"Stealing Lives" Authors Counter Critic

Dear Bill Littlefield:

We read Professor Alan Klein's response to "Stealing Lives" posted March 22, 2003 on the Only a Game web site, and we would like to make a few comments on Professor Klein's attack on our book. Although Professor Klein also attacks our personal and professional integrity, we want to limit our response to factual claims that he makes to criticize our work. Professor Klein argues that the story of Alexis Quiroz does not merit attention in the world of Major League Baseball. He believes that the story is dated because Quiroz's relationship with the Chicago Cubs began in the mid-1990s. He thinks that Quiroz's story is isolated to one person and one team. We, and many others who have read the book, including respected academics who work on baseball issues, find the story of Alexis Quiroz informative about how Major League Baseball has operated in Latin America. What Professor Klein apparently does not understand is that Alexis Quiroz was not the only person the Chicago Cubs mistreated over a number of years. Every child and young man that went through the Cubs' system in Latin America in the time period we analyze was exposed to the conditions Alexis Quiroz suffered. We believe that it is appropriate to tell this story and ask: How could something like this happen to Quiroz and dozens of other Latin players signed by the Chicago Cubs?

Professor Klein seems upset that we use the Quiroz story to launch "an industry-wide expose" that is purely sensationalist in nature. Again, Professor Klein does not have his facts correct. First, we never argue in the book that what happened to Alexis Quiroz happens to every Latin player signed by Major League teams. In fact, Quiroz himself experiences better treatment from the Oakland A's than the Chicago Cubs in the story we tell. We also state in the book that some teams have good facilities both in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. We even include the following observations related to Professor Klein's scholarly work: "More flattering descriptions of life in Major League Baseball for Latin players can be found. Although he retains a critical eye, Alan Klein's description of the Los Angeles Dodgers' baseball academy at Campas Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic is, on the whole, fairly positive" (pages 49-50).

What is troubling about Professor Klein's accusations about the supposed sensationalism of our book is that Major League Baseball itself has admitted that the problems we identify in the book (and our previous 1999 law review article) are in fact serious problems that require some attention. Professor Klein asserts the following: "No one in Major League Baseball (and I'm researching a number of teams and the Commissioner's Office) knows them." We had a good laugh at this statement. We have been engaged in correspondence and communication in various forms with people in the Commissioner's Office since 1999 on the problems our research has identified. The people in the Commissioner's Office working on Latin American issues know very well who we are and what we have been arguing. We even shared Professor Klein's attack on our book with an individual who works on Latin issues in the Commissioner's Office and who expressed great surprise that Professor Klein would assert that "no one" in the Commissioner's Office knows who we are.

Professor Klein perhaps forgot to look at the bibliography of the book, on pages 240-242, where we list many letters we sent to people in the Commissioner's Office during our research, either requesting interviews or sharing information about developments. (Professor Klein is silent as to why not a single person we approached in the Commissioner's Office agreed to grant us an interview in connection with our research.) Professor Klein also perhaps forgot that Alexis Quiroz's story contains incidents that demonstrate that people in the Commissioner's Office have known about our work since the publication of the 1999 law review article (see especially the meeting of Alexis Quiroz and staff at the Commissioner's Office on page 157 of the book).

Professor Klein also attacks the integrity of the book and the work behind it because "[n]o one in the Dominican Republic knows them (I've asked all manner of people in the industry down there)." We find this a strange reason to attack our efforts. Although it never occurred to us to ask whether people we talked to know Alan Klein, we imagine that most of the individuals with whom we interacted during our research would not know him. Most of them do not read books published by, for example, Yale University Press. We do not think such ignorance of Professor Klein and his work detracts from the scholarly and intellectual contributions he has made in his fields of endeavor.

Absent from Professor Klein's attack on our book is any effort to address the substantive claims we raise against Major League Baseball. The closest he comes is the following: "They are completing ignoring changes that have been made since about 1999." This statement is revealing in a number of ways. First, Professor Klein seems to acknowledge that changes were in fact needed to the way in which Major League Baseball behaved in Latin America. In our book, we ask why it took Major League Baseball until 1999 to address problems that have been present for decades. Professor Klein apparently believes that what happened prior to 1999 is not worthy of scholarly attention. We respectfully disagree because we think that pre-1999 data sheds light on how the system operated and why teams and the Commissioner's Office knowingly allowed it to operate in this manner.

Second, again we are confused at Professor Klein's accusation that we completely ignored changes made since about 1999. We analyze these changes in the book, such as the opening of an office in the Dominican Republic (see, for example, pages 179-182) and the proposal for a worldwide draft (see, for example, pages 186-189). We also explore other possible reform ideas that we have seen mentioned in the literature or have heard discussed by people in the business (see, for example, pages 185-186; 189-194).

Third, some of the changes to which Professor Klein refers relate directly to problems that our research has identified and analyzed. For example, the Commissioner's Office translated the uniform minor league player contract into Spanish for the first time in the summer of 2001, largely we believe in response to criticism from us and other people about the use of English-only contracts to sign Latin children and young men. Further, the mandate for the office opened in the Dominican Republic in late 2000 (see page 179-180 of the book) bears a striking resemblance to the kinds of problems we argued existed in our 1999 law review article and that we continued to pursue in our research for the book.

Unlike Professor Klein, we do not believe that the opening of that office and the work so far undertaken have adequately handled the myriad of problems that still exist today. We observe the following: "As of this writing, the new office in the Dominican Republic has only been operating for just over one year, so perhaps it is too early too judge whether the Commissioner's Office is conducting an exercise in public relations or is serious about repairing the global ballpark" (page 181). To this day, we continue to communicate with the Commissioner's Office about activities it has undertaken in Latin America, including the drafting of a set of standards for baseball academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

We sense that part of Professor Klein's anger about our book is that we did not conduct our research and analysis in the manner in which he has done his anthropological scholarship. Our analysis is structural and legal in nature not anthropological. We examine why Major League Baseball operates a system of recruitment and training targeted at children in Latin American countries with virtually no formal regulations, violations of which are subject to punishment. The only formal Major League Rule that applies in Latin America- the 17-year old rule-has routinely been violated with impunity by Major League teams. Even the Commissioner's Office admits the existence of serious problems with the 17-year old rule. Rules for recruiting and training North American players exist but not for Latin children and young men. What explains this discriminatory treatment in the making and implementation of rules for minor league players?

The mistreatment of Alexis Quiroz by the Chicago Cubs violated, for example, no Major League Rules because none exist to protect Latin children from such exploitation. Our research has probed why Major League Baseball has not created formal, regulatory mechanisms for recruiting and training activities aimed at children in the very region that supplies the vast majority of foreign baseball talent. To date, we have not found or heard an acceptable explanation for this state of affairs-either historically or in the contemporary context.

From the perspective of the rights of children found in international human rights law, we find this discriminatory treatment worthy of exploration from a legal point of view. As far as we could tell, no one had ever done such a legal analysis of Major League Baseball operations in Latin America. We realize that the type of structural, legal analysis we have done in the book will not resonate with everyone and that other perspectives can, and should be, brought to bear on the issue. We hope that people in other disciplines-from economists to anthropologists-focus on the globalization of baseball and advance the dialogue on this topic. We hope that our book contributes something to the debate, but we do not pretend that our book tells the whole story.

Professor Klein concludes his diatribe against our work with the claim that our sensationalist and irresponsible book only deserves to be published in the National Inquirer. Ouch! Professor Klein knows how to dish it out. In response, we have this to say: Reader, make your own judgment. Don't believe us. Don't believe Professor Klein. Read Stealing Lives. Make your own determination whether the analysis, research, and story in the book constitute the kind of fictional garbage found in the trash journalism of tabloid newspapers, as Professor Klein concludes, or resembles an attempt, however incomplete, to cast some light on a neglected and disturbing feature of Major League Baseball's globalization, as we hope.


Arturo J. Marcano
David P. Fidler

This program aired on April 4, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.


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