I've known about this coming for the last couple of weeks; I got a heads-up a few weeks ago. I received confirmation from MLB yesterday, formally, that the player that we thought was Esmailyn Gonzalez was not. He has some other name, and I'm not exactly sure how to refer to him, so for now I'll just call him "the player to be named later." But his birthday is November 1985. And he's not Esmailyn Gonzalez, 19. He's someone else. I think he will go by Carlos Alvarez, but I'm not sure. And he's 23.
You know, to say I'm disappointed doesn't begin to describe how I feel. I'm angry. I am very angry. We've been defrauded, and make no mistake -- this wasn't a college kid with a fake ID that came in and did this. This was a deliberate, premeditated fraud with a lot more to this story, and we are going to get to the bottom of it. There were many, many people involved in this premeditated fraud.
Let me give you some background on all of this... We were awarded the team in early May , and really soon thereafter, within maybe two weeks or three weeks, right in the early stage of the transition, we did not yet own the team, Jim [Bowden] came to me and said his staff had seen this kid, they thought he was special, they thought he would command a premier bonus, and what was our appetite for that. And, obviously none of us had ever seen the kid or heard of the kid. But he described him, the staff described him, and we said, 'Yeah, we want to be aggressive, we'd back you on something like that if that's what everyone feels like.' So we did support their recommendation, and we went ahead and signed him on the first day we were able to, which was July 2. And that day is significant because that's the date in the year that MLB lets you sign kids born in that year. And this is important -- all the MLB procedures were followed. MLB undertakes the responsibility to verify ages and names. After 9/11 they set up an office in the Dominican Republic to do all that. It's still kind of bad down there in terms of identities, but it used to be much, much worse.
All of that was done. We got verification from the MLB people that this was his name and this was his age. Real soon thereafter -- I don't know if it was that summer, but certainly by that winter -- I heard rumors that circulate around baseball that were some irregularities related to this Esmailyn Gonzalez signing, whether it was the amount of money or where the money wound up going or whatnot; I kept hearing this. And you know, it was disquieting to me, and so I went back to baseball and I asked for their help... So we're talking now 2007, and I said, 'I want to get to the bottom of this.'
And, you know, they came back to me and said we've checked it out and the nearest we can figure, everything is in order. And that's the way it stood until two things happened. The first was the Mitchell Report. And that's significant because an outgrowth of the Mitchell Report is MLB's department of investigations. The second thing that happened was the White Sox situation, the incident you all know about - the cash, payoffs, allegations in the Dominican. And the department of investigations started digging into that dilemma...
In the course of that investigation, they've talked to a number of teams, and they are and have talked to our team as well. I think partially because of the Esmailyn Gonzalez rumors, but for other general reasons, too. And so this went on through the summer. But I kept hearing these rumors, and while I know this longer investigation will take a long time, I did go to them four months ago, six months ago, and said: 'Do this for me. Let me narrow this down for you guys. I keep hearing all kinds of things, but at least verify for me that he is who he is, and his birth date is his birth date. Surely you guys can do that.' And it took them this long, but they did crack through it. All the people that had verified his name and age in the past were mistaken, and it was just in the last few weeks that they finally, conclusively, determined that this was not Esmailyn Gonzalez, this was not a 19 year-old; he was in fact someone else who was 23.
Now this is very important. You need to know this. This was not a teenager who walks in with his college ID and lays his card on the table and signs a contract. This was an elaborate, premeditated scheme that no teenager concocted. No teenager executed this fraud. There were a number of people involved in it. When you guys learn -- you won't today -- but soon you will... when you learn the lengths these participants went to perpetrate this fraud, you're gonna be amazed. Falsified hospital documents. Falsified school documents. Other family members changing their identities. Bribes were paid. Really elaborate stuff. And I have to give MLB's department of investigations a lot of credit. They really do deserve a lot of credit for finally cracking through this. ... I can assure you, this is going to have serious repercussions. I have people examining all possible avenues of recourse with regard to any legal and financial concerns, number one.
Number two, of course, there's another dimension, and that's the baseball future for this player. Let's face it, false IDs still happen too frequently in our sport. To our team, to other teams. We routinely sign kids or offer kids deals and they get kicked out by MLB before the contract gets signed after MLB verifies the ID is false... So these things are going on, but they are usually caught because the scheme is not elaborate. And I suppose it's usually because it doesn't involve this much money. In this case, it wasn't caught, and that is a shame for all of us. I also know, because it's happened to me before, that there are instances of players continuing their careers after these kind of things happened. Becoming Major Leaguers, and even becoming all-stars...
At the same time, I have to tell you, I am familiar with one-year and two-year fibs. This is a four-year fib. That's... you know, in our world this is a big difference between being a 16 year-old and a 20 year-old. Do I know what his future holds as a baseball player? I don't. I would say clearly he remains a prospect, but I would say a very different kind of prospect today. I am just not prepared to say what is going to happen to him in his career just yet. We're thinking this through, and there's a lot still going on. That's really all I can say. There's a lot going on that we're doing internally. A lot going on behind the scenes with MLB, still, with this very issue. But you can rest assured you're going to be hearing more about specific action taken as a result of this in the days and weeks ahead. You can count on that.
Questions from reporters
Q: Number one, are the Lerners going to try to get their bonus back? And number two, are you going to look into your own people in the organization?
A: I'm not going to talk about specifics for today. Rest assured that we are studying many, many things right now, and as I said we'll have more detail for you on the repercussions from this, and the actions taken, in the days and weeks to come. Again, there are further complications here. At the time this all happened, we didn't own the team. These people didn't work for us. That is just a complication. Yes, we went along with the deal, for sure we did. But, it's just one more factor we're sorting through while all of this is being studied.
Q: Does this make you reevaluate any of the team's protocols for doing business down there, or any of the relationships that the team currently has there?
A: I have to tell you, I've been chasing this for almost two years now as I told you, and it has caused me to be more circumspect than I have in my whole career in our dealings down there, frankly... 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.
Q: You said the scope of this fraud was massive in terms of how many people are involved? Do you have reason to believe whether anybody in your organization was a part of that?
A: I'm not going to say anything right now while the investigation continues, and you know, you know how I am about this. I am going to let all conclusions be reached. I want it pursued to the very end. The chips will fall where they may. I just want to uncover everything I can possibly uncover, and that's what I have asked baseball's help in.
Q: Have you or anybody with the team been in contact with the player?
A: There have been some people in touch with him... It's been a tricky last, I would say, three weeks. But I cannot yet tell you anything more about his status or about our communication for now.
Q: Will he be in camp in a couple weeks?
A: I am not prepared to say yet. I will tell you, he apparently already has secured his new passport. I have seen the new passport. He has one. I think a visa would be granted; that is what I have been told. I think that's already been arranged as well.