21 September 2018

Former MLB DOI Agent Eddie Dominguez' Baseball Cop

Primary sources require disciplined listening.  Individuals involved in an activity consciously and unconsciously tend to convey fact tinged with a little haze.  The haze can structure a narrative that is highly directed on the objectives and intent of the source.  If you are a proponent of enforcement then the truth you convey will be from that perspective and may miss details or perhaps orients details from an enforcement perspective.  The haze also tends to be an attempt to make the source appear more favorably to what he thinks you value.  Sometimes this takes the form of someone repeatedly trying to validate themselves in your eyes with name dropping, mentioning of extensive accomplishments, and favorable anecdotal asides.

Baseball Cop is a new book written by the former Major League Baseball Department of Investigations agent Eddie Dominguez, a law enforcement veteran with a long and diverse multi-decade long career that spans from the Boston streets in local investigations to FBI work and to international investigations.  This work is part a biography and part a thesis in how MLB's DoI (largely established as an outcome of the Mitchell PED report) has evolved from a somewhat independent investigative unit to an extension of MLB's executive push at controlling public relations.  While the book is certainly tinged by Dominguez' need to validate his own perspective and his whole-hearted support of enforcement approaches, one cannot deny that his charge against MLB and their DoI program appears valid and needs further assessment.  His book includes many specific details that have been published before in articles and other books, which puts credibility to what he states.

As troubling as Dominguez's allegations are, it is unsettling how little traction this book has gotten in the media, whether mainstream or on the fringes in sports blogging.  The book further carries on a fairly well established theme that Major League Baseball is less interested in the goals of enforcement of rules or establishing a truly useful and comprehensive health and safety drug program in comparison to their heavy handed approaches that appear to be more about making a public statement and suggesting a greater level of control than they actually have.  Some think the lack of attention is due to a greater conspiracy between sports media and MLB offices, but I question that.  However, I have no alternative suggestion.  Dominguez is not Jose Canseco.  From what I can see, his words should be considered.

Briefly, the book is largely about how the Department of Investigation for Major League Baseball was created out of MLB's public crisis in the 2000s from the Performance Enhancing Drugs hearings.  Mitchell's report found a need for developing an independent investigation unit that would be free from MLB or MLBPA oversight.  MLB appears to have gotten frustrated with DoI following up on their own leads and involving law enforcement, so MLB began to isolate DoI and secretly run parallel efforts.  In the end with much of the public outrage subsided, MLB transformed DoI from multiple employees with field experience to more of a court-based, stream-lined group who would contract out investigations.  That transformation led to refusal to further investigate what MLB appeared to gauge as sensitive subjects.

While several important aspects arise, the impact is somewhat mitigated by the author.  Dominguez' writing style is akin to that guy in the bar who speaks louder than is required because he wants people other than his buddy to hear him.  He wants you to know that he knows people, that he is connected.  He wants you to know that he has won awards.  He wants to ensure that you respect him and presents you with the rationale and logic required to come to that conclusion.  To me, it is reminiscent to how a friend of mine who is a Baltimore police detective communicates.  It feels like how someone would communicate to an informant or suspect in order to verbally overpower any hesitancy in accepting the person talking.  While this can be frustrating and ruin the reading experience a bit, if you can work through that as a reader then a great deal of interesting information is there to consume.

The author sometimes appears to not realize instances where he is being used by others.  For instance, there is a story conveyed where Theo Epstein calls Dominguez up to get him to investigate the White Sox behavior leading up to Dayan Viciedo's signing.  It seems, first off, wholly inappropriate that Epstein is pleading with Dominguez to investigate the White Sox and giving a reason being that the Cubs want to sign him instead.  It also is peculiar for Epstein to suggest something untoward is happening because it would be remarkable if Epstein was not involved in similar things.  The Cubs are allegedly one of many (almost every) clubs that pre-agrees to deals with international talent.  That notion is repeatedly made every single year by MLB writers when a new international period ramps up at the end of June and beginning of July.  From the outside and reading Dominguez' account, it looks like Epstein is simply brushing back the White Sox and trying to frustrate them.

It is also important to recognize what law enforcement does.  Law enforcement is not necessarily interested in the truth, but in facts that support a truth.  That is an important distinction.  For instance, Dominguez writes about his contacts and the degree to which they think PEDs are still used in baseball.  One piece of evidence suggested is that increase in home runs that have spiked up over the past couple seasons.  The section is written to put this forward as a primary driver of the increase in power.  What this does is establish the PED issue and enforcement need contained in the book.  The fact that several studies have shown a difference in the ball that results in it traveling further is not noted as it does not carry forward the desired law enforcement objective.  It is important when reading this that Dominguez is offering his best truth and his truth (all our truths are) is impacted by his perspective, how he sees the world.

Again, warts and all, this work is important.  The book declares that MLB values itself more than anything else.  It falls in with a line of evidence in an all too common tale that spans across industries: organizational human resource operations are not there to protect victims or establish truth, but to further the needs of the organization.  MLB likely does not see DoI as a group to enforce rules of law, but a group that enforces rules of law when it makes MLB look good.  Dominguez appears to have misunderstood that reality and it cost him his job.  It is a story that should resound with anyone who works for someone else.  It is a reminder that you may one day find yourself as a victim who is under the heel of your more powerful employer.


Baseball Cop: the darkside of America's national pastime
by Eddie Dominguez
Hachette Books
pp. 304

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