The recent news of the falsified identity and age of another player from the Dominican Republic, the Cleveland Indians pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has baseball-watchers buzzing.
Carmona is now/back-to-being Roberto Hernandez Heredia, age 31 instead of 28. He is certainly neither the first nor probably the last player to be outed this way. Carmona/Heredia was arrested when trying to secure a visa to re-enter the United States.
This news has intensified ongoing questions about former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, long suspected by some to be older than his reported age of 32. Where Pujols clearly differs from Heredia is that he became a US citizen and can more easily travel between the two nations as a result. In fact, Pujols was back in his homeland this past weekend, along with former teammates Yadier Molina and Rafael Furcal.
A member of The Cardinal Nation message board community speculated that if one day Pujols was caught like Carmona/Heredia, it might keep him out of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
In my book, it gets down to whether or not all varieties of cheating are worthy of the same punishment.
At one end of the spectrum, we have gambling on one’s team. That lifetime ban is clearly spelled out in baseball’s rules. No debate is needed. Sorry, Pete Rose.
Then, we have another area which also led to concerns about the integrity of the game itself, steroid usage. Though we will know more next year with a new class of eligible players, Mark McGwire’s roughly 20 percent showing year after year in the Hall voting indicates how the writers seem to feel about this matter.
Near the other end, we have the admitted spitballer Gaylord Perry. There was so little concern about his transgressions that he was honored with a plaque in Cooperstown.
Lying about one’s identity and age is illegal. There can be no doubt about that. On the other hand, a player’s reported age is irrelevant to his hitting, pitching, playing defense or baserunning. I submit that Pujols’ numbers would have been the same no matter what date of birth was printed in game programs for the last 11 years.
I am not condoning age falsification, but I also don’t see it as being worthy of the death penalty, either. If Pujols’ age/identity were proven to be false, I could see the sportswriters penalizing him by not voting him into the Hall on the first ballot. Yet I would be very surprised if they would keep Pujols out indefinitely – even if he never played another game.
In my book, the only person who would have a clear right to take action following a Pujols disclosure is Angels owner Arte Moreno. More than one jilted Cardinals fan would relish seeing that still-hypothetical scenario play out.