To Catch a Tejada

Baseball has its Chris Hansen, and his name is Tom Farrey. ESPN's E:60 reporter sat Miguel Tejada down and confronted him with his own birth certificate, proving Tejada was two years older than he had claimed for his entire career.

Bravo. Thank goodness for guys like Tom Farrey. Without reporters like him, we would have continued to be victimized by this lying, thieving punk. It's like catching a corrupt politician red-handed and preventing him from continuing to lie and steal from his position of power.

After all, this is baseball; even Congress halted to hold a steroid tribunal — twice — because the game's integrity is more important than any of their other business on Capital Hill (you know, like running the country). And while the irreparable harm wreaked by Tejada cannot be undone, at least we can stop him from hurting future generations with his lies.

And to catch him in his tracks like that was beautiful; it was great watching this master of deceit squirm, confronted with his lie and the damage it's done. Shame on you Miguel, and congratulations, Tom. Surely this scoop will propel your career to a new stratosphere, one in which at least seven or eight people actually know your name.

All right, if you haven't noticed the sarcasm I've been pouring on with a ladle at this point, please e-mail me because I have some beachfront property in Wyoming I'd like to sell you at a discount. But seriously, do we need to use the tactics that Chris Hansen uses on "To Catch a Predator" for Dateline? That kind of grandstanding, that kind of sensationalized, two-faced "investigative" reporting seems cruel even to child molesters.

Think about that; Chris Hansen actually makes you feel just a little bad for a guy that feels up children for pleasure; how messed up is that? Do we really need that kind of deception to point out that, "uh, Miguel, we found a birth certificate, you're 33, aren't you?"

It's not like the concept of Latin players lying about their age is new. I don't want to waste an entire paragraph dedicated to all the names of players that have lied, but Rafael Furcal, David Ortiz, Alfonso Soriano, and Bartolo Colon headline the list.

Nor is the motive new. Everyone knows that these players lie to be younger to appear to be better prospects, mainly in order to escape poverty that anyone with the mere means of reading this article cannot fathom. (Some do lie up, like Edgar Renteria, to broach the 16-year age requirement to sign a contract with a team, but the reason is the same.) Farrey knew this, or else he had his head so far up his own backside that it would take a crowbar to dislodge it. Then again, given the sensibility of his reporting, that isn't impossible.

The mere setup was despicable. Farrey asked him his age, and naturally, Tejada lied. Farrey knew this; Tejada has made a career in baseball with his fake age without faltering before. So now Farrey has the journalist equivalent of a hanging curveball with the bases loaded; a person lying in front of him and proof in his hand of that lie. Forget what the lie is. Forget that the lie was perpetrated to get out of living in a shanty and wondering where the next meal is coming from. Forget the utter lack of victims in this lie. (Okay, the Astros may have only given up four, not five, prospects to get him from Baltimore.)

I'd like to see Farrey endure a fraction of Tejada's hardships and see if he wouldn't tell a little lie to get out of it. But really, there is no need to wonder. He lied just to get Tejada to sit down with him, and that was just to add a little drama to his well-paying job.

And by the way, kudos to the big scoop. It only took you until his 12th major league season to flush him out. Richard Nixon would have been retired in the old-people home at the onset of the second Ronald Reagan administration before being caught if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were as prompt.

Don't get me wrong. Tejada's age is fair game, and he should have come forward by now. This absolutely should be reported — preferably somewhere around 1999. And Tejada is a rich man; eventually, time and next week's paycheck will heal the wound.

But a guy being rich is not grounds to jettison common decency. There is no need to dupe him into an interview, dangle a carrot in front of him, spring a trap, and embarrass the hell out of him for coming from abject poverty. Report the story. If you need a TV interview, tell him what it's about first. If he doesn't agree, say he didn't want to comment in the report. Standard procedure.

I graduated from journalism school at USC. Nothing I ever learned there suggested this was appropriate; I never had a class called "Tricking People Into Interviews to Make Them Cry 310." This was sensationalized garbage built for ratings at the expense of a person with no benefits for society at large.

But I did learn about burning sources, and if ESPN is ever allowed to talk to Tejada again, they should be considered lucky. But this bridge, most likely, has been scorched.

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