Amidst three hours of meetings with Dominican baseball officials, trainers, and scouts last Thursday, MLB Dominican office boss Sandy Alderson gave a description of his work on the island to Yahoo's Jeff Passan in terms extending beyond talk of steroids, bonus-skimming and age fraud. His goals also included winning over the Dominican baseball community's proverbial hearts and minds.
"It's trying to convince people of what the mission here is and that my goal is really a constructive one," Alderson said. "I'm here to preserve what baseball and the Dominican Republic have while, at the same time, eliminating those problems that cast baseball, and the Dominican Republic itself, in a negative way." By these standards, the results of a busy week of meetings and press conferences were mixed at best, as Alderson won over some former critics to his vision of reform and left others firmer and louder in their opposition.
On the positive side, he met with Dominican journalists on Thursday and insisted that the oft-expressed fears of the Dominican Republic ending up a second-tier MLB talent source such as Puerto Rico were unfounded, due to fundamental differences in the islands' respective politics, baseball culture, and, of course, the immense investments made by MLB franchises in the Dominican Republic. This explanation won over Listin Diario baseball columnist Mario Emilio Guerrero, who had previously labeled Alderson's ideas "a stab to the heart of Dominican baseball" and tied them to anti-Latino racism. In a new column this Sunday, Guerrero said he would now "give Alderson the benefit of the doubt," assured that implementing the draft was not one of his foremost priorities.
On the negative side, protests continued outside of MLB's offices in Santo Domingo, as did calls for increased government presence in the proceedings. More pointedly, the week also saw an escalation in the conflict between MLB and Dominican scouts, and a preview of the form that conflict will likely take in the future. In response to fears that they were being shut out of the reform conversation, scouts and trainers utilized perhaps the only substantive recourse they could take against a billion-dollar sports league with an imperial grip on their national economy. They hid the goods.
More specifically, scouts barred members of the Major League Scouting Bureau from evaluating players at several recent exhibitions on the island. One scout who had been included in Alderson's meetings told Yahoo's Passan that the response reeked of raw panic, but the powerplay took on a more strategic air on Wednesday, when MLB responded in kind, shutting down a Dominican Prospect League game at the San Francisco Giants' complex in Boca Chica.
The DPL is an upstart four-team league launched last November to show off prospects in live games rather than through the ubiquitous Major League tryout. Indians manager Manny Acta and Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman sit on its advisory board, and the league has been praised by teams' scouts and produced a handful of signings. As recently as January, MLB vice president of international baseball operations Lou Melendez told MLB.com, "the league is well-run and organized, and the concept is a good one," and labeled MLB an "interested observer" in the DPL's progress.
That observation took on a different tone last week, according to an email from DPL president Brian Mejia to MLB Trade Rumors, when Alderson told him that the DPL would not be allowed to use any MLB-affiliated fields unless the scouting bureau was given access as well, and that teams may be directed not to attend DPL showcases in the future. A Friday meeting between DPL officials, Alderson and other MLB executives, Dominican Secretary of Sports Jay Payano, and a handful of independent scouts proved no more fruitful, according to Mejia. "We left the meeting with MLB's plan but no input was allowed by any part," he wrote. "We basically agreed to disagree."
Mejia said he and representatives for Dominican scouts will meet with MLB officials again in the coming week to address the impasse. Alderson told reporters on Thursday, "We value the contributions (buscones) make and we understand they're in a position where they can help," but he also defended the league's action at the Giants' complex to Hoy's Dionisio Soldevila, saying the scouting bureau is a reality, and if Dominican scouts want access to team academies they will have no choice but to adapt.