Is Baseball Finished in Cuba? / Ivan Garcia
Posted on March 26, 2014
Fidel Castro has been an effective gravedigger. He buried sugar crops
and the agricultural abundance of old. Recently, Cuba had to import
sugar from Brazil and the Dominican Republic to meet the consumption
needs of international tourists.
With this type of negative aura that has always surrounded Castro, it
makes sense these days what baseball fans were saying after the dismal
failure of Villa Clara in the Caribbean Series on Margarita Island: we
are currently living through the last days of baseball.
I think not. We have the genes of baseball players in our DNA. Has it
been dealt a fierce blow? It is true. Due to the obstinate and stupid
policies of the state, baseball finds itself stationary, mired in crisis.
But we can make progress. If, for example, Cuban coaches could absorb
the latest advances in the development of baseball via clinics (courses)
with seasoned trainers from the United States. If the academies of the
Major League organizations were allowed and if our players could play in
the MLB without having to leave their homeland.
Although this would be the ideal, this nightmare of five and a half
decades remains. In that sense, I am not optimistic. Because of the
insane system established in Cuba, what could change within two years
could equally extend for another fifty-five.
The methods used by autocrats to remain in power are known. Fear and
repression inhibit many Cubans from publicly disagreeing. So people opt
for a life raft. Marrying a foreigner. Or an offer letter of work
anywhere in the world.
There are two possible scenarios. In the first, Raul Castro becomes a
kind of tropical Jaruzelski and democratizes the island – I am skeptical
– and the embargo is repealed. Perhaps, working hard, in around five or
six years, Cuban ball players developed under modern methods would
skyrocket into Major League teams.
The other option, the way we are going now, is that Cuba transforms into
a discrete monarchy, where relatives, sons and compadres pull on the
threads of the piñata and divide the loot amongst themselves.
The regime is engaged in unprecedented ideological spin. A mixture of
family capitalism, few opportunities, micro-businesses and pure Stalinism.
The Castros want to negotiate, but with the gringos. Face to face.
Seated at a table, dividing up the island as if it were their property.
Under one of these scenarios, Antonio Castro, son of Fidel, would
represent baseball and manage the future contracts of Cuban players.
The mouths of the Castro clan must be watering just thinking about that
possibility. It has not yet arrived, but it looms, in backroom
negotiations with businessmen of the style of Alfonso Fanjul.
If we want to raise the capacity of baseball, change must happen
urgently. If the creole mandarins were sensible – 55 years have shown
otherwise – they would design a new structure for the National Series.
16 teams seems to me too many.
Right now, according to the proven quality of local baseball, the right
number would be a season with 6 teams and a minimum of 100 games.
The season should begin in September. You could have three stages. Six
innings in the first 60 games. A round robin with 40 games and 4 teams.
And ending with play offs between the top two in a best of seven matches.
The season would end in late January, so as not to overlap with the
Caribbean Series or the World Baseball Classic. The few classy players
that are left us, such as Alfredo Despaigne, Yulieski Gourriel,
Frederick Cepeda, Norge Luis Ruiz, Freddy Asiel Álvarez or Vladimir
García, if they are contracted to foreign leagues, it is preferable that
they not to take part in the National Series.
The current level of our baseball only serves to stall us. Of course,
before reforming the National Series, we should strengthen all of
baseball's development structures. From childhood to youth categories.
If the development categories of cadets and youth are still playing with
limited quality balls, poor quality equipment, and bad playing fields,
then the jump to premier level will not be achievable.
Cuba's best trainers must work in the minor levels. All the people
qualified to train players must have unlimited internet access to the
latest information and game statistics.
Also, we should participate in academic and training camp baseball
exchanges with the United States, Japan, South Korea and those Caribbean
countries that play baseball. Cuban television should more frequently
broadcast Major League games. Without the complex absurdities of
broadcasting innings during the time that baseball-playing Cubans have
to be on the move.
All that policy reorganisation would have to include selling affordable
gloves and balls for children. Similarly, it would require the
reconditioning and recuperation of those baseball fields that have been
lost in the country.
The task is arduous and expensive. It remains to be seen if the state
would find the resources or contemplate an agenda to improve the quality
of the current game. If it's smart, it would be the most practical idea.
Then, in the unlikely event that Antonio Castro sits down to negotiate
with MLB managers, we would have a greater amount of talent to offer.
Although I see the vision, insight has not been the greatest quality of
the olive green autocracy.
Photo: During the cold months in the United States, many players moved
to the Caribbean to play baseball, including Jackie Robinson
(1919-1972), who is pictured signing autographs at a stadium in Havana
in 1947. A few weeks later, Robinson made history in his country by
breaking the barrier that barred black players playing in the majors,
thereby paving the way for other African-American, Caribbean and Latin
American players. Taken by AARP Magazine.
Translated by: CIMF
18 March 2014
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