Around Baseball: Players may need to stop lying about their age

Andy Call

Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada admitted this week that he is actually 33, not 31.

Tejada fessed up about the lie he told before signing in 1993, but only after ESPN showed up in Philadelphia with a copy of his birth certificate that the network had obtained through a lawyer in the Dominican Republic.

That baseball players would lie about their age is no revelation. Many players would certainly be willing to fib a bit to enhance their stock in the eyes of scouts. There is even more motivation and opportunity to do so on the part of players who feel responsible to free their families from the grip of poverty.

Doing so has become more difficult since 2001, however. The U.S. government has tightened its restrictions on visas for players from other countries, requiring more documentation. Medical recordkeeping in those countries has certainly advanced over the 15 years since Tejada told an Oakland scout he was 17, not 19.

Corrections in ages along the path of players’ careers are not all that uncommon. The Indians changed the ages of both pitcher Bartolo Colon and infielder Hector Luna by a year in their media guide after having received updated information.

Teams considering signing a player to a multiyear contract also now find themselves doing more research on a player’s age. A six-year contract for a 31-year-old player is certainly more risky than one for a player who is 29.

When millions of dollars are at stake, mountains can move. Something that has been blowing in the baseball wind in recent weeks is that Major League Baseball may soon consider levying penalties against players who are discovered to have lied about their age.

The closers’ jukebox

San Francisco closer Brian Wilson’s entrances are accompanied by the song “Rise Up” by the Christian rock group Disciple.

The team recently rebuffed Wilson’s request to pump up the volume on that song while he jogs to the mound.

“We’ll play the song and read the situation,” Giants director of marketing and entertainment Bryan Srabian told the San Jose Mercury-News. “You’ve got to let the fans cheer him on. We don’t want to manufacture any false atmosphere. So we’ll play his song and hope that it builds up organically.

“It’s still your traditional hard-rock closer entrance music. The message might be a little different than ‘Hell’s Bells,’ obviously.”

End of the line?

Omar Vizquel, who turns 41 Thursday, is coming off knee surgery and will need to wear a brace when he returns to the Giants. The 11-time Gold Glove shortstop isn’t confident he’ll be able to maintain that level of defense while wearing the brace, and isn’t sure when he’ll return.

“I miss being on the field. I’m going crazy,” Vizquel told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I feel kind of frustrated because I don’t feel the improvement yet.”

Tough workplace

Manager Lou Piniella told the Sun-Times that managing the Cubs is not like managing any other team in baseball.

“The intensity of this job, the expectations of this job, the fact that the team hasn’t won in so long,” Piniella said. “The people are more anxious and more eager.

“When we started losing early in the year last year, I mean, there was an anxiousness in the air. There was a sense of, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ really, really quick. This is about the only place that I have managed that I have experienced that. So it was an eye-opener.”

Time for green tea

Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was ordered to cut down on the coffee and energy drinks to help prevent cramping in his forearm that he has battled in his career. Piniella endorsed that verdict.

“I’ve never had Red Bull in my life, but I’ve actually seen people at a bar order Red Bull and vodka,” Piniella told the Chicago Tribune. “I can’t comprehend that. If I had a couple of those things, I’d be like the malt liquor bull (from the old TV commercials).”

Two down, months to go

The Angels came into the week without injured starters Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team since 1900 has ever played its first 30 games without two pitchers who had won at least 18 games the previous year.

Clean it up, Papi

Boston Manager Terry Francona received a curse-laden text message this week from a cell phone number he didn’t recognize.

He thought perhaps it might be from his 14-year-old daughter, and was not happy with her using that kind of language.

When he called the number, he found it actually belonged to slumping designated hitter David Ortiz.

“Big Papi” had been left out of the lineup the previous game in an attempt to end an 0-for-17 skid, and  Francona had told Ortiz to let him know if another day off was required.

Ortiz’s answer was a text message that read something to the effect of “Put me in, (expletive).”

“Actually, I was kind of relieved,” Francona told the Boston Globe. “I won’t have a 14-year-old talking like that to her dad. The good news was, my daughter’s not speaking that way, and David wants to play.”

Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail