August 26, 2014

Fausto….errrrr…. Roberto…. Where Do We Go From Here?

Just when you thought you had seen it all in Wahooland, along comes a doozy that leaves everyone scratching their heads. The man we all knew as Fausto Carmona, a 28-year old starting pitcher who has been a fixture in the Indians rotation since bursting onto the scene as the power-sinking stud who won 19 games in 2007, is allegedly not who we thought he was. Literally.

Reports began to surface yesterday that Carmona was arrested in his native Dominican Republic while leaving the American Consulate in attempts to renew his Visa to come back to the States for Spring Training. The reports say the arrest came as Carmona has been falsifying his identity and his real name is Roberto Hernandez Heredia. The right-hander is also to be believed to be 31 years old.

While the facts are still murky, the Indians have a real situation on their hands that is going to have to be dealt with. So many questions are there that need answers. Let’s tackle these one by one.

1. Will Carmona/Heredia be able to even acquire a Visa to get back into the United States to pitch for the Indians after being found to have falsified his identity for the past eight years?

This could be an issue. There have been many Minor League ball players over the past five years or so who have run into Visa/identity issues and haven’t returned (former Tribe 3B prospect Kelvin Diaz for one). The United States very easily could decide to refuse to allow Carmona/Heredia back into the country and make an example of him. After all, he has falsified his identity to be here for the past eight years.

2. If he does get that Visa, will he be there by February 19th when pitchers and catchers report?

From everything I’ve read over the past 18 hours or so, it seems highly unlikely that Carmona/Heredia will be in Arizona by February 19th. The artist formerly known as Leo Nunez of the Miami Marlins, who in September was found out to be Juan Carlos Oviedo, was forced to return to the Dominican Republic because he was found to be in this country under an assumed name. The Marlins have since placed him on the restricted list and he still has been unable to get his Visa situation straightened out with the Government.

Nunez/Oviedo has been dealing with this now for four months and hasn’t been cleared. The odds of Carmona/Heredia having his situation dealt with in the next 30 days seems almost impossible. This leaves the Indians in a tenuous position.

3. Will the Indians take this opportunity to cut their losses, say enough is enough, and attempt to void his contract, especially if he can’t get his Visa issues worked out?

The longer this situation lingers, the greater the chance for the Tribe to look into voiding the $7 million option they picked up in November. Its not so much the money issue, its the fact that they may be waiting on him for a while. Who knows how long this could take. With the possibility that he isn’t allowed to return, then its a no-brainer to walk away from him.

The Derek Lowe deal is looking smarter by the hour.

Assuming he isn’t ready for Spring Training, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff would then battle for that fifth spot in the rotation. Tribe fans and the Tribe brass are plenty familiar with these two. Like with Nunez/Oviedo, the Tribe will most likely be putting Carmona/Heredia on the restricted list, where he would not get paid. This could end up freeing up more money for the big bat they have coveted all winter.

When the Indians were pursuing Carlos Beltran, it had been widely speculated that for the Tribe to add a bat of Beltran’s salary, they would have had to move a contract. The money may now be free if Carmona/Heredia is unavailable and put on the restricted list.

4. If he does get through all of this, Will he have the mental capacity to block out the negativity and focus on the task at hand, especially on the road?

Since the 2007 “What if Fausto didn’t have nerves of steel” bug game in the 2007 ALDS, the “ace” that we thought we had under the team’s control through 2013 (option year) hasn’t resurfaced. A huge part of the dropoff in performance was mental. That was a concern BEFORE this situation has come to light.

Imagine what it is going to be like when he walks his first batter in the first inning in Detroit or in New York or in Boston. He had issues last season seemingly every time he got into trouble with runners on base. The heckling will be brutal in every stadium he pitches in going forward. Will he be able to ignore the taunting? I for one am majorly concerned about his ability to block it all out.

———–

I just don’t know what to make of this whole situation. I think the Indians at this point will sit back and wait to see what happens with his Visa and if he is unable to get here for the start of the season, they will stick with their in-house young arms to fill that fifth spot. Don’t forget Fausto was 7-15 with an ERA over five and a WHIP of 1.40. Its not as if Gomez or Huff couldn’t match those numbers at worst. In addition, I think the Indians will use this opportunity to take that money and use it towards that gaping hole at first base.

(AP photo/Tony Guittierez)

  • Anonymous

    Good thing we his twin to count on as the #1 starter, and don’t have to worry about falling back onto White/Pom.

    I wonder how old Ubaldo is?

  • kjn

    My take: if he can get to the States to pitch (in a timely manner, that is), we keep him for this year. Three years older at this stage in his career doesn’t make him any worse a pitcher.

    My question: since this could be seen as fraud with the Indians as the aggrieved party, could they legally reclaim some ofthe money spent on Carmona’s current and past salary?

  • Anonymous

    trade hafner to detriot for a minor league pitcher. use the combined savings for p. fielder…win

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    I feel bad for the guy as he likely had very little to do with the inception of the false identity and was given huge responsibilities as a child. That said, he was the one who continued to agree to contractual agreements under false pretenses.

    The worst part (baseball related) of this may ultimately fall in his trade value.

  • boomhauertjs

    Maybe this will end up being a good thing for the Tribe as either Gomez or Huff establishes himself as a better pitcher than Fausto, err Roberto, and the Tribe is able to acquire a bat to help at 1B. Thinking back to ’05 when Juan Gone got hurt, Grady made the roster, and the rest was history…

  • Anonymous

    i wonder how much of his salary we would be willing to utilize?  if it takes 6months for him to get back with the team, then we would still be on the hook for $3.5mil to him (assuming we don’t void his contract).

    no Carrasco, no Carmona for awhile at least.  it’s like we’ve started early on our pitching injuries early this year.

  • REEPJP

    A few things….

    1.) This might be a dumb question, but why can an 18 year old kid named Fausto Carmona get the original Visa to come to the US and play baseball, but a 21 year old kid named Roberto Heredia not?  I guess I’m not schooled up on my immigration policies, but what was his original motivation (besides making himself younger, which half the defectors seem to do too) for the change?

    2.) I wonder how many other guys (household names) are doing this kind of thing?

    3.) If/When he comes back and pitches in the league…do we call him Carmona or Heredia?

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure but I think the Indians wouldn’t have shown interest in a 19 year old prospect as rough as he was but as an 16 year old they were.

    Also physically you looking at a 16 year old with a body of a 19 year old you might be thinking he is more of an athlete than he is. Like a senior playing on a freshman team.

  • mike_964boo

    I smell a hollywood movie with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Fausto

  • http://norcoastbias.blogspot.com/ Eric D

    On the other side of the coin, we all pretty much agree that most of #55′s problems were mental, right? He always had good stuff, just seemed to be a bit of a head case. Well, maybe that’s because he had a gigantic lie he had to deal with. Anyone who has told a lie to their girlfriend/wife/parents/boss, etc. (everyone) knows how that stress can weigh on you while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe that was a major part of his problems, and now his mind will be free and clear to show off that awesome sinker again.
    Probably not, but maybe.

  • E Guelch

    Quite a precarious situation. I think the points made above are all valid. My hope is two-fold:
     
    1. That knowing he was falsifying himself, that he kept a strong hold on any of the money he got, basically waiting for the proverbial other shoe. Hopefully that he wasn’t blowing his money and can have a nice life in the DR. I never read an article about how he was seen pulling up in his Lambo to hit the Bank in the Bellagio, so maybe.
     
    2. Pretending to be someone else…perhaps that was what lead to his inconsistancy. The mind is a crazy thing and somethings that are bothering you that affect your daily life may not even be known to your conscious. Imagine pretending to be someone else everyday, on one of the biggest stages in the world. Going with this theory, maybe he was able to put it behind him the first years up here, but it eventually started eating away? Who knows.
     
    Maybe if he can come back, and all the pretending is behind hime, he’ll get back to 2007-style. [/dream]. As for the taunting, from what I understand he didn’t comprehend a lot of English anyways, so I don’t think that’s really a big deal.

  • Mark

    I agree with this completely. I really feel for him. But, he did continue down this road and will now have to live with the consequences.

  • http://twitter.com/mgrace74 theMike

    edit

  • http://twitter.com/mgrace74 theMike

    I can only imagine the taunting, especially at home. Remember “Jooooey”. Now we’ll hear “Faustoooooooo”. 

    I honestly think this could be a blessing in disguise (pun intended). Freeing up money to go after a bat, instead of having to settle for third best option would make us contenders this year.

    I also agree with the author. Gomez/Huff isn’t too far of a dropoff from what we’ve gotten from Faustooooo

  • Harv 21

    I was wondering the same thing.

  • @WFNYTD

    Great theory….I dig it.

  • MallaLubba

    I get the whole age changing thing and how that could alter your marketability but why do you need to change your name to accomplish that? Also, why are so many Dominican Republicans falsifying identities? Is it just a lack of proper documentation?

  • Anonymous

    “The Derek Lowe deal is looking smarter by the hour”
     
    …and hindsight being 20/20 the White/Pom deal is looking dumber by the hour. Carmona was a question mark as it was anyways heading into this season and that question mark just turned into an interwebs :/ sign.
     
    I agree with many that I feel for #55 in that this was heaped on him by a slick agent looking to cash in on a 19 year old prospect at the time who would look much more valuable as a 19 year old prospect.

    But also that he was the one who had chosen to continue the lie 8 years in.

    This also now does make sense to me with 2007 being his standout year…he was 26 at the time.  The age when most developing pitchers hit their top performing year.  We have been looking at him like he is still developing but in actuality he has been on the backside of his career ever since.

    This is a tough decision for the front office for sure.

  • Anonymous

    MLB did a scrub a few years ago and found 40 such players doing this kind of thing (either changing name or age or both).   the unfortunate thing for #55 is that it wasn’t MLB that caught him, but the government.

  • Anonymous

    Most likely because you wouldn’t want a birth certificate with the same name and different birth year. 

    It’s easier to just create an entirely new identity than have your same name hit in a background check with two birth years.  People start asking questions then.

  • Anonymous

    it’s harder to track you back if your name is different and SI showed that the Dominican has terrible record keeping allowing for this type of thing

  • Anonymous

    I would just like to add in that regardless of how this plays out, I am pretty happy that he did it as an Indians fan.   If nothing else, we will always have the memories of the midge night when he stared down the Yankees and an increasingly large swarm of insects.

    It’s my favorite Indians memory and he was the main player in it.

  • Harv 21

    a few thoughts on a sitch much more serious than I thought yesterday :

    - when a young sports star changes his name and instantly sheds 3 years there are plenty of people other than his immediate family who know and hope to benefit. The enablers include his local coaches, proud home town, and extended connections who might profit. And the local authorities who are very aware of the talented locals know too. This is not an excuse, but this was hardly a teenager’s private decision to go for it.

    - the Indians have invested a lot of resources in the DR, including creating one of the first live-in baseball academies after the Jacobs bought the team. It was a creative way to tap that talent; Julian Tavares graduated from there.  But they have local baseball people who surely knew the realities. Weren’t they burned just last year on a signeee whose age was way off?  Teams like the Tribe may have just been delegating the DR programs and scouting without fully understanding about the realities.

  • Hrd53

    I remember when Bartolo Colon was really older than he actually stated he was… Fausto’s real name is way lamer than ‘Fausto Carmona’.  Its like finding out Rob Zombies name is Robert Rubenstein or something

  • Ghost

    I dont think his problems are mental, I think Roberto/Fausto just isnt that good. Take away 2007 and hes always been a mediocre pitcher. 07 was a total fluke. Fausto’s problem isnt mental, his problem is that while his sinker is very good, hes never developed another pitch that he can rely on to get people out. The Red Sox showed the world how to hit him, stand in, take your pitches and make him throw that sinker for a strike. If he cant get ahead in the count with his sinker, he’s toast. I can see now why the Indians thought he might be better in the bullpen, he’s only got 1 good pitch.

  • kjn

    I think Jon wrote an article pointing out that Fausto’s K/9, BB/9, and such have been pretty consistent throughout his career. He’s basically always been pretty much the same pitcher. In 2007, he was very lucky. In 2011, he was unlucky. That is going to happen with the type of guy he is – a groundball pitcher who doesn’t strike out many.

  • kjn

    I agree. ’07 was a great, great year.

    Whatever his real name, he’ll always be Fausto to me.

  • kjn

    Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs sees this situation setting things up for a possible return of Jake Westbrook.

  • Adrian

    Close – Robert Cummings. 

  • Ghost

    Im down with that, Westbrook and Carmona are pretty much the same pitcher.

  • Mark

    Despite public opinion to the contrary, the Tribe is a pretty smart organization. I’d bet anything that this hasn’t been a complete stunner to them. Did they know he falsified his identity? Probably not but I’ll bet they’re not shocked about it. Did they suspect he wasn’t 28? I bet they did know that but just didn’t care. At this point in his career, 28 or 31 doesn’t make that big a difference. Anyone jumping into the DR market has to be aware that ages are not on the level. If you don’t know that, well, you are just fooling yourselves.

  • The Other Tim
  • Jason

    Once again, I feel the need to thank our friends at WFNY for the non-hyperbolic response to this story.  You guys continue to epitomize class and are my go-to resource for keeping in touch with the NE Ohio sports scene.  Thank you!