Does MLB discriminate against Haitians?

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Nick Collias, who covers the Spanish language media for MLB Trade Rumors sent me a story the other day that I haven’t seen anyone pick up anywhere.  You can read it in Spanish here.  I couldn’t, so Nick was nice enough to translate it for me.

The gist: MLB has a policy
of not allowing Haitian players to attend team academies in the
Dominican Republic–and, hence, to not get anywhere near the major
league prospect system. The reason is ostensibly that the players
aren’t able to have their backgrounds or papers verified easily, what
with Haiti being Haiti and all. But a couple of coaches quoted in the article think it’s unfair and discriminatory, because many Venezuelan
and Cuban players in the same situation don’t get nearly the same level
of scrutiny.  Some translated text:

Andres “Chaca” Martinez, Sixto de la Cruz, and Juan Pena
Reynoso, three coaches in the Juan Pablo Darte Olympic Center, said recently
they were obliged to send away several promising Haitian prospects in excellent
condition because no one wanted to evaluate them.

“Last week I had to send away four, due to that when I
wanted to introduce them to several scouts, they refused to see them, and when
asked for a reason they told me that unfortunately, they were not allowed to
see Dominican-Haitian players,” revealed Martinez. De La Cruz said he had to
dismiss two Haitian pitchers who threw 90 to 91 mph for the same reason.

“They are guys with good physiques, holding passports and
Haitian birth certificates, but the scouts told me they don’t see them because
the investigators from the MLB office here will not allow any Haitian players
through,” said De La Cruz. He added, “It is unfair that the young men of that
neighboring country are denied the opportunity given to Cubans and Venezuelans,
who are signed without investigation.”

Reynoso considers the treatment of the Haitians
discriminatory and unjust, saying they are human beings worthy of better
treatment.

I don’t know nearly enough about identity documentation issues in Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela vs. Cuba to know if these coaches’ complaints are legitimate or not. If all things are equal, and if baseball is treating Haitian prospects — such as they are — differently, that’s a problem.  If, however, there is something inherently less-trustworthy about Haitian documents than there is about, say, Cuban documents, such differences would be understandable.

I’ll offer this much though: between the lack of diplomatic ties with Cuba and the Haitain earthquake, one would suspect that checking back with the issuer of the documents would be equally impossible, so there’s not a lot of cause, I wouldn’t think, for distinguishing between Cuban and Haitian documents.

Either way, this is a story that may be worth looking into more deeply.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.