Erick Almonte: Baseball Scandal Shames All Of Us

Erick Almonte at Yankee Stadium on April 17, 2003 in the Bronx, New York.

Erick Almonte at Yankee Stadium on April 17, 2003 in the Bronx, New York.  (2003 Getty Images)

A career minor leaguer, Erick Almonte patiently waited eight years before playing for the major leagues.

And when he did make it back to open up the 2011 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, little did he know that his teammate Ryan Braun would later be involved in one of the game's biggest scandals.

While Almonte struggled mostly as a bench player, Braun got off to a hot start in April, hitting .367 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs en route to a the National League MVP prize.

Now the Dominican native who's spent 13 years in the minors questions the authenticity of Braun's accomplishments.

"When they announced that he had tested positive in October (2011), the votes for the MVP were not handed in. All the voters voted for him and gave him his award. I think there's a red spot there since everyone already knew," Almonte told Fox News Latino while visiting New York.
"I think that award deserves an asterisk because everyone already knew what was going on and look at what happened a few years later. You have to put an asterisk on that award."

Almonte himself faced a suspension after testing positive at Nashville, the Brewers's Triple-A affiliate, during the 2012. Those were the darkest days of his career as he defended his innocence after tests revealed he tested positive for amphetamines. In the end, a B sample that was taken proved otherwise.

"You feel bad because you're accused for something you didn't do. You feel good that everything worked out," Almonte said.

This week, the MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig handed down their sentencing, suspending Braun, Alex Rodriguez and 12 other players.

Like any baseball fan, Almonte wants the game cleaned up for good. But he said it pains him every time he hears about the scandal that has ensnared his friends and fellow countrymen.

"It's really hard as a baseball player and, on top of that, seeing one of your countrymen in all media outlets in a negative light. The guys that are there have been my teammates in the winter leagues," Almonte said. "There is a lot of shame. But they all made their decisions and I think each and every one of them will face it and deal with the suspensions."

Almonte stopped short of judging and blaming those who grow up poor in the Dominican Republic and then take shortcuts to try and improve their life. Lack of education and economics are largely to blame, he said.

He said Major League Baseball has done a better job weeding out players who lie about their age – but it needs to do a better job about keeping performance-enhancing drugs away from young players.

"Everyone knows the problem that exists in the Dominican Republic. It's not the same there as it is here. You can get these substances without a prescriptions," Almonte explained. "I know there aren't that many opportunities in our country and although we know they're prohibited, we keep trying to cheat the system. I hope that our mentality changes too."