Major League Baseball can’t keep you from seeing the new documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero, which opens Friday, but they seem to prefer you just didn’t, according to a recent article in USA Today. The sports organization would at least like people to have the facts straight, as MLB has reportedly accused the film, for which Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine serves as executive producer, of inaccuracies and states “the film does not reflect the current status of operations in the Dominican Republic.”
But does it reflect operations in 2009? The doc, directed by newbies Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin and Jonathan Paley, was shot three years ago and follows two young Dominican prospects at the time being groomed for the big league as part of a system that gives hope to poor families and teenage athletes. If they’re the right age and display the right talent, they could be looking at receiving signing bonuses in the millions.
Unfortunately it might be a system wrought with corruption on both sides, as money influences kids (and their parents) to lie about their birth date and identity to garner the best bonus. That in turn causes MLB to better protect its budgets through careful investigation into the background of every possible recruit, which allegedly leads to more valuable players experiencing more suspicion and scrutiny so their price tag may be lowered.
The thing is, it’s not necessarily the film itself that is at fault if such allegations are unfounded. As far as I can tell, while the filmmakers might side with their subjects and believe MLB did some shady things in order to exploit Miguel Angel Sano (pictured), their doc is relatively fair and takes no official stance or criticism against the organization.
Ballplayer: Pelotero’s voice of exposition, as narrated by comedian John Leguizamo, sticks to facts. And any outright accusations come from the characters, including Sano (who adds new comments in the article), his family members or his trainer.
And that’s perfectly okay for a documentary to do, present the presumptions of its subjects and interviewees if those people are willing to offer such. It doesn’t mean the movie is aligned with those comments. Paley is quoted as saying that they attempted to get MLB’s side of the story in the film but “they brushed us off.”
My guess is they didn’t realize the doc would receive this sort of attention and now regret not participating to provide the rebuttals on screen. MLB can continue trying to discredit Sano or anyone else appearing in Ballplayer: Pelotero, but it doesn’t have much right to badmouth the film itself.
Of course, in doing so they’re giving the doc more attention, so I guess the filmmakers shouldn’t be too upset with the controversy.
Ballplayer: Pelotero opens Friday in NYC, LA, Boston, Seattle, Houston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Washington, DC, and Lake Worth, Florida, via Strand Releasing, and will be available on VOD and iTunes the same day.