the man who signed off on Mo Vaughn’s disastrous Mets tenure has some
criticisms regarding Major League Baseball recruitment in the Dominican
Republic, fans in Flushing might not be particularly inclined to hear him out. In fact, Bobby Valentine, whose Red Sox are
currently two and a half games back in the wild card race (as of yesterday),
never appears on camera, but he serves as the above-the-title executive
producer of Ross Finkel, Jon Paley, and Trevor Martin’s documentary, Ballplayer (Pelotero), which opens this
Friday in New York (trailer
fireworks come two days early in the D.R.
July 2nd is the first day MLB teams can sign prospective
young Dominican players. Young is the
right term too, considering eligibility starts at age sixteen. Indeed, age is something scouts and agents
obsess over—the younger the player, the higher the signing bonus. Questions regarding their true age will dog
two players the Guagua Productions team follows as the signing season kick-off
approaches and passes.
Angel Sanó looks like a multi-tool sure thing.
However, the MLB’s Dominican office has initiated an investigation to
determine whether the athlete is really sixteen or possibly seventeen years of
age. He undergoes all manner of tests
including bone density scans, the results of which are all consistent with a
finding of sixteen years, but are deemed inconclusive by the league. Unfortunately, the prolonged inquiry scares
otherwise interested suitors away from Sanó.
Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Battista, a promising player not quite of Sanó’s
caliber, has rejected a $300,000 signing bonus, hoping to holdout for a better
seems to be something seriously awry with the League’s business and
investigational practices in the Dominican, but the film’s observational format
limits its effectiveness as an expose.
Focusing solely on the players and their inner circles, none of the
filmmakers ever march a camera into the MLB office to ask where the Sanó
inquiry stands. Given the opportunity,
someone could have explained what MLB required to close the case file or they might
have stonewalled like Eric Holder at a Fast-and-Furious hearing. Either way, it would have been revealing.
Ballplayer clearly implies Pittsburg Pirates
scout Rene Gayo is the villain behind Sanó’s woes. Yet, for all the questions it raises about
MLB practices, it lets the Dominican government completely off the hook. Regardless of the legitimate questions raised
about the League’s recruitment operations, there is something profoundly wrong
about a national economy in which a young person’s hopes of success are solely
dependent on their ability to hit, throw, or catch a baseball.
If nothing else, Gayo certainly gets the Sixty Minutes treatment in Ballplayer. The filmmakers’ choice of POV figures also
offers an unexpectedly effective counterpoint, underscoring the murky way sport
and business intersect in the D.R. Though
it should have probed a bit deeper, Ballplayer
is an intriguing sports doc, fully aware of the moral complexity of the given
situation. Recommended for viewers of
HBO’s Real Sports and ESPN’s 50 for 50 series, it opens this Friday
(7/13) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Bobby Valentine, Documentary, Sports films