October 28, 2011

Live from New York, it’s…Game 6 of the World Series.

I debated whether I should give you a rousing introduction, packed with fake THIS IS LIFE OR DEATH FOR THE CARDS excitement, so you would get all pumped up to read (what I am sure will turn into) approximately 43 pages of baseball ridiculousness.  But I already mentioned how much I care about this World Series, so like? No point in being a phony bitch.  Instead, I promise you snark, unconnected references to fried chicken and beer, random musings about my love for Fat Elvis, unfounded cocaine rumors in Texas, and a semi-coherent recap with offensive color commentary.  We both win. Hopefully the Rangers will win, too.  Not because I care, but because they will prove me right (in my prediction). And then we can move on to college basketball accordingly, without feeling guilty for being done with baseball just because the Yankees are out of it.  I am still not bitter, I swear.  Here are tonight’s line-ups:

Texas:  1. Kinsler (2B), 2. Andrus (SS), 3. Hamilton (LF), 4. Young (1B), 5. Beltre (3B), 6. Cruz (RF), 7. Napoli (C), 8. Gentry (CF), 9. Lewis (P).

St. Louis: 1. Furcal (SS), 2. Schumaker (CF), 3. Pujols (1B), 4. Berkman (RF), 5. Holliday (LF), 6. Freese (3B), 7. Molina (C), 8. Punto (2B), 9. Garcia (P).

I mean, on paper, you have to give the edge to St. Louis.  If their line-up fired on all cylinders more often, they would be unbelievable.  But this is the post-season.  And tonight, as usual, will come down to pitching.  If I was Ron Washington, I would manage this game as if it was Game 7, because I do not want a championship to hinge on the weather-assisted, better-rested Chris Carpenter.  If that means a few extra lines in the clubhouse during the seventh-inning stretch, so be it. I’d already be dreaming about that big float with my little imposter.  And, of course, the celebratory eight-ball that my dealer brings me after we win.  Let’s do this.

October 27, 2011

I am being an Assclown for Halloween.

After much thought, I have decided to dress up as John Lackey for Halloween. I struggled with this decision for weeks - long before The Fabulous Penguin sent me the (fabulous) above-pictured e-card.  At first, I tried to convince my brother and my best friend/gay husband Carl to be Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, so that I could be a somewhat slutastic version of Hermione Granger.  (Come on. It is Halloween - a woman's excuse to sex up any costume from a Ziploc bag to a homeless person). Carl balked because, according to him, "Harry Potter can't be black." I vehemently disagreed and tried to persuade him with a wand and round glasses.  No luck.  That is when I came up with the idea of being John Lackey.  
Again, I tried to convince my brother and Carl to join me as Beckett and Lester, but they were not as excited about this as I was. The one thing stopping me was my refusal to spend money in any way that could be construed as support for the Sox. It is one thing to buy a "Suck it Boston" shirt, which I proudly wear all over the city; it's another thing entirely to purchase a genuine Red Sox hat. I would rather light a $20 bill on fire.  And I'd feel like a dirty whore wearing such a thing, even if just for Halloween. What if the Baseball Jesus senses my treason and it affects him psychologically? We can't have that.  So, out of pinstriped loyalty (and like most of Red Sox Nation), I gave up on John Lackey.

I wracked my brain for days trying to think of something better, but to no avail.  It eventually led to this conversation with Carl, from last night:
It made me laugh.  Carl would be the first person to tell you that there is very little about his life that has been "limited" - except for Halloween, apparently.  He is still undecided and I am still trying to persuade him that, black or not, he will make an excellent Josh Beckett.  I have less than four days to make this happen. Regardless, have no fear, I will post Halloween photos accordingly. 

Enjoy your Thursdays, stay out of the rain, and please check back tomorrow when there will (hopefully) be baseball to discuss.

UPDATE (7:14 p.m.): Major props to T Fab P, who suggested in the comments that Carl should be Big Papi for Halloween.  A fucking plus. 

October 26, 2011

Why Texas Should Win: A 5-Minute Debate with Myself.

The World Series is almost over, and I still had no idea who I wanted to win.  The Rangers are up 3-2, but with the way this whole shindig is going, it is almost impossible to tell who will come out on top.  Every time I have thought that, for sure, the Cardinals have it in their hands, they have fallen apart accordingly.  At the same time, whenever I have been convinced, undoubtedly, the Rangers have run out of magic, they pull one more trick out of their bat bags.  And now they are one win away from their first championship ever.  I cannot decide if I am happy about this or not.

So I made a list, pictured above. I gave myself five minutes - no more, no less - to write as many reasons as possible why I want each team to win. When the five minutes were up, I figured that I would clearly have an answer of some sort.  And I guess I came up with one.

Now let me explain why I am rooting for Texas, and why I think they will ultimately win the World Series tonight.

October 21, 2011

Sip, Down, Don’t Slurp: The Charm School Guide.

Surprisingly, this is not a post about the Boston Alcoholox, although I am sure that they could use the equivalent of charm school.  I recently watched A League of Their Own for the zillionth time.  I do not have to tell you that it is one of my favorite movies, because, well, I have previously gushed about Dottie Hinson and I use All-The-Way Mae Morbadito as my cyber-disguise. After I watched the movie, I was trying to remember exactly what Doris says when she is chasing Stilwell with the bat (“Evelyn, I’m sorry but I have to kill your son!”). While looking it up, I happened to notice that the movie was released in 1992, which makes next year, 2012, its 20th anniversary. Out of pure curiosity, I started to do some research – and I was enthralled. I began planning a ginormous commemorative post (or series of posts, I am still undecided) about the movie and, in particular, the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL).  That project is coming in the future, and although I didn’t bank on mentioning it yet, I promise it will be good; it is a topic very close to my heart. Anyway, in the process of doing further research last night, I came across a fabulous document.  One that I have to share and comment upon immediately.
I wish I could see the original document entitled “A Guide for All American Girls.” But the version posted here was republished from an original manual in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.  This guide included the rules for Charm School which, like A League of Their Own accurately portrayed, was mandatory during spring training for the first three seasons that the AAGBL existed.  As I read through the Charm School Guide, I realized that I really am like All-The-Way Mae, in that I would be infuriated if anyone actually expected me to take such “rules” seriously. (Also? We are both kind of drunk sluts, but who isn’t?).  The Guide is broken up into three parts: Beauty Routines, Clothes, and Etiquette.  As these are clearly vital attributes of a professional athlete, I am sure that Bud Selig distributes something similar today.  The Guide even came with a sassy and persuasive introduction, giving the “heroines of youngsters as well as grownups all over the world” just a few “simple and brief suggestions” which guaranteed to “prove useful to you during the busy baseball season.” After reading The Charm School Guide, I cannot overstate the absurdity of that sentence.  Posted in full below, my comments are in italics.

October 17, 2011

Happy Hour is over in Boston.

It is always 5 o’clock somewhere, particularly in the Red Sox clubhouse – according to the Boston Globe, that is.  Yes, John Lackey led a band of merry followers – including Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and to a lesser degree, Clay Buchholz – down a fried chicken-bricked road of video game playing and beer drankin’ fun all season, which culminated in the Sox epic collapse.  Tim Wakefield had the nerve to riff about the fans wanting to see another season of his lifeless knuckleball, while Jason Varitek wandered the showers aimlessly, confused that the “C” on his chest did not stand for compass. Big Papi broke up press conferences and questioned his manager. Kevin Youkalis is petulant and Jacoby Ellsbury hates everyone (except Jed Lowrie). Adrian Gonzalez has his Bible. Carl Crawford sucked. Everyone got fat. And all of this happened as Saint Pedroia flittered about the infield, and Terry Francona popped pills, lived out of a suitcase like an exorbitantly rich homeless person, and watched his marriage crumble much like his team.  The buffoons in Boston may love their chicken, but this was one finger lickin’ bad season for them.

I mean, more blood has been spilled here than on Curt Schilling’s infamous sock.  Tito had the balls to respond to the article and defend himself, unlike anyone else. He unequivocally denied that drug abuse or his marriage had anything to do with the Red Sox failures.  In fact, he said that he "worked harder and spent more time at the ballpark this year than [he] ever did." Sigh, is part of me amused by the chaos? Of course.  I love the turmoil. I love the collapse.  I love that Theo and Tito left, wrenching a stake into the heart of Red Sox Nation, ending an era of success, and pushing Boston back into a soap opera of failure.  But this article is merely a well-crafted sugar coating of alleged answers and scapegoats.  Since the season ended, there has been a vacuum of responsibility in the offices on Yawkey Way; this article just confirms it.  I do not doubt its veracity, simply its vitality.  All I know for sure is that the Red Sox are back to being better at the blame game than the one called baseball.

Let’s call it like it is. The Red Sox did not lose because of Colonel Sanders or Bud Light; they lost because their pitchers imploded and they couldn’t score runs. Their starters were atrocious down the stretch, clearly out of shape. But if the Sox had made the playoffs, these toxic details wouldn’t have come to light. I would even say that the stuff they are being trashed for now – beer, chicken, and video games – would be the very things heralded if they had won the World Series, like the Idiots before them.  If the Red Sox had made the playoffs, if they had won just two more games, the front office may have exercised Tito’s option and Theo may still be around. And rather than dissecting the season through failure-tinted glasses, it would be business as usual at Fenway Park. 

1.  The Fall Out in Fenway

It is really sad that it came to this.  I may hate the Red Sox, but I love our rivalry.  These douchebags won two championships in the past seven years for god’s sake.  Their owners became rich, their manager became Hall-of-Fame famous, their GM became heralded as a genius, and their players became worshipped across the country as superstars.  Everyone “won.” Somewhere between 2004 and 2011, as they tried to mimic the Yankees, the Red Sox achieved the impossible – they became both an Evil Empire and the Mets, all at once.  They are unlikable and overpaid underachievers without a hint of personality.  Whether it was a loss of priorities, a lack of focus or chemistry, pure laziness, or a series of poor decision making, the Red Sox turned away from what made them great.  I won’t call it a dynasty, but I will call it an era.  And this era came to an abrupt and shocking end. 

Just as Fenway is about to celebrate its birthday, 100 years strong, the team that plays inside it is falling apart.  In one short September, the Red Sox erased a decade of success and good will.  They had a classy manager admired throughout baseball, who then had his personal life splashed across the front page. They had a whiz kid magician in Theo Epstein, who bolted one disaster for another.  And now they are stuck with a disgraceful (albeit talented) roster, as well as a vindictive, petty, and arrogant front office.  This should be a special period in franchise history, a time to celebrate its vast accomplishments.  A time to remember Dave Roberts’ steal and Jon Lester beating cancer and a curse that no longer exists  Instead, the Sox have refused to accept responsibility or deal with the lingering issues of the 2011 collapse; and in doing so, they have undermined the organization’s credibility and character.  Rather than celebrating, the Red Sox are effectively starting over.   

It begs the question: how did this happen? How did the Red Sox, called “the greatest team ever,” become the exact opposite of everything for which they once stood? I know the Boston Globe, and its many anonymous sources, would like us to believe it was all because John Lackey is an evil fatass and Terry Francona is a depressed addict.  But this was not investigative journalism; it was a laundry list of speculation and excuses.  I mean, was it really necessary to riff that Tito may have been distracted because he has sons in the military?  And if this article really explains why the Red Sox fell apart, why didn’t any reporter mention its details during the season?  Josh Beckett didn’t gain 20 pounds overnight.  The position players and pitchers did not just start a cold war during September. Tito did not just begin living in a hotel.  Strangely, Bob Hohler, the journalist who wrote the article, is an investigative reporter, not a sports writer.  Was Peter Abraham incapable of discovering any of this information during the year – when it actually mattered – or was he just too afraid to piss off the players he writes about every day?  It is hard not to question the motives behind this explosive piece and wonder, who is really to blame for the Red Sox collapse? (Lots more after the jump...)

October 14, 2011

The Yankees Have Cheap Hotdogs.

Well, hot dogs at the Stadium are cheap, at least comparatively speaking.  So last week, the guys at The Webstaurant Store sent me this very cool info-graphic about the prices of beer, hot dogs, and tickets at baseball stadiums across the country (click on the link to see a bigger version).  I was really impressed, so I asked how they went about creating it. Using statistics and information from the teammarketing.com annual report, they relied upon “average income and hourly wage to try and get a fair comparison of prices.” From there, they played around with pricing displays until they had a good representation of cities and team.s  Personally, I think it is so cool looking that they are wasting their talents by selling restaurant supplies on the internet. 

I have to run, but an epic post about Boston's epic collapse will be up as soon as I am done writing it.  Until then, I hope you all have a great Friday and an even better weekend.

October 12, 2011

This made me laugh.

Too damn funny.  God, I don't know if anything could possibly top this today. Oh, wait...

Off to court, back in a few hours.  Enjoy your morning, guys!

October 11, 2011

The Best I Have Ever Seen.

The worst part about losing is that when it's over, it's over. You can replay each inning, each at-bat, each foul ball in your head and wonder "what if?" But when it's over, it's over.  And the Yankees season is over. The weird part is that I am not angry about it; I am just disappointed. The Yankees deserved to lose Game 5 of the ALDS. When you have the bases loaded - not once, but twice - and you fail to score meaningful runs or capitalize in any regard, it is your own damn fault for losing. Criticize Joe Girardi all you want for his quick bullpen trigger finger, but after Ivan Nova gave up two first-inning home runs, Detroit only scored one additional run – off of CC Sabathia no less. The Yankees failed because their bats went silent when we most needed them. The middle of our lineup was particularly atrocious (we are not scapegoating or ganging up on you, ARod. We all just hate you that much).  Other than untimely and unclutch hitting, the Yankees would have – and should have – won.  Simply put, the ALDS was not the best baseball I have ever seen.  And that is why I thought the following was the perfect segue and perfect ending to an otherwise incredible season…

My very good friend, mentor, and fellow sports fanatic, the Fabulous Penguin, is the author of the excellent Borg Baseball Blog.  He recently wrote a compelling piece about the Yankees’ season, which very much echoed my own thoughts.  That said, what makes his blog different than most baseball-related websites is that The Fabulous Penguin writes from the perspective of a life-long fan – someone who has followed the Yankees for decades, who understands the game, how it has changed, and how it can be improved.  He offers a view that most writers, myself included, cannot share, because we simply do not have the experience or knowledge to provide the context that he can.   He wows me with stories about the time he met Yogi Berra, about individual playoff games he saw at the old Stadium, or my personal favorite, about when he met a wasted Mickey Mantle at the airport as a kid.  You can read countless articles about historic baseball events, and you can follow hundreds of current baseball blogs, but very few of them capture the sport like The Fabulous Penguin does.  His blog is funny and down-to-earth, and I urge you all to check it out.  

I asked the Fabulous Penguin if he would write something for CDTF, so that I could give everyone a taste of what makes his blog so special.  I am humbled by his response, which provides a better example than any glowing introduction I could have written, and I am honored to post it here.

The Best I Have Ever Seen
Dear Son,

I just wanted to thank you for helping to organize the trip down to New York City this summer to see a game at the new Yankee Stadium. You know that when I was your age and lived in New York, I used to go to games all the time, but living in Massachusetts makes for a long trip, so I can no longer go as often as I would like. But this was a special day and getting a large group of our friends and family together on a Sunday afternoon to watch a game was just great.  You also know that if there is one thing I love to do, it is talk baseball and this was a prime time to discuss all manners of the game with said friends and family, especially you.  Although you were born in Massachusetts, I made sure to never prod you about what team to follow. Thankfully, all of those nights watching games on TV (thanks to the MLB Extra Inning package) ended up pointing you in the right direction. That, plus a bunch of World Series wins and making the playoffs each year, helped us both in a positive way.  

So, there we were at the Stadium and you said to me “I’ve never been at a game where something important happened.”  You had said this soon after we were having a discussion with JHop, when she mentioned being at the Stadium when Jeter got his 3000th hit.  I continued to think about this exchange during the top of the ninth inning, when Mariano Rivera came in to protect a slim lead and earn a save. As I watched this unfold, I was reminded that in my baseball watching life (1961 to the present), I have personally seen many great players but I wondered who I consider “the best.”

Mantle and Mays came to mind first, but by the time I understood the ins-and-outs of the game, both were in the declining portion of their careers, ravished by age and injury.  I thought about guys like Greg Maddux or ARod, or Pujols or Derek Jeter. I have been lucky enough to see some really great players, superstars even, but “the best ever” is a mighty tough title to place on an individual. I even considered Pete Rose. But sorry, gambling on baseball, on and against your own team and then lying about it, brings you down a whole lot of notches in my book. And then my mind turned to Mariano Rivera, the skinny Panamanian kid with one pitch, who almost singlehandedly revolutionized the set-up role and even more spectacularly, the closer role. THE Mariano Rivera, who at the advanced baseball age of 41, continues to be a top-level relief pitcher each and every performance.  Who more would you want to see on the mound with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, be it on a cold windy April day or the seventh game of the World Series? Did you know he started almost 70 games in the minors and 10 more with the Yankees in 1995 before he moved to the bullpen? No one could have predicted just how great he would become. 

The thing, however, that impresses me the most, which marks him in my mind as the greatest, is just how humble he is. He accepts blame for mistakes, something most superstars seem to have forgotten how to do, and he deflects individual praise towards the rest of his team. You would never hear him say that a player should have caught that ball and you would never see him exhibit the histrionics so prevalent in Major League Baseball today. What you will hear him say, over and over again, is how much he thanks God for his skills and how much he appreciates his teammates for theirs. When he makes a mistake on the mound or loses a game or blows a save, he walks off of the field still proud and confident and humble. Yes, I have seen a lot of good ballplayers, great ones too, but none of them is as great as Mariano – as a player, a pitcher, and perhaps more importantly, a person.

So son, you have watched many games on TV and you have been to quite a few, too. But in Mariano, you have gotten to see someone extraordinary, someone truly great. Indeed, you have seen “something important.”  You have gotten to watch this man play baseball.  But you have also seen what it means to be a man.  Someday, I hope you will tell your own son about him. And I hope that he, too, can begin to understand what “the best” is all about.


October 5, 2011

Thank Jesus (and Company): A Season Still on the Brink.

Oh AJ. After I recovered from my first inning anxiety attack, you really got your shit together and settled down. You should, of course, thank Curtis Granderson for his spectacular defense, the Baseball Jesus for his clutch RBIs, and rookie Jesus Montero for his first post-season hits. Jesus is now batting 1.000. And as my very good friend The Fabulous Penguin told me: 
Behind heroics from AJ and our pinstriped amigos, the Yankees beat the Tigers 10-1 last night in a must-win Game 4. I watched the game at my favorite Irish pub in New York, Biddy Early's, where, with a $10 pitcher of Coors Light, you can play beer pong and have one of the best cheeseburgers in the city. But I was too nervous for beer pong or cheeseburgers last night.  I was with a really random, terrific group of people - my brother, the psychic, some fantasy football guys, a hilarious Cardinals fan, my good friend Monika who I call the Magical Elf (because she looks simply incredible for her age), my very good friend and fellow Yankees fan Chris, Chris's super cool fashion-blogging girlfriend, and my best friend/gay husband/kickball captain Carl.  Baseball aside, I had such a great time. And I thank everyone for bringing their karma, luck, good will, psychic powers, and sarcasm to the bar.  You all better be there again on Thursday.  That is a threat. 

Since I did not eat dinner, I was drunk by about the fourth inning.  That was around the same time when Chris leaned over and whispered to me, “Shhhh….AJ is throwing a shutout.”  As soon as he stopped speaking, Victor Martinez immediately hit a homerun.  The score was 2-1 and I was still freaking out.  My heart rate did not decrease until the fifth inning, when the Yankees went ahead 4-1 on Granderson’s double and ARod’s sac fly.  I was happily tipsy, although not entirely confident, for the next three innings.  In the eighth, however, the Yankees opened up the game.  We sent 11 batters to the plate; ARod, who had been hitless in the ALDS, got two singles in the same inning; Jesus Montero entered the game and proceeded to hit an RBI-single in his first post-season at-bat; and by the time the eighth was over, the Yankees had a nine-run lead and I was pretty much wasted.  I don’t really care about the details, the final score, or that AJ initially scared the crap out of me. All that matters is that the Yankees forced Game 5 and the ALDS is headed back to the Bronx, bitches.
We left the bar around midnight and stumbled home.  My younger brother was so drunk that he missed my apartment door and walked into the wall.  I decided that I was finally hungry at 2:00 a.m. and made a cheeseburger – which I proceeded to eat while sitting on my kitchen floor.  I do not know if I just didn’t want to wait until I made it to the living room or if I could not physically make it to the living room, but either way, I ate my burger on the floor and then passed out while watching SportsCenter.  I woke up this morning, shockingly not hungover, and looked at Twitter, only to see that I had posted about twenty tweets that I do not remember writing. I learned last night that: 1) AJ Burnett is not the devil; 2) Jesus Montero really can hit; 3) I still hate Rafael Soriano; and 4) Twitter is extremely dangerous for drunk people.  This must be why there are so many “hacking scandals” – celebrities wake up, think “holy fuck, why did I write that?!,” and then they just deny, deny, deny.  I was all prepared to fabricate a similar hacking scandal, but my tweets were surprisingly tame, laced only with arrogance and glee.  I went to the office still flying high.  And I could not be more excited for tomorrow night. 

October 4, 2011

A Season on the Brink

After 165 hard-fought games, it all comes down to AJ Burnett.

Those, my friends, are words that should never be written. And they are words that did not have to be written. Nevertheless, it scares the hell out of me. Before Game 3, I was in the camp that thought we should save CC for today, rather than waste our ace and our best chance of winning on Justin Verlander. To match Verlander, CC (or, for that matter, any pitcher) had no room for error – and last night, after a rough first inning, Verlander was absolutely dominant. His fastball kept picking up speed, his breaking ball was dropping out of the zone, and our hitters looked totally clueless at times. In particular, Robinson Cano looks like he is back to his old, undisciplined ways; he was swinging at everything, in or out of the strike zone. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher have been practically useless, at least offensively speaking.

In spite of this, it is not the players who pissed me off last night, but Joe Girardi - both with his decision to start CC, but more so with his decision to allow CC to start the sixth inning. He was already gassed in the fifth inning, if not earlier, and he did not have his sharp control to begin with; Girardi should have recognized this and gone to the bullpen. I mean, I get it. He trusts the big guy, I normally do, too. But last night, CC just did not have it. Also, by “bullpen,” I do not mean that Girardi should have pitched Rafael Fucking Soriano for more than one inning. Soriano has been an epic $9 million fail all season long. I do not know how you justify giving him the ball for five outs now. Where was David Robertson? Where was Phil Hughes? Where was anyone except Rafael Soriano? It left me disgusted that he lost the game.

Sigh. It doesn’t even matter now. The Yankees are down 2-1 in the ALDS.  And tonight, with the whole season on the line, it all comes down to AJ Burnett. God help us.

October 3, 2011

Fish Out of Water: The Curious Case of Leo Nunez, Closer for the Florida Marlins

The pitcher we know as Leo Nunez made $3.6 million last year. He is third on the Marlins’ all-time saves list and should earn around $6 million next season – that is, if he is allowed to play baseball again. When my two worlds collide – obsessing over baseball and moonlighting as an immigration attorney – I almost feel obligated to write about it, because it is usually something rare and scandalous. But the only thing scandalous about what happened to Leo Nunez is that he is a somewhat high-profile athlete – and he got caught. Because, otherwise? This shit happens to regular people every day. That is why I am particularly interested in the outcome of his case; I am very curious to see if he will be treated like a regular immigrant, like any one of my hundreds of clients, or if Nunez will be magically waltzed through our complicated, strict, and often punitive immigration process.

But we should start at the beginning.  Leo Nunez, the erratic closer for the Florida Marlins, was born in the Dominican Republic as Juan Carlos Oviedo; he is actually 29, a year older than his official team documents state.  About 11 or 12 years ago, right before Nunez signed his first contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was advised by a coach to fraudulently alter his name and age so that he would increase his value to Major League Baseball and his chances of being signed.  In an almost admirable way, Oviedo chose the name of his best friend from childhood – Leonel Nunez Morales – before falsifying all of his documents and immigrating to the United States. “Juan Carlos Oviedo” became little more than a memory. 

That is, a memory that would come back to viciously bite Leo Nunez in the ass.  Recently, in the beginning of September, Nunez ran into a problem – one of his relatives passed away and he needed to return to the Dominican Republic.  He could not explain, however, why he needed to go to the funeral of someone with the last name of Oviedo.  And the Marlins began to catch on to his fraud.  When he went to the consulate to obtain a new passport, he used his genuine identity documents to do so – and then flew back to Santo Domingo under his real name.  He must have known that he was in a world of trouble, because he voluntarily came forward on September 7th and admitted to Dominican investigators what he had done.  He now faces criminal charges in the DR, he has been placed on MLB’s restricted list, and he has been removed from the Marlins’ roster.  A man named Hector Bienvenido Pena has also been arrested in connection with the investigation for providing false birth certificates to Nunez and several other people.  
Before we turn to the immigration consequences of his actions, I think it is important to ask: what would you do for $6 million?  If your family was living in total poverty; if your only hope was to make about $150-200/month, the average salary in the Dominican Republic; if a few typos on some documents when you were a teenager could become the equivalent of a lottery ticket? I am not advocating for fraud or deception; I am simply highlighting the vast socioeconomic differences between a little boy in the United States playing little league and a little boy in Latin America, both with the same big dreams.  The Dominican Republic provides Major League Baseball with more players than any other country.  From a very young age, boys are guided by “buscones,” or personal trainers and coaches, who help showcase them to professional scouts (and, of course, earn percentages of whatever their eventual signing bonuses are).  The younger the player, the more valuable he is; one year of age could cost someone hundreds of thousands of dollars. So it makes sense, then, to cut corners.  These players have nothing to lose, except the poverty they come from and the families they leave behind.  The promise of a better life, the American dream, is often worth the risk.  And I can’t say that I necessarily blame them. 

I mean, how can we blame the players when Major League Baseball is complicit in the charade?  The Marlins knew about the Nunez drama sometime in early September – yet he was still pitching at the end of the season.  If he had not come forward on his own accord, would the team have disclosed the information?  It clearly was not in their interests to share his secret.  Do we really expect a team to pass up the next potential superstar because his birth certificate can’t be formally authenticated? Especially if the next potential superstar is some poor kid from the Dominican Republic who will never demand the type of signing bonus that an entitled American college kid now expects?
Representatives from the MLB Office in Santo Domingo.
It is not like this is a new problem to baseball.  In fact, it is such a big problem that, in 2000, the League opened an office in Santo Domingo to work with the local government and review forged documents.  After 9/11, when the United States went crazy with visa scrutiny, more than 500 players were discovered to be using false names or ages – almost half were from the Dominican Republic.  In response, Major League Baseball offered a form of amnesty to foreign-born players in 2008: if you confessed to using fraudulent documents, a minor-leaguer would be suspended for one season, while a major-leaguer’s punishment would be determined on a case-by-case basis.  I am not sure how this worked with our immigration authorities, but all-in-all, it seemed like a very fair deal.  I am sure the possibility of suspension and the loss of livelihood acted as a severe deterrent, but it was most definitely better than the alternative – the situation that the Artist Formerly Known as Leo Nunez now finds himself in. 

Please remember – this is not a case of mistaken identity, but a willful and purposefully fraudulent hidden identity.  There is a huge difference. From the very beginning, over a decade ago, Leo Nunez intentionally falsified his visa documents to travel to the United States; he has continued to falsify them every time he has had to renew his papers or file a different application.  I will not pretend to know the individual facts of Leo Nunez’s immigration case.  I do not know what type of visa he originally had; I do not know if he obtained permanent residency (his green card); I do not know if he has criminal convictions; and I do not know if he has any relatives in the United States who are citizens or permanent residents.  So I am analyzing this with a limited set of information. 
That said, under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any alien who “by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact, seeks to procure, has sought to procure, or has procured a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit” is inadmissible to this country, meaning they are not permitted to enter. Such misrepresentation can include using a fake name or birthday, pretending to be single or married, or lying about your criminal past.  In Leo Nunez’s case, he willfully misrepresented his name and date of birth by using fraudulent documents and then obtained permission and entry to the United States.  The foundation of his entire immigration history is nothing more than a sham.  And, trust me, the Department of Homeland Security (and the Department of State) hates liars. 

Nunez, who is currently in the Dominican Republic, now needs a visa, or permission, to be admitted back into the United States.  He has a passport under his real name, Juan Carlos Oviedo, and most likely a visa under his assumed name (if that visa hasn’t already been revoked).  Normally, if I had a client in Nunez’s position – someone who committed fraud, left the country, and now wants to return to the United States – he would require a Waiver of Inadmissibility.  This would be the only way for him to be issued a new and proper visa.  If he tried to re-enter without one, he would probably be detained at the airport and then placed into removal proceedings before the Immigration Court; or, he would just be sent back to the Dominican Republic on the next available flight.  The specific type of waiver would be dependent upon whether Nunez plans to re-enter the country as an immigrant or non-immigrant.  Since we do not have that information, we will assume that Nunez would apply as an immigrant, or someone who plans to obtain his green card in the future, for the purposes of this post. Thus, to be eligible for a waiver, an immigrant must have a qualifying relative – either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent – who would face “extreme hardship” if the alien was refused admission into the United States.  See INA § 212(i).  “Extreme hardship” is not a simple phrase with a clear-cut explanation; instead, it involves a careful balancing of numerous positive and negative factors. These factors include everything from time of residence in the United States, qualifying family members, criminal history, employment history, previous immigration violations, and a laundry list of other variables.  It is an extremely high standard, but if met, it would waive whatever fraud or misrepresentation had been committed by the alien.  
As I mentioned, the only way Leo Nunez can receive this waiver is if he has a spouse or parent in the United States, with lawful status, who will severely suffer without him.  Notice that I did not write “spouse, parent or child.”  For whatever fucked up reason, children do not count towards hardship in this situation. So even if Nunez has American children here, even if he supports a baby mama and is Father of the Year, even if those children will most definitely suffer without him, they do not count towards establishing “extreme hardship.”  Usually, you must prove that a qualifying relative has a serious medical condition, or cannot work or support themselves.  In terms of immigration, this is a really terrible position to be in.  The waiver requires ample evidence of “extreme hardship,” and they are often very difficult to get approved.  Our government is not going to be excited to issue another visa to someone who had lied to obtain status here for over a decade.  The only way Leo Nunez should obtain a visa is if he can demonstrate that some American relative, only a parent or spouse, needs him here that badly.  Simply put, fraud and misrepresentation have disastrous immigration consequences. 

But Leo Nunez is a professional baseball player, an athlete of extraordinary ability, who makes millions of dollars every year.  I am extremely curious to see how this plays out and if any strings are pulled to get him back on the mound in Florida.  Only time will tell.  But until then, and if you are reading this, Leo – please give me a call.  I am confident that I can get you back to blowing saves for the Marlins by the 2012 season.