Friday, February 20, 2009

Nationals Prospect Lied About His Age

Washington Nationals officials acknowledged Wednesday that top prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez was actually Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, a 23-year-old who was four years older than the team believed. The Nationals in 2006 gave Alvarez a team-record $1.4 million signing bonus, believing him to be 16 at the time.
This is not a recent problem, as prominent Major League players have admitted lying about their age, including Rafael Furcal, Miguel Tejada and Adrian Beltre. This goes back even farther during World War II when returning rookies and Negro Leaguers would take a year or two off of their age to look more palatable to doubting owners. As the opportunity for a large signing bonus looms heavily over the heads of young talent, shaving a few years off of one's "real" age can mean the difference between prospect and suspect. In poor countries such as the Dominican Republic, the spoils of a large signing bonus can allow an entire family to move out of a multi-generational cycle of impoverished living.
In the case of Alvarez, the Nationals did three prior investigations into his background before discovering the fraud. Nationals president Stan Kasten said Wednesday, "The protocols are the baseball protocols. I think 90 percent of the time they're very effective. We've turned kids in that baseball has kicked out for fraudulent IDs. That's usually how it works, and it didn't work in this case, and that's a shame."
As the investigation continues, we will find out what the Nationals will do with Alvarez in regards to his signing bonus and standing in the organization.


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