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Posted at 6:15 PM ET, 02/11/2011

The Nationals in the Dominican Republic: One last word

By Adam Kilgore

smiley cover.jpg

smiley passport.jpg

Those there are photographs, taken with my BlackBerry, of Carlos Alvarez's fake passport, which last week I held in my hand.

The Tuesday before last, I had been spending the better part of the afternoon with Jose Rijo. We were talking about his life in the aftermath of the scandal that got him fired, and he delved into why he believes he is innocent. He called Jose Baez, his friend and the Nationals' former Dominican coordinator, and invited him over. Baez - who recently lost a legal appeal to the Nationals in court - had me and Rijo meet him at his house to give me some papers he wanted me to see. He also handed me the copy of Alvarez's fake passport, which he had kept from Feb. 11, 2009, the day he visited with Alvarez after learning his identity had been revealed as fake.

That was probably the most surreal moment of the several days I spent in the Dominican Republic, time I used to report two stories. One of them ran in the paper Tuesday. The other will run in tomorrow's paper, and you can read it here now [An earlier version of this blog post had an incorrect link to the story that appeared in Friday's editions.]

The one broader theme I didn't touch on in either story is the myriad problems baseball faces in the Dominican. Those in the baseball community there are an insular group of people, like a small town. Just about everyone inside knows everybody and everything that is going on. It's hard for someone outside - like Major League Baseball - to first break into that circle and then to understand.

Baseball is more than sport; it's a means to break an entrenched poverty. This is a cliched view of the country, but also in many cases very real. One person I spoke with said he couldn't blame kids for faking their age. Yes, the man said, Carlos Alvarez lied to the Nationals and to the league and used those lies to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, he continued, if the worst thing Carlos Alvarez is fake his age so his family can move out of a house that doesn't have a floor, well, he's not the problem. The system is broken, and the society is simply abiding by it.

"We used to have a sugar cane field. It's gone," Rijo said late in the afternoon, speaking about his home town of San Cristobal. "We used to have [a factory] with 5,000 jobs. It's gone. We used to have the gun company. Gone. Duty-free. Gone. We used to have a hotel in this town. We don't have one anymore. We used to have three movie theaters. We don't have movies anymore. All the job opportunities here are gone. What's people going to do? Be honest? And get a job where?"

As for the stories, I thought it was important to highlight the Nationals' progress and the lingering issues in two separate stories, because they really are two distinct issues. While skepticism is constantly in order when it comes to the Dominican, I was impressed by the Nationals' staff, led by Fausto Severino and Moises De La Mota, at their new academy. Their daily work bore virtually no connection to what had happened down there two years ago.

But I also didn't want to ignore the whereabouts of Rijo and Alvarez, which remain, in my eyes, compelling pieces to a story that isn't dead yet. There's a natural barrier between work the Nationals are doing now and the fallout they have to deal with. Hence, two stories. I hope you learned from them and liked them.

And now, it's on to the Nationals' 2011 season. I fly out of Reagan Sunday morning, and I should be in Viera by 11 or so. Can't wait. I'll see you then.

By Adam Kilgore  | February 11, 2011; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  minors & farm system  
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Comments

Enjoyed the stories and appreciate the reporting. Have a good time in sunny Florida. We'll be expecting 2 a days starting Monday through November...

Posted by: whatsaNATaU | February 11, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

"Baseball is more than sport; it's a means to break an entrenched poverty. This is a cliched view of the country, but also in many cases very real. One person I spoke with said he couldn't blame kids for faking their age. Yes, Carlos Alvarez lied to the Nationals and to the league and used those lies to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. But if the worst thing Carlos Alvarez is fake his age so his family can move out of a house that doesn't have a floor, well, he's not the problem. The system is broken, and the society is simply abiding by it."

Adam seems to be saying it's ok to lie and defraud a company out of a $1.4 million if you're poor.

No, it's not ok, Adam. Being poor does not give you a license to cheat and steal.

Posted by: swanni | February 11, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I did not read it that way. I read Adam's words to be saying it was understandable, not that it was defensible.

Posted by: whatsaNATaU | February 11, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Actually, swanni, it's not Adam who's saying that, it's his unnamed source who is. But Adam Kilgore is such a terrible writer that on the first reading of anything he writes it's hard to tell what he's saying.

Between Kilgore and Boswell, you can really see the deleterious effect on the Post's journalism of the newspaper's having laid off all its copy editors a few years ago. (Somehow Sheinin's writing doesn't reflect this. I guess he must be the rare example of a good writer at the Post.)

Did you know that the Post's editorial standards have gotten so bad that they can't even issue a correction without getting something else wrong? From dcrtv.com:

WaPo Makes 2 Errors In Wise Correction - 2/10 - Updated. A correction in Thursday's Washington Post: "The Mike Wise column in the February 7 Sports section incorrectly said that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers grew up in California's Bay Area. Rogers is from Chico, California, about 160 miles northwest of San Francisco." Ah, if you look on a map you'll see that Chico is about 160 miles northeast (!) of San Francisco. Also, it's "Rodgers" not "Rogers."

Posted by: nunof1 | February 11, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

"The other will run in tomorrow's paper, and you can read it here now."

No you can't. The link in this sentence points to the story that ran last Monday. Kilgore writes html about as poorly as he writes English, it would appear.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 11, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Gawd, I hate it when anyone calls it "Reagan." And the link to what is supposed to be tomorrow's article is incorrect.

Posted by: truke | February 11, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Great work! Got to see your true journalism skills the past few days.

Posted by: tgerbracht | February 11, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse

I always have and always will call the airport in question "National," but I'm old. You can't really blame young folks like Adam for using the, um, "other" name. Also, as a professional copy editor, I grieve over the gutting of copy editing at the Post, but you can't then put all the blame for the egregious errors on the writers (although I sure wish writers in general were better on that score). Adam's work generally strikes me as, well, at least acceptable, and these Dominican stories are great (the link is fixed now). (Btw, is anyone but me reading Chico Harlan's fine reporting on Korea?)And, finally, I apologize for writing a too-long comment that has virtually nothing to do with baseball!

Posted by: skidge | February 11, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Great work! Got to see your true journalism skills the past few days.

Posted by: tgerbracht | February 12, 2011 2:17 AM | Report abuse

Took me awhile to get back and this is in response to my question about Wang several posts ago. Thanks to all who helped me figure out what "might" happen. In reading the responses, I was amazed that except for Brue almost everyone was polite. Not everyone agreed but the comments were well thought out and I could actually learn what others think about our team. This is probably the kiss of death but also amazed that P Mc P did not post on that article. Made it sort of like a breath of fresh air (I know, I know, don't feed the @#$%). Anyway, thanks to all and I will continue to look at my half full Nat's glass.


Posted by: sjm3091 | February 12, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Great work in the Dominican. Good stuff. But some people will always whinge about something. And poor "skidge" - still can't get over REAGAN Naitional airport. Be patient and maybe one day they will re-name it after John Edwards or Walter Mondale. Sheesh.

Posted by: Natstoyou | February 12, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

My comment wasn't political. I don't care whose name might be attached; it will just always be "National" to me!

Posted by: skidge | February 12, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I actually thought these were pretty well written articles. I had no problem following the fact that he was actually explaining what some other folks were saying in that paragraph posted above.

The underlying issue of all of this is poverty. The draw for these kids to lie about their ages is unbelievable. And, on the whole, MLB teams can get top prospects far cheaper in the Dominican than they can from high schools or colleges in the US, and they can get them earlier. I understand why kids over there, or buscones (I've seen many different characterizations of these guys, from saints to Satans), lie in order to cash in. I don't have to think it is right to understand why they do it. This is why MLB has so many different checks in place to ensure ages. They understand the same thing we do--the desire to remove themselves from the abject poverty they face is far greater than the desire to be honest.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 12, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The baseball angle in the DR will remain a complex story, not just for the Nationals but for all of MLB, so long as the buscones exist in their current level of player control.

One of the most visible exports from the DR is baseball talent; Why wouldn't an impoverished population try to increase taxable income by working in grey areas like documented age for an 'exportable product'?

Washington is far from the only franchise to get caught up in this problem - Why is it a continuing point of contention in the local press, other than to close out on remaining litigation? It's time to move on, IMHO.

Posted by: BinM | February 12, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I know what you mean. I can't stand it when people call it BWI. It's Friendship International, because you can't change the names of things.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 12, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Reagan National is worst although naming an airport after Friendship 7 seems far more apropos. The guy cut the knees out from under air traffic controllers and the rename an airport after him? National Airport I think was originally Hoover field and Washington Airport so its not it wasn't already "renamed". Now, who would want to name an airport after Hoover? Probably the same idiots who named one after Reagan.

Of course you know RFK was almost named LBJ? ~smiles~

Posted by: periculum | February 12, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Great story, great article, great photos! Links to the signings and articles now appear on MLBTradeRumors.

Posted by: periculum | February 12, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

i don't like hearing "Reagan" either when referring to the airport. and it's not a political thing. i'm a Republican with great admiration for Reagan. however, i'm also a D.C. area born and raised resident. the airport will forever be known to me as "National". i also refuse to say "Wizards" either. they're the Bullets to anyone from D.C..

Posted by: destewar | February 12, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse


adam, you could have flown to Detroit and written the same story. No skills, no job. Welcome to the global economy.

Posted by: howjensen | February 13, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

First, it was quite clear from the story that AK was quoting an unamed source. Second, despite the developed of the tourist industry in the DR since the 80s, the DR is one of the poorest country's in the region. Hence the continuing need for vigilence. Third, despite his use of Reagan, it was quite clear, Adam was talking about National Airpot (always was always will be).

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | February 13, 2011 8:22 AM | Report abuse

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