(Note – well, no WONDER the Pirates haven’t officially announced Herrera’s signing yet. Talk about bad timing and bad PR – geez.)
U.S. Department of Justice
October 31, 2006
FIVE CHARGED IN CONSPIRACY TO
SMUGGLE PROSPECTIVE BASEBALL PLAYERS FROM CUBA
R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), Rear Admiral David W. Kunkel, Commander 7th Coast Guard District, and John Beutlich, Director, Air Operation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine, announced today that five individuals, including a sports agent who represents major league baseball players, have been charged in a Superseding Indictment for their participation in a scheme to smuggle prospective major league baseball players into the United States from Cuba. Charged in the 53-count Indictment are defendants Geoffrey Rodrigues, Robert Yosvany Hernandez, Gustavo "Gus" Dominguez, Ramon Batista, and Guillermo Valdez.
The Indictment charges all five defendants with a conspiracy to bring aliens illegally into the United States, transporting the aliens in violation of law, and concealing and harboring the aliens from detection, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Dominguez, Rodrigues, and Hernandez are separately charged with alien smuggling, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). Rodrigues is charged with assaulting United States Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction Agents, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 111(a)(1) and (b). Lastly, defendants Dominguez, Batista, and Valdez are accused of transporting, concealing and harboring from detection the illegal aliens, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Sections 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii) and (iii).
The alien smuggling conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. The assault of a federal officer carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. The alien smuggling, transporting of aliens, harboring, and concealing aliens charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.
As alleged in the Superseding Indictment, the conspirators engaged in two separate smuggling ventures to bring into the United States several prospective major league baseball players and other Cuban nationals. Dominguez is a sports agent and the vice-president of a corporation in California that represents professional baseball players. The Superseding Indictment alleges that Dominguez financed the smuggling ventures and paid his co-conspirators for their participation in the scheme. The Superseding Indictment also alleges that the defendants attempted to smuggle and actually smuggled prospective major league baseball players into the United States from Cuba in order to profit from representing the players.
Defendants Geoffrey Rodrigues and Gustavo Dominguez first attempt to smuggle Cuban nationals into the United States was July 28, 2004. According to the charges, the defendants traveled on a boat in the high seas from Monroe County to Cuba and boarded twenty-two (22) Cuban nationals, including several baseball players (Counts 2- 23). This boat was intercepted by law enforcement prior to arriving in the United States. Defendant Rodriguez is charged with assaulting federal officers using a deadly weapon during this encounter (Count 24).
Thereafter, on August 22 2004, defendants Rodriguez and Dominguez repeated their efforts to smuggle nineteen (19) Cuban nationals into the United States. Many of the passengers on this trip had been on the failed July 28, 2004 venture. This time, however, the defendants successfully reached land in Monroe County (Counts 25-43). Defendants Rodrigues and Hernandez were the masters and operators of the go-fast boats used in the two smuggling ventures.
According to the charges, after arriving in Monroe County, defendants Batista and Valdez transported the Cuban baseball players in a rented van from Florida to Los Angeles, California. In California, the defendants rented an apartment for the baseball players and provided food and clothing for them. The defendants immediately began training and conditioning the baseball players and failed to present the baseball players to Customs and Border Protection for immigration processing in the United States.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, "Whatever the motivation, alien smuggling is a crime that endangers the lives and safety of migrants and our law enforcement agents alike. We will continue to aggressively prosecute these matters."
"Though this case involves a Beverly Hills sports agent and talented baseball players, it is remarkably similar to the human smuggling operations that ICE encounters every day. The ringleaders put the lives of illegal immigrants at risk and sought to profit from their labor. It is unfortunate that those who claim to support Major League Baseball taint America’s pastime with these illegal human smuggling operations," said ICE Assistant Secretary Myers.
"With close cooperation from our law enforcement partners, we have struck a severe blow to professional smugglers, and put them out of business," said Captain Michael Jett, Chief of Enforcement Branch for the Seventh Coast Guard District.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Customs and Border Protection – Office of Air and Marine Operations. In addition, Acosta thanked Major League Baseball officials for their cooperation during this investigation. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Daniel.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
It turns out Herrera has been waiting for a visa for the last 2 years. The Treasury Department had him blocked entering the US and obtaining a visa as they do it to keep Cuban/American relations cool after a defection.
Littlefield is quoting that Herrera ran up a 18-7, 3.72 record in Cuba but dang if I can find those stats anywhere. Baseball America is also reporting those stats, but they seem to be incorrect unless the Cuban papers didn’t cover all the games, which is doubtful. All of the stats I show from Cuban papers (like this one from the final year in 2002) indicate a less significant record and a much higher ERA.
BA is usually right so I’ll believe what they are stating. There are two seasons in Cuba and I guess I missed a boatload of stats in 2004. (I hope). If true, and knowing Cuba is well known for their offensive talents, Herrera must have really had an outstanding 2004.
The media has also said he was a member of the 2004 Cuban Summer Olympic National Team but I can’t find proof of that anywhere, including the official IOC site or any of the medal database sites. I read he was injured and removed from the roster. Who knows on this one.
It has been reported that Herrera is getting ‘significant’ money from the Pirates. What that is I haven’t a clue, but I will guess it to be in the $12m+ over three year range.
The only thing holding the signing up is a physical the organization has said, but since the Pirates don’t look deep, I doubt this will be any problem.
This is really a curious signing. With Bullington and Van Benschoten purportedly close, you have to wonder what Littlefield is up to. Is he acknowledging Johnny V and Bullington are out of the picture for the next few years? Is Littlefield finally getting a brain and going to shop Snell while he is at his high point?
And, how much time will Herrera need? Contreras needed 250+ innings before he turned his game around and became a pitcher.
None of this makes sense. We’ll have to see what Littlefield says at the press conference but I doubt we’ll really get anything worthwhile from it.
Dave Littlefield continued his thirsty quest to add a 2004/2005 Hideo Nomo clone to the roster and achieved that today by acquiring Cuban defector Yuslan Herrera.
Herrera, 25, 6′ 2" and 200 lbs, has been out of baseball for awhile because of a "nasty" suspension he received (caught trying to defect possibly?). So nasty I couldn’t even find the reason for it.
In 2002, and as a 21-year old, he was a reliever for the "pine on the river" (Pinar del Rio) club where he had an 8.31 ERA in 17 innings of work, walking 8 and striking out 8. Not a very good ratio to be sure. In 2003, he started a few games and did about as poor a job. In 2004 he was left off the Cuban roster for the Olympics because of an injury.
Like Nomo, he is a ‘fringy’ fastball (88 – 92 mph), sinker, and plus curveball pitcher. While that sounds good, Herrera is projected to be a #4 starter in his best years and probably a #5 or #6 in the NLCD. His batting average allowed was over .340 in Cuban ball and I’m sure he won’t do much better than that at PNC Park.
I see this as a PR signing to sell tickets. He is a guy who the fans can put some hope behind because they don’t know anything about him but who has trouble finding the plate like Perez and trouble giving up home runs like Fogg.
On top of that, the Pirates field one of the worst defensive teams in major league baseball so, to add another pitcher that forces the Pirates to rely on the conversion of balls in play to outs, is simply a joke, especially in the vast confines of PNC.
To top it off, he is yet another sinkerball pitcher who never pitched in cold weather. Putting him on the mound in April and May in Pittsburgh and expecting his sinker to sink will be like asking Jason Bay to catch. Forget it. Then add on the fact he hasn’t pitched in two years and Littlefield expects him to make the rotation in 2007 is just plain nuts.
Unless Littlefield expects to add this cat to the pen in 2007, I don’t understand why we even wasted our time signing him. If Herrera is our magical new right hand starting pitcher for 2007, we are in deep do-do.
Have your fears been expoited?
Have we lied our way into war?
Who is going to pay?
Are checks and balances a thing of the past?
A self-licking ice cream cone?
Are we on a collision course?
Tired of double-speak?
Tired of absolute power?
Don’t want to hear anymore?
On November 7th, you finally have a chance to take back the capitol.
Visit Take Back the Capitol! to learn more.
Remember when Jeff Suppan was a free agent and signed with the Pirates in 2003 for $1m after earning $4m in 2002 with the Royals?
He was one of numerous players whose agents started whispering the "C" word.. collusion.
Players union head Donald Fehr acknowledged in 2003 there was a concern:
"When you have changes in the market, what you do is, you look at the market, gather evidence, evaluate it, and then you form an opinion," Fehr said.
MLB shot back:
"Any suggestion there was collusion in this market is ridiculous," says Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s vice president for labor relations. "There was extensive activity and competitive bidding documented on all sorts of free agents."
Maury Brown is reporting that Bud Selig left out one agreement reached under the new CBA:
"It is being reported, that as part of the new agreement, payments have been awarded to the players after some 50 grievances were filed regarding collusion during the 2002 free agency period. The total dollar figure of the payments is reported to be $12 million."
I suppose we can’t blame Littlefield as 2002 was his rookie year in office. But agents don’t forget and it goes a long way explaining why the Pirates have such a hard time getting quality players signed in Pittsburgh..
.. the "C" word.
To say the Pirates had a defensive hole in right field is a mild understatement. Overall, the Pirates were -14 defensive runs in one system, -26 DR in another, and -17 in still a third. Considering the team as a whole was -70 runs defensively last year, -14 runs in RF means 20% of the runs we gave up were in right field alone. That’s more than a hole – that’s a Grand Canyon gap.
Look at the player’s numbers off of one of the more conservative defensive rating systems that uses range as its baseline (DR = Defensive Runs):
In my own system that uses ball in play data, I had:
That’s a pretty poor showing for our right fielders, no matter whose system you look at.
Littlefield has suggested he wants a power bat at 1B or RF for 2007. He can’t just go get any power bat with the number of games we gave up in 2006 because of no D in RF – he needs to find a player who can defend his position *and* hit for power.
Think about that a second.. the Pirates had 88 runs scored from the right fielders listed above last year. But they gave away 14 runs defensively. That is a net production of only 74 runs.
Even Littlefield can’t screw up so bad to add a -14 run defensive right fielder this year so, if the 100 run addition is just league average defensively at +/-0, we should have a net gain of 30 runs (100 +14 – 74) – which is +3 wins.
Nady isn’t an option. For one, is isn’t going to produce 100 runs. For another, he isn’t a very good right fielder.
One option Littlefield does have is to move Bay to right field. Bay is already giving up a lot of extra bases defensively and, with the number of southpaw pitchers we have allowing balls in play to the left side of the diamond, he certainly can’t hurt us anymore than he did last year with a weak arm in RF.
I tend to like the Juan Pierre idea. Let him play CF, let him leadoff, and let Duffy take over in LF. The net runs saved defensively with these two in the OF will easily offset the gain expected from a power bat and Tracy can still use Nady and Gerut in platoon opportunities. Plus, I think Pierre will rev up Duffy’s bat. Edmonds is another possibility..
In other words, by inserting more speed and better defense in left field, adding a leadoff bat that can get on base, and shifting Bay to RF, we could easily gain the 30 net runs we expect from a power bat – without ever acquiring one. Then if McCutchen comes along where he can be around in 2008, let him play LF.
Now, does Littlefield have the guts to move toward a speed and defensive oriented team? Not a prayer in the world. But I think he should.
Last thing I wanted to see was LaRussa winning the World Series over Leyland. But tip your hat to the massive scouting department the Cards have – they tore a hole in everyone when they needed to. It goes to show you how valuable good scouting is.
These three guys get a supporting role award for the Cards:
Big time stats freaks.
Now if Littlefield would let all of us stat nerds intern in the film room, we could pull off something similar – but much cheaper.
Phoolish idea huh?
How many times have you gone to your favorite print shop and plucked down a ton of money for business cards?
Then got home and found half the cards didn’t print in color, some weren’t printed at all, or you only got 435 instead of the 500 you asked – and paid – for?
I know I have.
Today I found out how to get free business cards.
Not just ‘free’ shipping. Not just ‘free’ design, then pay shipping.
Totally free business cards.
Ok, I thought. There must be a catch. So I went and checked the place out and found out the free business cards offer was legit.
Pretty kewl stuff. Amazing what you can get on the web now.
In 2005 the Pirates spent 35% of their 2004 total revenue on player payroll, won 67 games, and each win cost the organization $794,000.
In 2006, the Pirates spent 34% of their 2005 total revenue on player payroll, won 67 games, and each win cost the organization $630,000.
Kevin McClatchy has indicated 2007 player payroll will remain ‘flat’ — about $45m and that Kendall’s $5.5m deferred salary won’t be included in that figure. Considering the new CBA raised the minimum wage for players next year, that available 2007 salary base of $45m now becomes $43m.
The Pirates also believe they are close to a .500 team.
But to get to 82 wins spending just $43m, they will have to pull off a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in MLB in modern times — 18% increase in overall player production without overhauling the roster.
An AGGREGATE 18% increase in improved production.. pitching, offense, and defense.
That doesn’t seem to be an attainable goal, does it?
Especially with the Cubs and Astros retooling and the Brewers and Reds stronger. Not to even mention the depth of the Cards organization.
Sure, Lady Luck could get us 5% of that 18% – that is what statheads say the season swing is. But then some might say that Snell and Maholm had more than 5% luck from the lady last year and they could regress significantly in 2007. I can also see improvements in players like Duffy, Bautista, and Castillo because it would be near impossible to repeat the poor seasons they had.
Bay could add a few more runs with a bit better pitch recognition. Sanchez might even improve if he is left in the 3 hole all year and we have players getting on base in front of him. Paulino in the 6 hole might get us a few more runs if he can continue to hit for average.
Sitting Castillo, moving Freddy to 2B, and adding a 100 rbi 3B to the fold would absolutely increase production.. more so than sitting Nady and Doumit and adding a 100 rbi 1B.
One 15 game winner in the rotation that can miss bats would absolutely improve production as well.
Have we lost productivity in the pen? We sure have. We’ll need Johnny V, Sean Burnett, and Bryan Bullington to be able to pick up some of the slack in the pen. Gonzo will have to be healthy. Torres will have to be solid. Guys like Perez and McLeary will have to be in Indy. We can’t let quality arms like Strickland continue to walk away.
18% – that’s one heck of a leap for a lot of youthful players in their second and third service years. But it is a number Pirate fans should start to remember. For instance, if Littlefield can’t add a proposed 20% or more improvement in production with a trade, he shouldn’t make the trade.
Now we’ll sit back and watch the Pirates winter activity knowing what it will take to do what no other team has done without an overhaul.
Maury Brown, creator of the original Business of Baseball.com website, former co-chair of SABR’s Business of Baseball committee, and contributor for numerous publications such as Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and his own website at The Biz of Baseball, was kind enough to answer a few questions for Pirates fans regarding the new CBA and it’s effect on the Pirates organization.
(Note: The new CBA hasn’t been officially released yet so we’ll revist Maury in a month or so for updates.)
Bucco Blog — What is the impact of the new CBA on the Pirates, best you can tell so far?
Maury Brown — The Pirates should have an even better opportunity to compete under the new system. With a more centralized mechanism in place, the rate at which the low revenue making clubs have to pay goes from 48% to 31%. However, with this change, the MLBPA asked for, and got, language that allows them to more readily file for a grievance if they feel a club is abusing the revenue sharing system.
That means that the Pirates may be looked at more closely than they already are if there is a continued trend of increased revenue sharing dollars going to the club with little action being done to improve the major league roster, etc. to increase their revenues.
Bucco Blog — Have you determined the total amount of third-party revenue streams that have been distributed to the Pirates in 2006 like XM, TBS, ESPN, etc? How about MLB’s welfare? Know how much of any of these is scheduled for 2007?
Maury Brown — I’m not sure how much the Pirates local television deal is worth. As for national television and MLBAM monies, that is all centralized and evenly dispersed between all the clubs.
(Note: Bucco Blog has learned that $195m was distrubuted equally among all clubs last year from the revenues of MLBAM — $6.5m per team. Each team contributed $1m per year for 4 years starting in 2000 to build MLB.com. Each team is also getting $2m per year from XM radio through 2008.)
Bucco Blog — Raising the minimum player salary adds about $1.5 – $2m in player payroll to a team like the Pirates in 2007. Seems that teams would be apt to add more production for that $2m than to simply add youth to the 40-man?
Maury Brown — Agreed. I think that while mid-level players have been overvalued recently, the raising of the minimum salary from $327,00 to $380,000 (a 22% increase) would place mid-level players at a higher demand.
Bucco Blog — A salary floor wasn’t discussed, we hear. What incentive does an organization like the Pirates, who have little to no debt, have to improve their product then?
Maury Brown — MLB has added more centralized funding into the revenue sharing system, and with that, the cries of poverty will have less weight given MLB’s exceptionally rosy picture.
Would a floor have forced the Pirates to spend? Yes, but a floor would be a difficult sell to the Players Association. The best we can do is wait for the ratified CBA to be published and see what changes to the provision requiring how recipients are to spend their revenue sharing dollars turns out.
Bucco Blog — Was there any realignment thoughts brought to the table that you know of?
Maury Brown — None that I know of.
On a related note, Carter Gaddis of the Tampa Tribune broke down the effects of the new CBA on the Rays in his article this morning. Key parts of Gaddis article include:
Brown, a former co-chair of the Society for American Baseball Research business of baseball committee, also pointed out that one key component of the new labor agreement is a revised definition of how revenue-sharing money should be spent by teams (such as the Rays) who receive those millions of dollars from other teams (such as the Yankees).
In theory, the money is supposed to be used to improve the product on the field.
"The question then becomes, ‘What is defined as reinvesting the money into the on-field product?’" Brown said. "You could make an argument that spending it on items that help a team remain functional over a decent period of time, like player development, is doing that."
Which is the stance taken by the Rays, who entered this past season with a payroll of about $35 million and could have a payroll lower than that in 2007.
"We don’t differentiate between money," Silverman said. "We don’t segregate expenses, and we don’t segregate the revenue. We use all sources of revenue, whether it comes from revenue sharing, sponsorships or ticket sales, to improve the product on the field. And that can be done through major-league payroll as well as investing in player development." (emphasis added by Bucco Blog)
One aspect of the new labor agreement has a particular bearing on the Rays, who own the No. 1 overall pick in the amateur draft next June. Under the new rule, a team that can’t come to a contract agreement with its first- or second-round pick by Aug. 15 will receive an equivalent pick in the next draft.