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BTBS Exclusive: the “Baseball Cop” tells his story

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Former MLB Investigator Eddie Dominguez talked to Sheryl Ring about Major League Baseball, “Baseball Cop,” and baseball’s seedy underbelly.

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Joe Bielawa on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of what goes on inside 245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor, in New York City, you want to talk to Eddie Dominguez. The erstwhile Boston police officer spent the better part of two decades working in various capacities for Major League Baseball, first as MLB Resident Security Agent (RSA) working at Fenway Park as the eyes and ears of the MLB commissioner’s office, and then later, in 2008, for the newly-formed Department of Investigations. He ran security for the 2004 World Series in St. Louis, and was there when Rafael Palmeiro pointed a finger at Congress and when Don Zimmer and Pedro Martinez fought in 2003.

But Dominguez was also there for the Biogenesis investigation, for human trafficking investigations, and for the part of baseball that MLB doesn’t want you to know. Dominguez wrote a book about it, called “Baseball Cop,” that details his experience in baseball. It’s a book MLB desperately didn’t want people to read, according to the Daily Beast, even hiring law firm Clare Locke to threaten to sue Dominguez and his publisher, Hachette, for defamation if the book was published. Dominguez and Hachette published the book anyway, to largely positive reviews.

Dominguez talked with me this weekend about his book, his experience with MLB, and his post-baseball life.

* * *

From his childhood, Eddie Dominguez loved sports. He told me that it was this love of sports that led him, after decades as a police officer in Boston, Massachusetts, to take a job with Major League Baseball. “My whole life I’ve been a sports fan,” he said. “I played a number of them, not well. I played baseball, basketball, football, and my kids did as well. My experience with sports has always been a great experience. To me, sports and the arts are a great way to raise your children, to me it’s just a wholesome thing. I went into baseball thinking that’s what I was getting into.”

MLB asked Dominguez to join its Security Department in 1999 as an RSA, a position he held for 9 years while still a police officer in Boston. He says he saw incidents that, at a minimum, brought into question the integrity of the game, but which were were “swept under the rug.” He says he didn’t want to be a fixer; instead, Dominguez says he wanted to be a part of rooting out corruption in the game. “I wanted to clean it up,” he says. “I thought the integrity of the game was important.” Following the release of the Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in MLB in 2007, the league approached him to be a part of the solution to the problems outlined in that report, and he accepted - with conditions.

Dominguez speaks of the Mitchell Report as though it were a book of scripture, with a reverence that displays a clear respect for the report and its findings, and especially its recommendations. He says that he insisted before taking the job that he would be a part of an independent body, one that would expose unlawful behavior and “wouldn’t cover anything up,” and a unit that would work hand-in-hand with law enforcement.

He received assurances that although this new Department of Investigations “would answer to the commissioner,” it would operate independently from MLB’s labor department. Just before he formally accepted the job, he asked Dan Mullin, the first director of the new department, “Are you sure that this is what we’re gonna do?” Mullin repeated the question to then-Commissioner Bud Selig, who responded, “Yes.”

At first, Dominguez said the new department was functioning exactly as Selig had promised. On the other hand, Dominguez was surprised by the sheer volume of issues he says confronted the league; after years of seeing only the universe of baseball occupied by the Red Sox, seeing it league-wide was eye-opening. “I couldn’t believe the magnitude of the issues that brought into question the integrity of the game,” he says now, but at first he says that he and his team dove in headfirst. Dominguez recounted for me, as he does in Baseball Cop, the major issues that confronted him in those heady early days.

“At first we were allowed to go overseas and investigate American scouts stealing signing bonuses from young Dominican kids, American scouts changing the ages of young ballplayers, the human trafficking of American ballplayers, the domestic violence issues ballplayers got into that were being swept under the rug,” Dominguez said. “Including PEDs and HGH – we were the first professional league investigative unit that suspended a ballplayer for use of HGH. We did it not through testing, but through good old-fashioned gumshoe detective work.”

That ballplayer was Jordan Schafer, then a top prospect for the Atlanta Braves, suspended 50 games for the use of Human Growth Hormone. ESPN noted at the time that “Schafer did not test positive for HGH. Rather, he was suspended after Major League Baseball probed anecdotal evidence of HGH . . . Schafer was the first casualty of MLB’s new Department of Investigations.” And Schafer, despite denying using HGH, didn’t dispute that he deserved the punishment.

”I know that I deserved what I got and that 100 percent, I was wrong. I was involved with people that 100 percent I shouldn’t have been involved with,” Schafer said, according to MLB.com. “Those people that I was involved with aren’t going to get suspensions from baseball. Those people can get in trouble with the law and the government. My suspension was a lot less harsh of a punishment than they could have received. I definitely learned to choose who I hang around with and who I trust.”

Dominguez says that at first, the Schafer suspension “gave me a lot of hope.” It lasted, he said, “for a very short period of time.”

* * *

Dominguez was born in Cuba, and to this day has a passion for Cuban baseball. He says that when he was invited to travel to Cuba as part of security for an MLB delegation for a tournament featuring teams composed of players 18 and under, he jumped at the chance. During the trip, Dominguez said, he learned that two of the men on the trip—ostensibly there as trainers for the American teenagers—were actually scouts, sent undercover by the league to evaluate Cuban players. One Cuban youngster caught their eye—a sixteen-year-old named Dayan Viciedo, at the time thought to be a future superstar.

Dominguez said that it wasn’t long after the trip before Viciedo was trafficked out of Cuba - and sure enough, MLB Trade Rumors reported that Viciedo had defected in June of 2008. Dominguez recounts in Baseball Cop that shortly afterwards, Dominguez says he received a call from then-Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein.

Dominguez told me that, on the phone, Epstein reported that, “There’s something f*****g shady going on here. … It’s as if [Viciedo] has a prearranged deal with the f*****g White Sox.” Dominguez said that raised a red flag because of rumors he had heard from sources that human traffickers sometimes make arrangements with teams to give player agents upfront money for a specific player, and in turn, the player would sign with that team for less than what the highest bidder would offer.

Dominguez called Viciedo and spoke with Dayan and his father. He said they told him that “If we don’t take the White Sox deal, we’ll be taken back to Cuba,” confirming Dominguez’s suspicions. Following protocol, Dominguez reported the incident and his conversation with Viciedo to his boss, Dan Mullin, who turned the information over to the commissioner’s office. When Mullin returned his call, Dominguez says a very angry Rob Manfred (then the vice president of labor relations; now the MLB commissioner) was also on the line. Dominguez says that Manfred cursed at him, asking, “Dominguez, what the f**k do you think you’re doing?” Dominguez says he responded that he was “following up on a tip.” When Manfred demanded he drop the matter, Dominguez says he threatened to quit. Later, Dominguez says, Mullin told him that the Viciedo affair was a “once-in-your-job incident where Manfred got involved.” Dominguez says he stayed because he was assured by Mullin that “it wouldn’t happen again.”

On November 20, 2008, ESPN reported that the Chicago White Sox had agreed to terms on an $11 million contract with Dayan Viciedo. As for Dominguez, in 2016 he testified in a case investigated by FBI agent Hector Ortiz regarding human trafficking of baseball players. Dominguez said that case was a turning point for the league.

In 2014, Dominguez had been approached by Ortiz, who was looking for assistance in investigating the trafficking of baseball players. Two years later, Dominguez testified in trial of agent Bart Hernandez on federal human trafficking charges. Dominguez told me that case was a turning point for the league.

”Yes, [human trafficking] is a league-wide problem,” he said. “If you follow MLB’S involvement in human trafficking, they really didn’t do much until 2014, and even during the 2016 FBI investigation that I testified in, they said very little. ... We had warned them that their policy on Cuban ballplayers led to various issues. I had interviewed many Cuban ballplayers and explained to [MLB] what was going on. And they knew what was going on, and they did nothing. They started doing something because they were questioned about what they knew and when they knew it.”

Last year, a federal grand jury opened an investigation into MLB’s involvement with the trafficking of players in Latin America, focusing on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

* * *

The Biogenesis investigation is by now fairly well known to even casual baseball fans. In a nutshell, Anthony Bosch pretended to be a doctor at a clinic he called “Biogenesis,” and distributed performance enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players including Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Alex Rodriguez. But Dominguez told me - and related in his book - that there was much more than that.

“I got involved in investigating Anthony Bosch in 2009 when Manny Ramirez tested positive,” Dominguez said. “We consulted with the DEA and the locals, and the DEA was somewhat interested, because Anthony Bosch was claiming to be a doctor. But we couldn’t offer them enough evidence at the time to show them there was something to follow up on.”

Dominguez said that the DEA was focused on what it considered more pressing matters, such as cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl cases, and performance-enhancing drugs given to professional athletes just weren’t that high on the agency’s priority list. “For us to convince them to take on Biogenesis, we had to come with evidence that it affected not just MLB, but also society in general,” Dominguez told me.

“We had to wait until 2012, when we had enough information and enough informants, and information about PEDs and how they were distributed. And in 2012, we did. We went to the DEA in Florida – me and [fomer NYPD Detective] Tom Reilly, and this was so important that Dan Mullin himself got involved... And the reason we were able to [convince the DEA to take the case] was because we had proof that Anthony Bosch was distributing not only to MLB players, but also to kids. And we had an informant and dealers who were willing to testify about that. And we had to walk the DEA through it. And our bosses were aware – Bud Selig and the current commissioner. They were well aware and they were all for it.”

Dominguez told me that Biogenesis was the biggest case the young Department of Investigations had ever tackled. “At the time we had five senior investigators, and each one carried anywhere from 30-50 investigations at any one time. At the time, [because of Biogenesis,] we put those other investigations in the periphery.” At first, cooperation between the Department of Investigations and the DEA went well. Then the Miami New Times ran an explosive report that included Bosch’s client ledger, and suddenly MLB had a new PED scandal on its hands.

After the New Times report, “Bud Selig and Rob Manfred said they didn’t want to communicate with the DEA anymore,” Dominguez told me, adding that Selig and Manfred went so far as to monitor Department of Investigations phones to make sure that the unit didn’t cooperate with the DEA. “I couldn’t understand how they wanted us to turn our backs on a federal agency because they weren’t getting it done quickly enough,” Dominguez said. Later on, Dominguez found out that MLB had, through its labor department, hired private investigators to run their own investigation without the DEA’s involvement and without the participation or knowledge of the Department of Investigations, culminating in MLB suing Bosch, Alex Rodriguez suing MLB, a 211-game suspension (later reduced to 162 games) for Rodriguez, and a four-year prison sentence for Bosch (later reduced).

* * *

Dominguez was fired in 2014 along with Daniel Mullin and several other members of the Department of Investigations, after the conclusion of the Biogenesis investigation. As to the reason for his termination, MLB accused Dominguez of forging receipts, a charge he vehemently denies.

“After fifteen years I saw that... It’s an ugly business. There’s a lot of corruption,” Dominguez said. “It wasn’t all bad. But if I could take it back I would love to. I’ve lost my love for sports. It’s not the same. That was my primary reason for writing the book – to express what I saw that a lot of people don’t see. There’s a lot more to it, but that was my primary reason.”

The same year he was fired, Dominguez was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Despite the diagnosis, Dominguez continues to work as a private investigator, and is about to welcome his second grandchild. “Life is good. A day at a time. I’m just thankful. I consider myself a very lucky man.”

To learn more about pancreatic cancer or make a donation towards a cure, visit https://www.pancan.org/. Dominguez’s book, Baseball Cop, is available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Sheryl Ring is a litigation attorney and Legal Director at Open Communities, a non-profit legal aid agency in the Chicago suburbs. You can reach her on twitter at @Ring_Sheryl. The opinions expressed here are solely the author’s. This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.