Stan Kasten and the Nationals are steaming mad about the revelation that Esmailyn Gonzalez, who I will now refer to as Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo (now believed to be his real name), is actually 23 years old, not 19. Kasten sounded yesterday like a man about to embark on a witch hunt to find out everything that happened in the chain of events that eventually has already and continues to cause him public embarrassment. But let’s take a deep breath here before we do anything too rash.
If the Nationals and/or MLB use this case to dig further into the seedy, soft underbelly of the current player signing and development system in the Dominican Republic, and root out some of the evil people and machinations involved in this type of deceit and financial fraud, all the better. But let’s not include Lugo in this witch hunt just yet. No doubt he was complicit in this whole chain of deceit, but we’re talking about a player who was young and very poor when he was first likely approached by a buscone in the DR and pulled into this whole cycle of events. I’m not saying he’s squeaky clean on this, but let’s look at this situation juxtaposed against baseball-playing Cuban defectors, who are sometimes laughingly understating their age, with often no way to prove otherwise. Clubs sign them, and they play until their skills say they can’t anymore. No one crashed down on them for fibbing about their ages. Or take Rafael Furcal, who fooled Kasten and the Braves similarly years ago, then turned into an all-star without much backlash about the age issue.
All I’m saying is let’s not ruin a top prospect just so Kasten and the Nationals can clear their names and look like heroes for rooting out what happened. Yes, let’s root out the underlying problems and do our homework better in the future, but let’s not make it about the young player who just hit .342 in the Gulf Coast League. He’s still only 23, with potential for a very bright future ahead. That will only hinder his development and could prevent him from being the top player he looks like he’ll be, and then everyone loses.