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irish rover
02-28-2002, 10:41 AM
Indians Are Hit With Penalties
Sanctions for Signing Underage Player Draw Mixed Reaction



By Steve Fainaru and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 27, 2002; Page D01


NEW YORK, Feb. 26 -- In a punishment criticized as too soft by advocates for reform in the
treatment of Latin American ballplayers, Major League Baseball will shut down the Cleveland
Indians' Venezuelan operations for two months this summer after concluding that the team
signed an underage player in 1998, according to sources familiar with the decision.

The sanctions, which have not been announced, require the Indians to pay a $50,000 fine. The
team also reduced the authority of the head of Venezuelan scouting, Luis Aponte, who signed
15-year-old shortstop Laumin Bessa and then tried to hide the player at an Indians training
facility until he became eligible at 16.

Baseball opened an investigation last fall after The Washington Post reported allegations that the
Indians had signed Bessa improperly, luring him into a $30,000 deal that was $270,000 less than
he had been promised. Bessa left the team a few months later. After turning 16, he signed a
contract to receive $500,000 from the Atlanta Braves.

Critics have cited the case as one of the more egregious violations involving baseball's activities
in Latin America, now the source of more than 40 percent of all signed players. As the game has
expanded its global reach, it has brought increased scrutiny to a poorly regulated recruiting
system that officials acknowledge is steeped in corruption.

David Fidler, an Indiana University law professor who has criticized baseball's labor practices in
Latin America, called the punishment against the Indians "a slap on the wrist" and said it was
"unlikely to make anyone change the way they behave."

Neal Huntington, an Indians assistant general manager, disagreed, calling the sanctions "harsh."
He said the case already has led the team to restructure its Latin American operations so that no
individual scout can sign a player without first gaining approval from the Cleveland front office.

Officials in the office of the commissioner of baseball declined to discuss the case. In the past,
baseball has forced teams to suspend their Latin American operations for up to a year and issued
fines as large as $200,000 for similar violations. But officials may have decided on a lighter
punishment based on the cooperation of Cleveland officials.

"We fully admitted some wrongdoing," said Mark Shapiro, the Indians' general manager. "It was
due to poor control and to poor systems in place that didn't fully inform us here what was going
on. We accept the fault, we accept the discipline and we hope we have the safeguards in place
so it never happens again."

Under the sanctions, the Indians will be forced to "cease operations" in Venezuela in July and
August, according to baseball sources. During that period, the team will be prohibited from
signing and scouting players. The suspension covers a key date, July 2, the first day teams can
sign players for the following season. However, the Indians will still be allowed to participate in
the Venezuelan Summer League, a minor league season that runs through August.

In a measure of the degree of corruption that exists in Latin American baseball, the Indians opted
not to fire Aponte after deciding that he was following normal business practices at the time.
Instead, the team stripped him of his authority to sign players independently, forcing him to
consult first with Rene Gayo, the team's director of international scouting, or assistant general
manager John Mirabelli.

Laumin Bessa is one of at least a half dozen Latin American players whose underage signings
have became public in recent years. The practice is believed to be widespread, in large part
because the incentive is great for both player and team. For the player, it is an opportunity to
extricate himself and his family from poverty. For the team, it can be an opportunity to sign a
talented player before other teams bid up the price.

Critics say baseball, in its push for cheaper talent, has exploited young players, denying them
agents, making false promises, stealing signing bonuses and providing inadequate housing and
medical care. In another recent case, a Venezuelan player named Alexis Quiroz filed a worker's
compensation claim against the Chicago Cubs after a medic in the Dominican Republic
repeatedly stomped on his dislocated shoulder, exacerbating the injury and ruining his career.

Bessa began his professional baseball career at 14, accepting an offer to train and live at a Cubs
facility about five hours from his home on Venezuela's northern coast. After leaving the Cubs, he
was playing for a junior league team when Aponte approached him and offered him $300,000 to
sign with the Indians.

Aponte signed Bessa to a blank contract that he apparently intended to fill in after the player
turned 16. He also signed Bessa to a sheet of Indians letterhead that outlined the terms of the
deal. Although the paper described a "global bonus of $300,000," only $30,000 was guaranteed.
The rest was tied to his advancement, with the final $150,000 coming when he reached the major
leagues.

Asked last year why he had signed Bessa to a blank contract, Aponte responded, "In life, things
happen that you can't explain."

Said Arturo Mercano, a Venezuelan attorney who has pressed baseball to change its system for
recruiting Latin American players: "Major League Baseball isn't handing out punishments that
will serve as a deterrent, and as a result you're going to keep seeing teams do these kinds of
things."


2002 The Washington Post Company

RichH55
02-28-2002, 11:29 AM
Isn't having to play Brady Anderson every day punishment enough?

voodoochile
02-28-2002, 11:35 AM
Just watch when they check his visa the kid will turn out to be 25...

Randar68
02-28-2002, 11:55 AM
Originally posted by RichH55
Isn't having to play Brady Anderson every day punishment enough?

I sense the sarcasm, but I think they are hoping to play Alex Escobar for a majority of the time....

pearso66
02-28-2002, 12:14 PM
lol great one voodoochile

Iwritecode
02-28-2002, 01:25 PM
Originally posted by voodoochile
Just watch when they check his visa the kid will turn out to be 25...

I'm confused, what is the exact cut-off age when they go from trying to make themselves older to trying to make themselves younger? When they are 14 or 15 they want to be 16. When they are 30 they want to be 25-27...

voodoochile
02-28-2002, 01:57 PM
Originally posted by Iwritecode


I'm confused, what is the exact cut-off age when they go from trying to make themselves older to trying to make themselves younger? When they are 14 or 15 they want to be 16. When they are 30 they want to be 25-27...

The minute they are 17, they start subtracting years...

:D:

foulkesfan11
02-28-2002, 09:45 PM
:indianslose


Again & Again

Jerry_Manuel
02-28-2002, 09:50 PM
Sanctions for Signing Underage Player Draw Mixed Reaction

How about sanctions for spelling your name wrong on your jersey?

Daver
02-28-2002, 09:55 PM
Originally posted by Jerry_Manuel


How about sanctions for spelling your name wrong on your jersey?

No way,I spell my name wrong all the time.:redneck

Jerry_Manuel
02-28-2002, 10:13 PM
Originally posted by daver
No way,I spell my name wrong all the time.:redneck

You don't mistake your I's for J's do you?

Daver
02-28-2002, 10:17 PM
Originally posted by Jerry_Manuel


You don't mistake your I's for J's do you?

No I mistake them for o's usually.:redneck

Jerry_Manuel
02-28-2002, 10:19 PM
Originally posted by daver
No I mistake them for o's usually.:redneck

I had to think it over, but I've come to the conclusion that your mistake isn't nearly as bad as the Indians. :smile: