I just went on a bit of a Twitter tear, provoked by the avalanche of falsified identity jokes that followed in the wake of the Fausto Carmona news. If you're living under a rock, Carmona's real name is apparently Roberto Hernandez-Heredia and he is actually 31, not 28. It doesn't take much to see how vitally important that downward shift in age was for his major league success—consider how he would've been viewed as a 25 year-old reliever in 2006, instead of as a 22 year-old reliever. There's a very real chance that he never would've even been considered for the rotation, which of course means he never would've earned his big contract, and a butterfly on a tree in the Amazon, etc. I'm sure someone will produce a nice piece of analysis on how this all informs Carmona's professional trajectory and I believe there's something interesting to be mined there.
That said, I don't want to touch on that. I want to simply point out what a shockingly cold bath this is for me, as it surfaces a lot of the strange feelings that come with having been lucky enough to be born on this continent, in this country, at this time in the world's history, to a certain kind of family. All of that simply adds up to privilege and access—the privilege to choose any sort of trajectory for myself, if I could show I could hack it, and access to a number of benefits that I never have cause to consider, like good food, healthcare, utilities, and the like.
Carmona, as was made evident when it was publicized that the Indians had financed dental work to help improve his nutrition, did not grow up in the kind of context. Here, in a blunt instrument sense, is the situation it seems Carmona faced: remain in 3rd-world poverty or falsify his identity, illegally, and give himself a much better chance of changing not only his own life but the lives of those around him. He chose the latter, and it worked out in spades. Did he make the smart choice? Did he make the ethical choice?
What does it mean that by dumping dollars into a sport, I support a system that forces young athlete after young athlete to such a decision point? What does it mean that 15 year olds in the Dominican Republic are forced to make a choice in a context that is more complicated, both morally and legally, than any situation I've faced in 27 years of life, and likely more complicated than any I'll ever face? Is reform of such a system even possible?
My conflicted feelings about this are made moreso by the fact that this isn't a minor leaguer I've never seen, or even a young player I haven't fully embraced. This is Fausto Carmona, a pitcher who's 'identity' I've already been forced to negate and reconcile once—Carmona never became a staff ace as expected, and I was forced to realign what that meant for my relationship to him. I was compelled to embrace a new version of Carmona, a less effective model that dashed so many high hopes, and now I find out that I was never embracing Carmona at all. The whole thing is unbelievably disorienting right now.
I don't know what it means and I don't know what the correct way to react is. Our world is, in many ways, a sad and unfair one. I'm not asking for a discussion on the politics of wealth redistribution or the industrialization of nations. I'm just saying, I don't feel proud of my tiny role in this system and I found it unsavory to see many people's reactions on Twitter consisted of one part pop culture reference, two parts poking fun at Carmona's career, and then set aside and hope for retweets. Good luck to Roberto Hernandez-Heredia and, to a greater extent, good luck to the kids growing up in the places where he grew up.