The headline: Phillies reliever Ugueth Urbina was briefly questioned by police and released early Sunday after accusations that he assaulted several men after a welcome home party at his family’s home in Venezuela.
Police said a dispute broke out between Urbina and two of his workers over the whereabouts of a firearm. Five workers were injured, one of them suffering back burns.
Beerleaguer: I won’t even pretend to know anything about Venezuela. All I know is the headlines we read here in the United States paint the picture of a real hell.
It flies in the face of the way our Venezuelan players – chiefly Bobby Abreu and Urbina – regard their native country. Both players are extremely nationalistic and proud, rushing home as soon as the season ends. A noted image from 2005 finds Abreu wrapping himself in the Venezuelan flag after winning the home run derby.
To me, Sunday’s incident sounds like a drunken good time gone horribly and inexcusably wrong. Officials brought Urbina in for questioning "under confusing circumstances," and was released shortly after. I’d wager that everyone involved was a sloppy mess: gas; fire; machetes. Inexcusable, and no doubt the result of one too many. If legal action is taken, and Urbina is found guilty by a court, then he should be punished as you or I or anyone else would.
There’s an unfair stigma, however, that trouble follows our Latino players wherever they go. Granted, Urbina has had three run-ins with the law since 2000, but newspaper headlines can spread those notions. La Prensa or El Nacional, reporting on Vicente Padilla or the Venezuelan players, respectively, are often harbingers of bad news when they're cited in America.
Ballplayers can represent their country’s biggest and richest icons. Urbina, Abreu and even Tomas Perez are treated as gods, making for potential volatile situations other players might not encounter. American players would go largely unnoticed in a club, where players like Abreu are constantly surrounded by an entourage of hired muscle.
This degree of stardom is something stateside fans will never fully appreciate. Last season, Urbina's mother was kidnapped and held for $6 million ransom by drug traffickers. She was eventually found alive in a mountainous area of the country.
Since the headline broke last week, I haven’t seen anything move over the wire, indicating the incident could blow over.
Urbina has stated he only wants to return to Philadelphia if he becomes a full-time closer, so we may have seen the last of Urbina in a Phillies uniform.