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November 10, 2011

Future Shock

Wilson Ramos is Kidnapped

by Kevin Goldstein

In October, we had Rafael Rojas, a Venezuelan baseball writer on the podcast. We talked plenty of baseball, but as I like to steer the show frequently into foreign affairs, we also talked about the state of the nation, and Rojas lamented the rapidly surging crime rate in his home country. One of the biggest issues there is the crime of kidnapping, as Venezeula now has the highest rate in the world. That crime and baseball combined in a disturbing way this evening, as reports have confirmed that Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who had just arrived home to join his winter league team, was abducted by gunmen this evening.

Kidnapping and baseball have crossed paths before in Venezeula. Two years ago, Yorvit Torrealba and his family paid a ransom for the return of his son. Also that year, Victor Zambrano's mother was rescued by a raid following her kidnapping, while in the biggest tragedy, the brother of Henry Blanco was kidnapped in December of 2008, with his body found the next day. He had been shot 15 times.

It's easy for us to say that they are rich baseball players and that they should live permanently in the United States under relative safety. It's easy for us because we are not from there. During my time in baseball, I've made several friends there, and the one thing I can say about them, universally, is that they love Venezuela. Many players are now permanent residents of the United States, but they are still targets for crime, as many members of their extended family remain in the country.

There is no answer here, and maybe not even a point, other than baseball is a wonderful fantasy world, and we hope Ramos can return to it, both quickly, and safely.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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sportspopery

Well said, KG.

Nov 09, 2011 19:34 PM
rating: 12
 
CRP13

That is so messed up. Hoping for his safety.

Nov 09, 2011 19:52 PM
rating: 3
 
raygu1

Yes well said Kevin.

Nov 09, 2011 21:00 PM
rating: 2
 
Dawsonb

Hopes and prayers go out to Wilson, I hope he makes it through this ok, physically and mentally.

Nov 09, 2011 21:58 PM
rating: 1
 
smallmanoncampus

My thoughts are with Ramos and his family. Just a complete shock.

Nov 09, 2011 22:40 PM
rating: 4
 
HalfStreet

I have been mulling this over as a Nats fan since I woke up, wondering if there is anything the team should and could do now and in the future. It is clearly inappropriate to ask Venezuelan players to move their families out of the country, and it woould take the joy out of their lives to provide them 24-hour bodyguards.

Now that he has been kidnapped, do the Lerners offer to pay ransom? Does that guarantee Ramos's safety, or does it endanger other ballplayers. For Ramos's sake, and I guiltily admit for the team's as well, I simply want him out of harm's way, regardless of what it takes to do it.

My prayers go out for Wilson and his mother.

+1/2St.

Nov 10, 2011 03:40 AM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

Maybe a bodyguard would take the joy out of a Venezuelan player's life, but to be brutally frank, not having one may take the LIFE out of a Venezuelan player's life. An ounce of prevention and all that. I too certainly hope and pray for Ramos to get out of this in one piece, but it's probably time for MLB to accept that there is a problem in Venezuela and start looking for an organized response.

Nov 10, 2011 06:59 AM
rating: 1
 
wilymo

yeah, honestly, at this point, if i was a millionaire ballplayer who had family in venezuela and wanted to keep living there, i don't really think 24-hour bodyguards would take that much joy out of anything...

Nov 10, 2011 07:23 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Thing is, Ramos isn't a "millionaire ballplayer." He was a rookie this year, with the usual $415k salary -- far more than most of us make, to be sure, and enough to make him look pretty durn rich in the eyes of the impoverished end of the Venezuelan social structure, but hardly so much that he can just toss off the expense of bodyguards, not just for himself but for his family, in a casual way. This may be a problem that MLB itself should intervene in, rather than leaving it to the individual ballplayers; having players subject to extortion can't be in the best interests of the game, to say nothing of the people who play it.

Nov 10, 2011 08:07 AM
rating: 4
 
smallflowers

...and I think the reason why players like Ramos are kidnapped, and not players Felix Hernandez, proves this point. Felix is likely employing the Black Delta Death Squad to protect his loved ones. Ramos can't foot that bill at this point.

I hope someone on high is watching over this kid, and I hope that MLB and the US take a public stance with teeth on this issue.

Nov 10, 2011 18:04 PM
rating: 0
 
wilymo

sure well the original guy said "provide them" bodyguards so that's what i was thinking. i know ramos may not be a technical millionaire yet but if you adjust for venezuelan inflation he kind of is anyway, as you say. i was using it more as a generalized colloquial expression for "dude who has a lot more money than most of the people around him" & addressing the more general case of big leaguers in poor countries

Nov 11, 2011 09:56 AM
rating: 0
 
montanabowers

Home is where the heart is . . . well stated Kevin.

Nov 10, 2011 06:13 AM
rating: 0
 
richardkr34

Shame about this. Ramo is a good guy and a good player. Here's hoping he makes it out okay.

Nov 10, 2011 12:36 PM
rating: 0
 
saucyjack88

I am honestly shocked and disheartened by this news, but also by the lack of urgency, for lack of a better word, placed on it in the news in general but particularly by MLB.

For example, when I first heard of the kidnapping, I immediately went to my MLB app on my iPhone. Under "News", it was THIRD on the list, after a blurb about Matt Kemp and, amazingly, about Mike Maddux bringing humour to the job interview.

Imagine if Dustin Pedroia or Derek Jeter or hey, Matt Kemp had been kidnapped. The 24 hour news cycle would have hit the jackpot! But no, it's a rookie from Venezuela - allbeit incredibly talented with a very promising future - and I can't help but feel that as a non-American, few in the American mainstream care.

And that in itself is a travesty.

Nov 10, 2011 12:37 PM
rating: 2
 
Asinwreck

It's possible they are trying to minimize news to maximize safety to Ramos. MLB and the Nationals issued this joint statement today: “Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time. Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations is working with the appropriate authorities on this matter. Both Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have been instructed to make no further comment.”

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/11/10/what-can-major-league-baseball-do-about-ballplayer-security-in-venezuela/

What's happening in private is something we can only speculate on, but it seems clear some sort of action is ongoing.

Nov 10, 2011 12:48 PM
rating: 6
 
gcstomp

4 armed gunmen took him from his home. I dont think hiring a rent a cop would have made a difference. And like has been pointed out, he is a rookie making league minimum, so he could not have afforded the platoon of armed guards it would have taken to prevent this.

But solution is not just for him not to go back home, as that is where all his family is, and kidnappers would target family of his left behind. Absurd terrible situation.

Nov 10, 2011 16:55 PM
rating: 3
 
dodgerken222

This accusation that the Ramos case hasn't been covered enough because he is a non-American is just so much nonsense. If Albert Pujols, or Ozzie Guillen, or Carlos Beltran had been the subject, it would have received big play in the media. If Lady Gaga goes down in a plane crash, it's big news. If it happens to a lounge singer in the local bowling alley, it's not. Fame equals news coverage. Big revelation. I'm getting tired of people whining that non-Americans are the victims of some kind of bias. If Matt Kemp gets kidnapped, it wouldn't be big news in Venezuela. And Ramos' family sure as hell don't care if it's the third story im the MLB app.

Nov 11, 2011 06:40 AM
rating: -2
 
saucyjack88

dodgerken222, a little perspective dude. Of course the family of Ramos didn't care about the listing of the story on the MLB app. And I'm sure as the Freedom Riders were being beaten they weren't thinking at that moment "Gee, it's a shame that it says "Whites Only" on that water fountain over there."

And your Lady Gaga analogue? Way off base. There are, what, millions of "entertainers" out there; there are less than 1000 MLB players. If this even happened to a Pittsburgh Pirate, for goodness sake, it should be top news.

No one is whining. When a society chooses to ignore obvious racial, social, sexual, political or other discriminations, that's when society has lost its way. I feel sorry for you that you find it necessary lower the standard of discourse, to state people are "whining" when all we are trying to do is bring the standard of discourse up.

Incidentally, you are the perfect example of the kind of intollerence you are tired of hearing about! In fact, I have to add that I'm tired of all those yokels whining about the whining!

Nov 14, 2011 14:37 PM
rating: 0
 
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