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With Teri Thompson
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In the wake of 2005’s sometimes contentious, sometimes comical congressional hearings on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and the subsequent Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball established the Department of Investigations (DOI). An internal and autonomous unit, it was created to not only eliminate the use of steroids, but also to rid baseball of any other illegal, unsavory, or unethical activities. The DOI would investigate the dark side of the national pastime–gambling, age and identity fraud, human trafficking, cover-ups, and more–with the singular purpose of cleaning up the game.
Eduardo Dominguez Jr. was a founding member of that first DOI team, leaving a stellar career with the Boston Police Department to join four other “supercops”–a group that included a 9/11 hero, a mob-buster, and narcotics experts–keeping watch over Major League Baseball.
A decorated detective as well as a member of an FBI task force, Dominguez was initially reluctant to leave his law-enforcement career to work full-time in baseball. He had already seen the game’s underbelly when he worked as a resident security agent (RSA) for the Boston Red Sox in 1999 and become wary of the game’s commitment to any kind of reform. Only at the persuasion a widely respected NYPD detective tapped to lead the DOI did Dominguez agree to join the unit, which was the first–and last–of its kind in major American sports. “We could clean up this game,” his new boss promised.
In Baseball Cop, Dominguez shares the shocking revelations he confronted every day for six years with the DOI and nine as an RSA. He shines a light on the inner workings of the commissioner’s office and the complicity of baseball’s bosses in dealing with the misdeeds compromising the integrity of the game. Dominguez details the investigations and the obstacles–from the Biogenesis scandal to the perilous trafficking of Cuban players now populating the game to the theft of prospects’ signing bonuses by buscones, street agents, and even clubs’ employees. He further reveals how the mandates of former senator George Mitchell’s report were modified or ignored altogether.
Bracing and eye-opening, Baseball Cop is a wake-up call for anyone concerned about America’s national pastime.
In 1994, Eddie Dominguez, a seasoned detective in the Boston Police Department with fifteen years on the job, was assigned to the Major Case Unit at BPD headquarters, working alongside state troopers and the rest of the MCU squad. Dominguez lived in Braintree, Massachusetts, and coached his young sons, Andrew and Christopher, and their Little League team. As a boy, the Cuban-born Dominguez had learned to love the game of baseball on the rock-strewn sandlots of Havana, and he brought that love to his sons on the playing fields of Boston. The Little League travel season was heating up, and Dominguez and his sons watched the Red Sox on television on a nightly basis. Sometimes they were fortunate enough to catch a game at Fenway Park. The Dominguez boys loved Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn from those early-’90s teams. The Sox even had a Cuban player, the left-handed pitcher Tony Fossas, with whom Eddie had grown up in Jamaica Plain, the gritty Boston neighborhood where Dominguez settled with his family after they fled Cuba.
The baseball season ended prematurely in August 1994 due to a players’ strike, making for a long, dispiriting close to the summer and fall. But only four years later an exciting, unprecedented chase for the single-season home run record made fans forget all about the strike as they flocked to the ballpark in record numbers. Even the most casual observer watched in awe as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa blasted baseballs over outfield walls with the ease of Babe Ruth.
What Major League Baseball didn’t want advertised was how McGwire and Sosa, among others, could achieve those superhuman feats. To someone like Dominguez, the Cuban refugee and decorated cop, the answer seemed plain as day. During the following season, 1999, when he was hired to work in conjunction with Major League Baseball as the resident security agent (RSA) overseeing all manner of security issues for the Red Sox, Dominguez would see the scourge permeating the game firsthand.
In 2001, two years into his work as an RSA, Dominguez was at a rookie career development conference when he was invited to an informal gathering in the hotel room of Kevin Hallinan, a former New York Police Department lieutenant who was head of MLB’s security department and Dominguez’s boss. Hallinan asked a hypothetical question of his Boston RSA: What would happen if Dominguez were to investigate drug use in the Red Sox clubhouse? Dominguez was still somewhat new in his role, but the exchange that followed Hallinan’s question was telling.
“So Dominguez, what do you think?” Hallinan began. “People are up in arms about this steroid stuff, thinking the commissioner’s office and the rest of us were asleep at the wheel. If I wanted you to really investigate what was going on in the clubhouse in Boston, what would happen?”
Dominguez, who was keenly aware of baseball’s unofficial drug use policy at the time—“Don’t ask, don’t tell”—had never been a fan of Hallinan and demurred, “I don’t know, Kevin. It’s getting late. I’m going to head up for the night.”
Hallinan persisted. “I want to know what you think,” he said. “What would happen? Would we find anything at all? A couple Dominicans with a few syringes?”
“Are you talking about just steroids?” Dominguez asked.
“Steroids, uppers, downers, and whatever else,” Hallinan replied. “Open season. What would you find if I let you loose in there?”
Dominguez answered slowly, measuring his response, “I think half of them would be in handcuffs.”
Hallinan was incredulous. His two underbosses in the room, Tom Belfiore and Marty Maguire, were speechless.
“Are you kidding?” Hallinan asked.
“No,” Dominguez said. “You asked me my opinion, and I told you what I think.”
Dominguez, who continued to work for the Boston Police Department while serving as an RSA, had based his answer on what he had observed during his first two years in the Red Sox clubhouse. He was a twenty-two-year veteran of the Boston PD and had been a case agent working undercover on dozens of drug cases. He had cultivated informants and befriended mob bosses. He relied on his instincts and simple common sense, tools that translated well to a major-league clubhouse.
Some of the signs of drug use were subtle, others not so much. Players would head toward the training room, slap their own butts, and make a motion with their fingers as though they were going to be injected. There were hangers-on with fake names and IDs—red flags to an experienced narcotics detective because drug dealers wanted elsewhere were known to purchase and assume another person’s identity. There were specific instances that led Dominguez to believe that Hallinan and MLB were either clueless about or willfully blind to what was going on under their noses.
Before MLB vowed to crack down on the player entourages that frequently clogged clubhouses—personal trainers, gofers, valets—even employees of the team weren’t subjected to background checks. The underpaid clubbies depended on the big tips doled out by the players and would carry out any task asked of them. Dominguez’s targets included clubhouse attendants in Boston and other cities, as well as all the other barbers, assistants, bodyguards, and hangers-on. As history would reveal, players such as Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez relied heavily on those confidants and associates, some of them family members, as crutches and front men for their alleged drug needs.
Those were the years before a drug-testing program was negotiated between MLB and the players’ union, when there were players who would return from the off-season looking like ultrabuff cartoon characters. Speculation among fans and the media about many of the players—McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, Brady Anderson, José Canseco, and others—was that they were getting pharmaceutical “help” for their performance on the field. One of those transformed players was Nomar Garciaparra, the phenomenal Red Sox shortstop from 1996 to 2004. “No-mah,” as he was known in Boston, appeared on a March 2001 Sports Illustrated cover transformed from a skinny, wiry kid into a muscle-bound superman. Under the headline “A Cut Above: How Baseball’s Nomar Garciaparra Made Himself the Toughest Out in Baseball,” Garciaparra was shirtless and looked as if someone had injected him with helium, or, as was speculated in the media, something else, even though he had never tested positive for or otherwise been connected to performance-enhancing drugs.1
Baseball’s obstructive, head-in-the-sand approach to its burgeoning steroid problem would abruptly end in 2005, when Congress began to ask what the professional leagues—baseball in particular—were doing about doping and called for a hearing on performance-enhancing drug use in sports. Subsequently, MLB commissioner Bud Selig and his labor chief, Robert Manfred, who would succeed Selig as commissioner, were hammered by members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for ignoring the drug scourge for years. As early as 1994, baseball, and specifically Hallinan, had been warned by an FBI agent about the game’s growing steroid problem, a problem MLB adamantly denied for years.
Only a month before the 2005 congressional hearing, the New York Daily News reported that Michigan-based FBI agent Greg Stejskal had told Hallinan during a 1994 FBI agents’ conference in Quantico, Virginia, that a three-and-a-half-year-long federal steroid investigation known as Operation Equine had revealed evidence of heavy steroid use by star players, including Canseco and McGwire, as far back as the late 1980s.
“It did not happen,” Hallinan told the Daily News after the story appeared. “Not with this guy [Stejskal]. Not with anybody else.”2
Stejskal’s partner, FBI agent Bill Randall, told the Daily News and other media that the FBI had records of the meeting between Stejskal and Hallinan. “The fact is, Greg met with Hallinan and MLB, and told him about Canseco and other names,” Randall said.
Another Daily News report published days before the congressional hearing described an Operation Equine informant’s account of having injected McGwire at a gym in southern California with an array of hard-core steroids, including testosterone, Equipoise, and Winstrol. Operation Equine was the federal probe into steroid dealers that Stejskal oversaw, with Randall acting as the undercover agent. Even after McGwire admitted in a 2010 interview with NBC broadcaster Bob Costas that he had used steroids throughout his career, MLB continued to equivocate.3
“We overcame many obstacles to develop an unprecedented UC [undercover] operation that is still the most successful case of its kind,” Stejskal wrote in a 2012 FBI publication. “I often wonder how things would have been different had MLB acted on our warning. (In 2005 MLB even denied we warned them, and they have never unequivocally admitted that we did warn them.)”4
Eleven years after the 1994 warning, Henry Waxman, the highly respected Los Angeles congressman and then the ranking minority member of the committee, bluntly summed up the congressional view: “We’re long past the point where we can count on Major League Baseball to fix its own problems.”5
The message from the committee members was clear: clean up your game, or Congress will. A full-blown federal investigation, and perhaps even a change of status to baseball’s vaunted antitrust exemption, were the unstated threats. His legacy at stake, Selig commissioned his good friend, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, to carry out an independent investigation into doping in baseball with the hope that the congressional watchdogs would be appeased. The result was a lengthy report released in December 2007 detailing extensive drug use by players, cover-ups, lax oversight by the game’s overlords, and a shadowy underworld of drug peddlers—from trainers to clubbies to agents—who had infiltrated baseball.
Clemens and Andy Pettitte were the biggest names to surface in Mitchell’s report, but it was a little-noted section of the document near the end that would have the most impact: the portion that recommended that MLB establish an in-house investigative unit. Mitchell stressed that the unit should comprise former law enforcement members, be autonomous, and, most pointedly, receive no interference from MLB’s Labor Relations Department. The unit’s members would report only to the commissioner and MLB president Bob DuPuy. The report stated that the MLB Labor Relations Department’s “principal responsibility is to oversee the collective bargaining relationship with the Players Association,” leaving little room or time for Labor to investigate potential player transgressions. The report further stated:
That primary responsibility, however, also complicates the ability of the labor relations department to meet another of its responsibilities, to investigate allegations of player wrongdoing. The department must maintain good relations with the Players Association; but aggressive, thorough investigations of the alleged possession or use by players of performance enhancing substances may be inconsistent with that objective.…
The senior executive should have sole authority over all investigations of alleged performance enhancing substance violations and other threats to the integrity of the game, and should receive the resources and other support needed to make the office effective.6
It went on to say that the commissioner’s office should adopt a written policy requiring all information received by a team or the commissioner’s office about possible performance-enhancing substance use, other than the collectively bargained drug-testing program, “must be reported immediately and directly to the senior executive in charge of the Department of Investigations.”7
For Eddie Dominguez, a man who throughout his law enforcement career had worked hand in hand with the DEA and FBI in taking down mobsters and drug lords, becoming a member of MLB’s new Department of Investigations seemed like a dream job. His family had fled Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba in 1966. Nine-year-old Eddie had arrived in Boston as a kid who had played baseball in the streets of Havana, hitting a crumpled can or rock with a broomstick. He was a Minnesota Twins fan; his favorite players were the Cuban outfielder Tony Oliva and the Red Sox great Luis Tiant. He met Oliva years later when Oliva was a Twins coach and Dominguez spoke at a spring training presentation. Tiant, the Cuban-born right-hander and a star of the epic 1975 Cincinnati Reds–Boston Red Sox World Series, had lived in Dominguez’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, and Dominguez got to know Tiant well when the Sox hired their former pitcher as an ambassador. “The only player,” Dominguez says, “I would ever call my friend.” Dominguez coached Little League for thirteen years. His sons would play college baseball, and Andrew would even go on to play in the Red Sox organization for three years.
Twice Dominguez had turned down Hallinan’s offer to join MLB’s security department, but this opportunity, working in a proposed autonomous unit, was different: Hallinan was out—he had retired in 2007—and Dominguez’s friend Dan Mullin, a retired NYPD deputy chief, had been promoted to vice president of the newly established Department of Investigations.
“For me, the whole reason I jumped ship to join Dan Mullin and the other DOI agents he hired was because of the appeal of maintaining the integrity of America’s pastime,” Dominguez would say. “In fact, that is the exact way Mullin pitched the job to me.”
“We could clean up the game,” Mullin told Dominguez in a text when the department was formed in early 2008.
Dominguez had known Mullin for more than twenty years, going back to a summer night in 1981 outside Fenway Park when two of Mullin’s NYPD colleagues had left a memorable imprint on Lansdowne Street, behind the famed Green Monster. Suffice it to say, two of New York’s Finest had drained more Budweisers than all the frat boys in Boston. When Dominguez addressed the officer sitting in the driver’s seat of the police cruiser—the one with his police cap turned backward—the officer muttered a slurred “Ehhs tthisss Fehhnway Puh-ark?”
Dominguez helped get the NYPD boys onto their feet, dressed in fresh clothes, and into the Fens to watch the Red Sox game. The episode sparked a long relationship with Mullin’s peers from Midtown South in Manhattan, the beginning, as Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, of a beautiful friendship.
Not only was Mullin a decorated NYPD veteran whose heroic efforts on 9/11 were well documented—a harrowing still photograph taken by New York Times photographer Ruth Fremson showed Mullin, covered in ash and soot, leaning against a deli case moments after he and Fremson had found refuge from the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center—he also held a law degree from New York University. He had served as the commanding officer of Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau’s detective squad, was the head of Staten Island’s detective operations, and then became the executive officer of the NYPD’s narcotics division, where he oversaw more than three thousand detectives.
“What’s there to think about?” Mullin texted Dominguez.
The truth? There were a few things to consider in taking on a new job: uprooting from Boston to New York; Dominguez’s first marriage, which was crumbling, but there was no fixing that, and his sons were done with high school; and four more years on the Boston PD would secure his full pension.
But the pull was there. The DOI was to be an independent unit, at least on paper. It would have a clean slate to carry out its own investigations, with no interference. That meant digging deep into more than just the drug mess. The Dominican Republic—from which a large portion of MLB’s players originated—was an island with myriad problems throughout the baseball business, including age and identity falsification, bonus skimming, and the exploitation of teenage prospects. Players were trickling in from Cuba, some trafficked, others defecting.
Dominguez read the Mitchell Report again. In MLB’s structure, DOI and Labor would be separate. With Mullin in charge, great change would be possible. Mullin was tough enough to stare down a pampered millionaire and hold him accountable if there was evidence to suggest wrongdoing. He had the balls to drop the hammer. Dominguez picked up the phone and dialed the Irish cop whom he later nicknamed “El Guapo”—“The Handsome One.”
Mullin answered on the first ring. “Hey, Dan. Yeah, I’m in,” Dominguez said.
The DOI was born in January 2008 with the blessing of the government but died quickly and quietly in 2014, the victim of the very same forces that had led to its formation. Baseball may have declared the Steroid Era dead and buried, but as the summer of 2017 wound down, a new record hit the books: on September 19, Kansas City’s Alex Gordon hit Major League Baseball’s 5,694th home run of the year, breaking a season record set in 2000, which had been, as news reports noted, the height of what would become one of the most controversial periods in baseball history.
Dominguez joined what at the time was an unprecedented experiment in self-policing: the DOI’s announced mission was to expose individuals and entities that would corrupt the game. Mullin had assembled a dream team of investigators: five former FBI and DEA task force members, high-ranking detectives skilled in undercover stings and narcotics busts. They would hit the ground running and use the law enforcement techniques they had spent years honing to tackle any corrupting force. Dominguez had a front-row seat for some of the most groundbreaking investigations in baseball’s history—some shocking, some farcical. But each case represented a beneath-the-surface threat to the billion-dollar industry that is Major League Baseball. If steroids, gambling, and human trafficking were poxes on the game, baseball’s bosses would find that the cure for those ills was, in their eyes, even worse.
Dominguez had barely started the job when he was approached by an executive at baseball’s pristine Park Avenue offices in New York City. He told Dominguez that no one—no one!—wanted him or any of the DOI members around.
“You made a huge mistake taking this job,” the executive said.
“Excuse me? What are you talking about?” Dominguez asked.
“The owners don’t want you, the commissioner doesn’t want you, Labor and Manfred sure as hell don’t want you,” the executive said. “You guys are internal affairs, and if baseball can do anything about it, you won’t last long.”
There had been an equally sobering exchange in the Dominican Republic with a team’s international scouting director during Dominguez’s first year on the job.
“We had knocked back a few Presidentes in old town Santo Domingo, at a bar near the Caribbean surf. It was the first and last time I would ever set foot in the place,” Dominguez said. “The guy looked at me and said, ‘Your mind and heart seem like they’re in the right place, but what you don’t understand is that this industry is like the Mafia.’
“I had actually been involved in undercover operations with real Mafia hoods, and now a baseball scout was making comparisons between baseball and organized crime? I laughed it off at the time. So did my superiors, Dan Mullin and former FBI agent George Hanna, after I rehashed the conversation with them. I guess I should have run right then and there, run straight back to Boston and the law enforcement career I had ditched, run as far away from baseball as I could.”
“Nobody wants you cleaning up any dirt,” the guy said, tipping back the green beer bottle.
How do you like that? Dominguez thought. The recommendation by Selig’s handpicked investigator, former senator George Mitchell, was off to a beautiful start.
That dream job? Turned out it was too good to be true.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
I had already received three phone calls on Monday, April 28, 2014, from a familiar 212 area code, although the extension at MLB’s offices wasn’t one I immediately recognized. The Red Sox were off that day after getting creamed by Toronto 7–1 a day earlier, so I was preoccupied with work, revisiting some loose ends in a couple investigations, going over reports in my home office.
Alex Rodriguez, the player Major League Baseball had relentlessly pursued and demanded that the DOI nail at all costs, was somewhere—perhaps in Miami? L.A.?—serving his season-long suspension for his years-long association with Anthony Bosch, the founder of the Biogenesis antiaging clinic. And Bosch himself? Who knows? Maybe he was snorting coke somewhere, after baseball had paid his way—room and board, lawyers, fancy New York restaurants—to be its star witness in A-Rod’s bruising arbitration the previous fall when the fallen Yankee star had contested his historic 211-game suspension for doping. Bosch’s day would come down the road.
My cell phone lit up again. This is it, I thought.
When I answered the call, the man’s voice on the other end blurted out that he was in Payroll at MLB. I had dealt with that department for fifteen years, and this had to be the most bizarre conversation I had ever experienced.
“We just need the name and number of the person with the car service you used,” said the voice. He was hurried, curt, maybe purposely unfriendly. I realized he was asking about the car service and how I had been having members of my family pitch in to drive. I’d stopped using car services after a drug dealer I had busted years earlier had shown up at the end of my driveway early one morning in a limo owned by a service recommended by MLB. That had unnerved me a bit, to say the least.
On too many occasions in my previous line of work as an undercover detective purchasing or selling narcotics to middle- to upper-level drug dealers, I had received threats on my life. I had once put a cocaine dealer in jail who had then hired someone to find out where I lived. According to a source, the dealer wanted me dead. The threats were always there, but this was the first time I learned that one of those thugs was looking into where I lived. Now you’re talking about my family. The result was round-the-clock surveillance of my home until I paid the drug dealer a visit and let him know I was onto him.
That was why it was more than a bit disconcerting to see that the driver for the car service MLB had recommended, who showed up to deliver me to the airport, was a guy that I had previously arrested. It was 4 a.m., late 2010, and it was dark, so I kept my head down and hoped he didn’t recognize me. But I was not about to chance that again. Being picked up at your home by a total stranger is not a healthy practice for someone who did what I did for a living.
So after that incident, I paid my sons, Andrew and briefly Chris, the market rate to drive me to the airport or the nearest train station. When my sons weren’t available, sometimes my mother, or my wife, Donna, drove me. It wasn’t as though MLB recommended that our unit use a specific service—it simply asked that we use the cheapest one available. It was up to us to figure it out, and I estimated that I had been paying the previous service about $100 for a trip from my house to Logan International and $40 to the closest Amtrak station.
Now this MLB payroll guy was barking for a name and phone numbers and saying that he had to run the information through the system. Even though I had been handling my car service like this for three or four years, with no questions asked, no flags raised, every expense approved in a four-step process, there was no way I was getting my sons involved, so I left their names out of it. The conversation ended abruptly. I immediately called my bosses, Dan Mullin and George Hanna.
No answer. Nothing.
Outside my home, I must have paced up and down the driveway the equivalent of a mile, parsing my thoughts. Up and down. Up and down. The great DOI experiment was over, and for the first time in my life I was about to be fired. I knew it. Donna knew it. The phone call about the car service made that clear. I knew they were capable of playing hardball and I barely had enough money to even start to think about mounting a defense.
While I was waiting for the phone to ring again, I put the question to Donna: “I want you to know that it’s going to get ugly. Are you in?”
“I’m in,” Donna said.
I circled back through my garage and went to the office.
I tried Mullin and Hanna again. Still, no answer. Shit, I thought. We’re history. Then came Dan Halem’s call, his extension lighting up the digital display on my phone. The chief lieutenant in the Labor Relations Department, Halem had been one of the DOI’s main adversaries.
I ignored it.
I reached out to Nancy Zamudio, the lead assistant at the DOI, and she confirmed that Mullin and Hanna were gone. (Tom Reilly, my DOI partner during the Biogenesis case, would be terminated days later.) I held the phone for a couple seconds, thinking back to those heady days in early 2008. What was it Mullin had said? “We could clean up this game.”
I finally reached Mullin and Hanna. They told me that MLB was already digging deep into our emails and text messages, presumably trying to find a reason to fire us. Baseball was also leaning on us to sign confidentiality agreements, and I knew the people there would try to use the car service issue as leverage to get me to sign.
But despite the significant hurdles that lay ahead, I was ready to take on MLB and expose the bullshit behind the Mitchell Report, the DOI, and the dissolution of our unit.
Even before 2012, when the Biogenesis investigation began to heat up, it was becoming clear to me after four years with the DOI that the warnings I’d heard about MLB were accurate. I became convinced that baseball’s lords were going to get rid of us for doing the job we had been charged with after Congress, revelations in the media, and the Mitchell Report had embarrassed them for their years of neglect.
From the very beginning, we had followed George Mitchell’s edict: to work hand in hand with law enforcement. Mitchell had made it clear that the unit’s success would depend on that interaction. “The Commissioner’s Office should establish policies to ensure the integrity and independence of the department’s investigations, including the adoption of procedures analogous to those employed by the internal affairs departments of law enforcement agencies,” he wrote. “The adoption of and adherence to these policies can serve to ensure public confidence that the Commissioner’s Office is responding vigorously to all serious allegations of performance enhancing substance violations.”1
But as we would later discover, Manfred and his Labor Relations Department would put up walls almost every step of the way—everything from preventing us from interviewing players under investigation or, as was the case in the Biogenesis investigation, hiring an outside contractor and retired law enforcement to shadow us and undermine our work. That we would later be blamed for many of the actions of that shadow group was especially galling.
- On Sale
- Apr 2, 2019
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Hachette Books