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Book Review: Baseball Cop

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I got a review copy of Baseball Cop: the Dark Side of America’s National Pastime, by Eddie Dominguez.

Dominguez was a member of the Boston Police Department and worked with the FBI, before being hired by MLB to be part of the Department of Investigations back in 2008 (it sounds like there would be an interesting book in his police work). The Department of Investigations came to be because of a suggestion in the Mitchell Report. The Mitchell Report found wide spread PED use among major leaguers. The report listed more than 80 players as using. Mitchell made several suggestions to MLB.

Dominguez tells about his experiences working for MLB. I think it is fair to say that he had some axes to grind. Dominguez tells us that MLB created the Department on Investigations, hiring good investigators, and then tried to make sure they couldn’t/wouldn’t do their job. Baseball wanted the appearance of trying to rid the game of PEDs but didn’t want the bad press of having it come out that players were using them.

Dominguez tells a story of a baseball executive coming to him after he took the job, telling him:

The owners don’t want you, the commissioner doesn’t want you, Labor and Manfred sure as hell don’t want you. You guys are internal affairs, and if baseball can do anything about it, you won’t last long.

Dominguez would use 270 pages showing how much they didn’t want them, basically getting in their way, telling them not to interview players or suspected suppliers. Doing as much as they could to stop them from doing their jobs. MLB also at various times told them they were allowed to share information with federal DEA agents, which could have helped close up ‘clinics’ that supplied and injected players.

To me the most interesting chapter was the one talking about ‘trafficking’ players out of Cuba. Smugglers, agents, a long list of people make money off bringing Cubans players out of the country. Dominguez makes it clear there could be a better way of doing things, if MLB wanted, but they re happy to turn a blind eye to the illegal activities, because they get what they want out of it, talent.

The chapter on ‘bonus skimming’ in the Dominican Republic was interesting too. The money paid as signing bonuses to international free agents ends up in the pockets of other people. Dominguez says:

What we unearthed in the Dominican Republic was so big and so corrupt that baseball was forced to let go of almost everyone in the MLB offices in Santo Domingo. For years, players had complained to MLB executive Lou Melendez, the head of MLB International Baseball Operations and Joel Araujo, who worked directly under Lou, about their bonuses and tax returns being stolen, among other things. Melendez told me he had taken the complaints to his bosses in New York, where he was usually told ‘You don’t have enough”.

He also talked about age/ID investigations. He said often “those involved would pay a family to sell their son’s identity to another player”. The player would move in with the new family and they would pay off neighbors, priests, hospitals an government officials to go along with the story if an investigator came along.

He also talks about the Biogensis investigations, which is interesting, if a little convoluted. He said that Rob Manfred and Bud Selig were pretty singularly focused ‘getting’ Alex Rodriguez and agents Seth and Sam Levinson. A large part of the book was about that investigation.

Dominguez writes about his dismissal by MLB, saying they wanted him to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but he knew he wanted to write a book about his experiences. He said they invented reasons to dismiss him ‘for cause’, but he and the other investigators who were let go were frustrated by MLB’s interference in their work and were happy to leave it behind. MLB replaced the investigators with someone with no experience in investigations.

I enjoyed the book. I’ll admit it took me a bit to get into it but once I did I enjoyed the read. It confirmed things I’ve long thought about the MLB, that they want to make a show that they are trying to fix their problems but they don’t want any bad press, so they do their best to ignore or cover up as much as they can. It seems like the book was written to put pressure on MLB to work harder to fix some of these problems (and perhaps to make Manfred look bad). Dominguez says that he thinks 20% of players are using. I don’t know how he gets that number, just a feeling I guess, but he says there are more clinics like Biogensis that they weren’t allowed to investigate.

Baseball Cop is in book stores now. Here is a link to get it at Chapters.