- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
- 0 Shares
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Darren Oliver made a wise professional decision this winter when he accepted a salary arbitration offer from the Los Angeles Angels and parlayed it into a one-year, $3.665 million contract amid a weak market for free agents.
On the personal investment front, Oliver hasn't been quite so fortunate.
The 15-year veteran is one of several major leaguers ensnared in an investment scheme perpetrated by Robert Allen Stanford, a Texas financier who is under investigation by federal regulators for an alleged $8 billion fraud.
Oliver told ESPN.com on Friday that the list of athletes victimized by Stanford -- a Texas tycoon who has drawn comparisons to Ponzi scheme artist Bernard Madoff -- is more extensive than the public believes.
"There are a lot more guys that people don't even know about," Oliver said from the Angels' camp in Tempe. "A lot of them are retired. I feel bad for the people who are 70 years old and have to get money every month and can't even get any money out. What about them?"
Oliver, like fellow major leaguers Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady, Carlos Pena, Mike Pelfrey, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Beltre and Scott Eyre, did not invest money directly with the Stanford Financial Group, but rather through investment professionals who steered him toward Stanford products.
The situation is more serious for some than others. The Philadelphia Phillies recently gave Eyre an undisclosed advance on his $2 million salary because he was unable to gain access to the money in his bank accounts and pay his bills.
Oliver, like Eyre, has had some credit cards and bank accounts frozen during the government investigation, but said he has enough money to cover family expenses until he begins to receive his paycheck in mid-April.
"Then I'll just take my money and bury it in the back yard," Oliver said.
It was, nevertheless, a shock when Oliver received a phone call from his investment advisers apprising him of the situation.
"My guys called me two weeks ago and said, 'Your money is safe,' " Oliver said. "But I had to pull over to the side of the road when they called me. I got a little dizzy."
Oliver said athletes can be particularly vulnerable to investment schemes because they're so preoccupied during the season, they're accustomed to handing over their checks to financial advisers with no questions asked. If anything, Oliver said the Stanford debacle is sending a message to athletes that they need to be more vigilant about where their money goes.
He's begun reading The Wall Street Journal daily, while his wife sends him constant updates via the Internet.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. I know that," Oliver said. "But it's still tough, though. You just have to ride it out."
While Oliver is angry with Stanford for his greed and upset with regulators that he claims "were asleep at the switch," he said he expects to be fine as long as his funds are unfrozen eventually.
"If not, that's a whole different ballgame," Oliver said. "It would be a little nerve-wracking, I'd be over there curled up in the corner with a teddy bear sucking my thumb, like everybody else in the country."
Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.
6dKevin Van Valkenburg
13hESPN Stats & Information
16hESPN Stats & Information