A look into corruption in Latin American scouting

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We’ve talked many times in this space about the seedy nature of scouting and signing players in Latin America. There have been multiple scandals in this arena over the years and, currently, there is an unsettlingly quiet federal probe underway of Major League Baseball’s international signing practices (unsettling to those in its crosshairs, anyway). I feel like some really bad stuff is gonna roll out of that whenever the feds finish up their work.

Today we have a little corner of the broader dynamic presented in a Washington Post story that, I feel, gives a good bit of flavor to it all. It’s about the signing of Héctor Olivera, the Cuban star who signed a $62 million deal with the Dodgers before being traded to the Braves, suspended for domestic violence and who is now out of baseball.

Olivera’s signing and all that surrounds it is supposedly a big hook for the current federal investigation. What we know of it from today’s story involves claims that he was forced, at machine gun point, to sign over a ridiculously large part of his eventual Dodgers contract to a former Yankees scout-turned-buscone named Rudy Santín and several of his associates who helped him flee Cuba. Santín denies that, and has in turn sued Olivera in the Dominican Republic, claiming that Olivera skipped out on that agreement to sign with agent Greg Genske, who ultimately landed the Dodgers deal. So, at least on the allegations, it’s a giant mess all around, but well worth your time reading if you care about this stuff.

I should note, though, in the interests of balance, that while we frequently see stories like these — stories involving allegedly crooked Latin American agents and buscones — that’s not the only graft angle on all of this. Major League Baseball wants you to think that all the seediness is on the agent side and often cites it when calls are made to impose an international draft, but the leagues’ hands aren’t clean either.

Several scouts and team employees working in Latin America have themselves been involved in kickback scandals over the years in which they have demanded cuts of the players’ signing bonus in order to sign a player. The club agrees to pay the player, say, $2 million, but the scout takes tens if not hundreds of thousands off the top. Maybe the club is wholly unaware of this. Often they’re not unaware. In the ethical twilight that is international baseball scouting, clubs, the league and the agents and other representatives of players have all gotten their hands dirty over the years.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.