For all of the brilliant, heralded baseball players the Caribbean and Latin America have groomed for professional baseball in the U.S., the areas still have their fair share of devious developmental practices. Birth certificates are legendarily finicky. Steroids -- which for young players in Latin America can provide not only a shot at the pros but a way out of poverty -- run rampant. Talent scouts scour the islands, claim players, and then sell their rights to pro clubs.
Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox's stellar second-year second baseman, might be most familiar with the latter. According the Associated Press, Ramirez is being sued for $20 million for allegedly breaching his contract with local talent scouts before signing as a major leaguer. The details:
In documents presented to the prosecutors office in the Peravia judicial district -- located 65 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of the Dominican capital -- Ramirez and his agent Jaime Torres are accused of owing Julio Martinez and Ramon Fernandez $450,000 from a signing bonus. The plaintiffs are also asking for an additional $131,156, which represents 5 percent of Ramirez's income from two years in the majors, the documents say.
According to the scouts' lawyer, Ramirez agreed to pay 30 percent of his signing bonus to the scouts, as well as five percent of all his professional earnings. Which seems like a lot, and not something a player of Ramirez's caliber -- who famously defected from Cuba before arriving in the D.R. -- would need to do. Naturally, Ramirez's lawyer denies that such a contract exists.
As for the $20 million, the plaintiffs claim it's for "damages." OK then.
In any case, these are the vagaries of unorganized talent scouting in some of the still-untapped developmental areas of Latin America. The opportunities for these players are greater than ever before, but so are the pitfalls.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.