on July 4, 1997, he told them he was three months shy of his 17th birthday.

Such a practice is common in the Dominican Republic, baseball officials say, because younger prospects are viewed as having more potential. And they can benefit from being "younger" later in their careers.

Teams rarely demand official documentation for fear of losing prospects to other teams. The Cubs signed Cruz for just $3,000. Compare that with the $10.5 million package they awarded to 2001 first-round pick Mark Prior, a right-hander with equally high potential.

Unlike Little League pitcher Danny Almonte, Cruz broke no league rules and apparently faces no disciplinary action. Baseball spokesman Richard Levin could not be reached for comment.

Unlike Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre, a fellow Dominican who also lied about his age, Cruz won't be free to sign a more lucrative contract.

Beltre claimed to be older than he actually was to circumvent baseball's rule that prohibits signing players before they turn 16. He eventually signed a new deal with the Dodgers.

The Cubs were alerted to Cruz's discrepancy by the commissioner's office Monday. When Cruz applied for a visa to attend last weekend's Cubs Convention, he needed to present a certified birth certificate.

In previous years, baseball wouldn't have reported the discrepancy. But since 1998 officials have required players to produce a legal document, rather than just a birth certificate.

So Cubs officials expect that Cruz will be the first in a wave of Dominican players signed before 1998 to have to come clean.

Sammy Sosa, whom Texas signed in 1985, long has been suspected to be older than his listed age of 33. It's no coincidence that when Sosa was seeking a six-year extension last winter, the Cubs held firm at four years, signing him to an $18-million-a-year deal.

Sosa's agent, Adam Katz, said Monday that he has no doubt that his client is 33.

"How do we know?" Katz asked. "First of all, Sammy is very much a truth-teller; he's that kind of guy. Second of all, I know people who have known him since he was a little kid. We hear it brought up periodically, but it never has been an issue."

It apparently also will remain a non-issue for Carlos Zambrano, another Cubs pitcher suspected of being older than he claims. Former pitching coach Oscar Acosta irked team officials last spring when he implied Zambrano, whom he coached in the minors in 1999, was older than 20.

Zambrano, who appeared in six games for the Cubs last season, was born and raised in Venezuela. Cubs officials are more confident in Zambrano's age because they have documentation of his playing in overseas all-star games as a teenager.

But they know there's almost no way to be sure.

Maybe legendary pitcher Satchel Paige had the right idea.

"How old would you be," he once mused, "if you didn't know how old you were?"






thought some of you would get a kick out of that.

FarWestChicago
01-22-2002, 03:30 AM
LOL, you're right, Vic. That was pretty funny. :D:

CLR01
01-22-2002, 03:48 AM
Has there ever been questions raised about Mr. Magglio's age?

RedPinStripes
01-22-2002, 08:21 AM
Originally posted by CLR01
Has there ever been questions raised about Mr. Magglio's age?

Not sure about that, but there is no way in hell that Antoinio Osuna is 28.

duke of dorwood
01-22-2002, 09:08 AM
Or Manos?


:hitless

Keep me for my youth

kermittheefrog
01-22-2002, 06:05 PM
I'm not surprised, I still think he's a better prospect that Prior.

czalgosz
01-22-2002, 06:30 PM
Originally posted by kermittheefrog
I'm not surprised, I still think he's a better prospect that Prior.

Yep, it's still a rarity to see even a 23-year-old pitcher be ready for the majors these days. The Cubs organization is stocked with talent, they just don't know what to do with it.

:baylor

Who needs prospects? We've got Chris Stynes!

RichH55
01-22-2002, 09:30 PM
Finally a bad omen for the cubs offseason...everything else had been going rather well

danman31
01-22-2002, 09:42 PM
That has to show that Jon Garland in the majors(25 man mind you) at 20 is extremely impressive. This also shows that he has time to develop still.

bc2k
01-22-2002, 10:17 PM
With all the technology these days, I'm suprised there isn't a device to test people for their ages. Like a bone test. Or from now on, scouts should just assume that all dominican prospects are two years older than they say they are. The cubs had this problem with sosa and didn't the yankees have this problem with el duque?

Vsahajpal
01-22-2002, 10:27 PM
lmao, Chris Stynes...that was funny.

I think they use carbon dating for Don Zimmer. What the hell is his half life. It's easy because they used Uranium 235 for the plate in his head. :gulp:

Daver
01-22-2002, 10:33 PM
Originally posted by Vsahajpal
lmao, Chris Stynes...that was funny.

I think they use carbon dating for Don Zimmer. What the hell is his half life. It's easy because they used Uranium 235 for the plate in his head. :gulp:

Jeez are we reduced to popeye bashing now?

PaleHoseGeorge
01-22-2002, 10:38 PM
Originally posted by daver


Jeez are we reduced to popeye bashing now?

Jump in, daver. The water is fine! :cool: