Danny Almonte's rise to the heights of ...Little League and his torpedo-like descent could have only happened in ...New York, NY. These Bronx Bombers have been tuned into their TV sets the last two Octobers and stayed up late to watch the Yankees look like men among boys while whitewashing the Braves, Padres and Mets in successive seasons. They figured they, too, could achieve that kind of success. After all, they didn't have the hassles of education and curfews to deal with. It's not like Almonte would be too tired to go to school the next day because he didn't attend school. No, his sole purpose of being in New York was to help win for the Bronx and Rolando Paulino the long-coveted Little League World Series that they had worked and sacrificed so much for.
When we're talking about sacrifices, I'm not looking at the countless hours that Paulino spent traveling and organizing his league, giving these underprivileged kids the chance to compete and excel at America's national pastime. Make no mistake, Paulino, the director of the league that produced Almonte and the rest of the bearded twelve-year olds, was a tireless worker who offered many opportunities for children to realize their dream. He gave kids like Almonte a chance to throw fastballs at big league ballparks, instead of at cats running through the alleys in their crime-infested neighborhoods.
While those feats should not go unnoticed, they are overridden by Paulino's, Sr. Almonte's, and everyone else involved in this sham's willingness to sacrifice the integrity of the sport, and the morality of minors who were taught that wrong was right and right wouldn't even earn you a ticket to Williamsport.
These children learned to win at all costs. They learned to cheat but not get caught. And now that they have been caught, the shadow of being a member of that notorious Bronx-All Stars team will follow them onto every diamond they set foot on for the rest of their lives.
They were the topic of Lettermen's top ten list for "Signs That Your Little League Teammate Is Too Old," the most humorous being, "You put their teeth under the pillow; your teammates put theirs in a glass of water."
While this may be a black mark on Little League, it will serve as a permanent scar for Almonte and his teammates, who can't be held responsible for the poor, desperate choices made by their parents and coaches.
But while Paulino and Sr. Almonte may be the direct causes of this fiasco, it would be too easy to assign all the blame to two men who had their boys' best interests at heart, although in a twisted, perverse way. They were playing the hand that society gave them, and realized they might need an ace up their sleeves to be ahead at the end of the round. And isn't that what sports is all about?
One needs to look no further than their cross-town counterparts for a model of Baseball Darwinism. The Yankees are supposedly a classy organization, just as the Bronx-All Stars were considered mature beyond their years. Well, it's easy to be a mature 12-year-old when you're really 14, and it's easy to have class when you have a $150 million payroll.
If you can't beat them, join them. Roger Clemens, a long time Yankee killer, realized that the only way he would ever get a World Series ring would be to hop on the bandwagon and add to an existent surplus of talent. Ditto for Mike Mussina. If we're looking at the rest of the Yanks' pitching staff, has anyone checked Orlando Hernandez's birth certificate recently? The point is, the Yankees use their excess cash flow to gain an unfair advantage over smaller markets the same way Almonte used his superior size and strength to strike out 12-year-olds. The results are predictable: Almonte wins ball games; the Yankees win World Series. Almonte dominates, and so do the Yankees.
If you look at it realistically, how can one expect a team with a payroll one-half the size of the Yankees to play on the same ball field with the Yanks? Teams such as the Tigers, Royals, and Twins have about as much chance of winning a World Series as an 11-year-old Oceanside kid does of catching up with an Almonte fastball. With sports being a microcosm of society, Little League has proved it adheres to the same principles as the majors: Cheat to win and don't get caught.
If the Yankees win 10 World Series in a row, who profits the most (besides the Yankees)? The MLB. If Kansas City wins 10 World Series in a row, the MLB would have to declare bankruptcy. While the majors hide behind the guise of free agency and the open market, greedy corporate executives, high revenues, and cutthroat lawyers and arbitrators, Little League only had the use of one forged birth certificate. If there is any good to come out of this one bogus document, hopefully it will be to shed light on all that has gone wrong in this once great game.