Dodger Penalty Is Far-Reaching


The big surprise wasn’t that baseball treated Scott Boras with the type of decisive, vindictive response it usually reserves for the likes of Pete Rose and Richie Phillips.

You had to figure the league offices would jump at the chance to rebuke Boras. But baseball didn’t just stop at a rejection of Boras’ claim that his client, Adrian Beltre, should be declared a free agent because the Dodgers signed him before he was 16. No, Bud Selig and friends smacked the Dodgers around too. Not just a wrist slap, but an outright spanking. With the belt.

They fined the Dodgers almost $100,000 and cut off their pipeline to the Dominican Republic, that fertile island of baseball players that produced Beltre and a ton of other stars from Sammy Sosa to Pedro Martinez.


Instead of making Boras the lone scapegoat, Selig added the Dodgers to the herd. There was no special treatment for one of the sport’s proudest, most esteemed franchises. It would be equally shocking to see a hockey referee send Teemu Selanne to the penalty box as if he were just another goon. Since the improper signing took place in 1994, it occurred under the old Peter O’Malley regime. So did the improper signings of two Cuban players, for which the Dodgers were fined $200,000 earlier this year.

It’s time for some revisionist history. As in, maybe the good old days weren’t quite so good after all.

If the Dodgers were such a classy organization, how could all of these unethical actions take place without someone in charge learning of it and putting a stop to it? And why hasn’t there been a serious shakedown of the people from the old regime who survived the changeover to the Fox Folks?

A few more revelations like this and we could reach the once-inconceivable notion of thinking the Dodgers are better off after the sale.

Now, about Tuesday’s developments. Surely one of the reasons the Dodgers faced such severe penalties--and the reason they probably broke the rules in the first place--is because they weren’t the only ones doing it. Baseball’s punishments were a way of sending a message to the other teams, along with other agents who might want to try the same approach and nab early free agency for other players in similar situations.

But isn’t it interesting that baseball honchos invoked a statute of limitations on Boras’ claims but not on the Dodgers’ penalties? They basically told Boras, “It’s in the past, get over it,” but made it clear to the Dodgers that the boys in New York won’t forget these transgressions easily.


It’s not the $50,000 fine or the $48,500 they’re ordered to pay Beltre that hurts the Dodgers. They can make up that money with the sale of four season seats in the new Dugout Club.

The potentially devastating long-term effects come from the one-year ban on scouting and developing players in the Dominican Republic. The Dodgers have been one of the most respected, trusted names there. Will the Beltre situation hurt their credibility? Will they be able to pick up where they left off when they resume contact with Dominican players? All it would take would be some bad word-of-mouth before Dominican players start thinking perhaps Cleveland wouldn’t be such a bad place to play after all.

The Dodgers are so proud of Campo Las Palmas, their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, they dedicated a page to it in the media guide. They tout its state-of-the-art facilities and list such graduates as Beltre and Martinez, Pedro’s brother Ramon, Raul Mondesi, Roger Cedeno, Henry Rodriguez and Pedro Astacio. (Here’s cause for another investigation: Why are so many of those guys wearing uniforms other than Dodger Blue?)

The greater concern, however is why haven’t the Dodgers put together such a distinguished list of players they have trained from the Los Angeles area?

This gets back to the Dodgers’ long-standing problem of flying all over the Caribbean to search for talent but neglecting to develop players right in their backyard. Perhaps they could find another Eric Davis or Darryl Strawberry if they looked hard enough. Or start cultivating the curiously absent wave of Mexican-American ballplayers that never followed Fernandomania. And this way the Dodgers wouldn’t have to worry about visas or birth certificates.

I’m all for the internationalization of the sport. Imagine how boring baseball would be without people like Sosa or Ivan Rodriguez.


But shouldn’t there be some national concern when American teams have such difficulty winning Olympics and Little League World Series? The Dodgers, by focusing so much attention on international development and neglecting the in-house product, have contributed to this decline as much as anyone.

Don’t let the next year go to waste. Use that Campo Las Palmas money to plant grass and keep it freshly cut on a field in the inner city. The Dodgers never pursued this lower-cost, lower-risk alternative.

This whole fiasco wasn’t the fault of one or two rogue representatives. It was a flaw in the entire organization’s philosophy--from an organization we thought we knew so well.


J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address: