So it’s begun. The World Baseball Classic (WBC) got underway yesterday with a game between Australia and Chinese-Taipei. My apologies for not getting overly excited about the tournament. Do I like the “idea” of the WBC? Without question…I think it’s great to put together a baseball tournament that features the best players from each country and play it out to see who’s best…especially since baseball was eliminated from the Olympics several years ago. But as we know, the very best players from each country don’t necessarily participate AND for me, the WBC happens at the worst possible time…during spring training. But I digress.
Every couple of years, the WBC rolls around. Every couple of years, I have the same conversation with my dad. Why can’t the players who’ve defected from Cuba participate in the World Baseball Classic? The answer to that question is simple, because they don’t really have a team. Personally, I think it’s a shame.
Many have tried and failed. Yet many have tried and succeeded. I’m talking about the decision an individual makes in leaving Cuba. My dad and mom both left Cuba as the turmoil was beginning to unfold. They were fortunate, as were many that left at that time. Many, many others were not as fortunate. As an example, I have an uncle in Cuba that I’ve never met. And while I’ve heard all of the incredibly wonderful stories of what the pre-Castro Cuba was like, I’ve also heard and read as many, if not more, stories about a country that appears to have just stopped in time since Castro’s reign began. It makes me ill just typing that name.
Those who’ve left the island did so seeking a better life for themselves as well as their families. Some come alone, some with friends and/or family members. But for the most part, they look to the north and see a country that promises them freedom as well as the ability to make a living for themselves. Baseball players in particular, yearn for the opportunity to play Major League Baseball. Not only to see if they can match-up with the best of the best, but to make an incredibly good living for themselves and ultimately, their families.
This is the third go-around for the World Baseball Classic and each time I ask the same question…why can’t Major League Baseball allow for a team to be fielded that is made up of Cuban players? No, I’m not talking about the Cuban National team. I’m talking about real-life, bonafide members of the MLB fraternity that were born in Cuba and that have either defected or left the island to come to the States. Managed and coached by Cubans with Major League experience. Now THAT would be a team that could get me to watch the WBC with more consistency.
I think its great MLB is continuously trying to grow the game internationally. There are countries that are still learning the game of baseball yet are provided the opportunity to field a team and/or qualify for the tournament. So why not make an exception to allow a team put together of budding superstars to represent themselves…as Cuban-Americans? Channeling my inner Bluto, “LET’S DO IT!”
Suspend disbelief for a moment and allow me to put together a roster for the Cuban-American team. It is after all, the “WORLD” Baseball Classic, so all should be allowed to participate. In just scratching the surface of players that would “qualify” for the Cuban-American team, a potential lineup could include the likes of these guys:
1B – Yonder Alonso – Padres (Havana, Cuba)
2B – Jose Iglesias – Red Sox (Havana, Cuba)
SS – Alexei Ramirez – White Sox (Pinar del Rio, Cuba)
3B – Yunel Escobar – Rays (Havana, Cuba)
OF – Yoenis Cespedes – A’s (Campechuela, Cuba)
OF – Dayan Viciedo – White Sox (Remedios, Cuba)
OF – Leonys Martin – Rangers (Corralillo, Cuba)
C – Yasmani Grandal – Padres (Havana, Cuba)
DH – Kendrys Morales – Mariners (Fomento, Cuba)
SP – Aroldis Chapman – Reds (Holquin Province, Cuba)
SP – Yunesky Maya – Nationals (Pinar del Rio, Cuba)
RP – Hassan Pena – Nationals (Havana, Cuba)
Bench – Adeiny Hechavarria – Marlins (Santiago de Cuba, Cuba)
Bench – Brayan Pena – Tigers (Havana, Cuba)
Bench – Gaby Sanchez – Pirates (Havana, Cuba)
Bench – Yasiel Puig – Dodgers (Cienfuegos, Cuba)
Bench – Leslie Anderson – Rays (Camaguey, Cuba)
Bench – Juan Carlos Linares – Red Sox
Bench – Jorge Soler – Cubs (Havana, Cuba)
Manager – Fredi Gonzalez – Braves (Holguin, Cuba)
Bench Coach – Tony Perez (Ciego de Avila, Cuba)
Hitting Coach – Tony Oliva (Pinar del Rio, Cuba)
Pitching Coach – Luis Tiant (Marianao, Cuba)
1st Base Coach – Eddie Rodriguez (Havana, Cuba)
3rd Base Coach – Cookie Rojas (Havana, Cuba) – Why wouldn’t I put him in there?
And what if we wanted, for good measure, to add players who are of Cuban descent? It seems like nowadays if your mom’s brother’s uncle was from a particular country, then you can qualify to play for that country. So let’s add the following to the Cuban-American team:
C – J.P. Arencibia – Blue Jays
C – Alex Avila – Tigers
SP – Bronson Arroyo – Reds
SP – Gio Gonzalez – Nationals
1B – Eric Hosmer – Royals
3B – Danny Valencia – Red Sox
INF – Sean Rodriguez – Rays
OF – Raul Ibanez – Mariners
OF – Jon Jay – Cardinals
OF – J.D. Martinez – Astros
Now that I’ve provided a pretty decent “provisional” roster for the Cuban-American team, imagine if the Cuban National team reached the finals of the WBC only to face the team made up of Cuban-Americans. Como se dice, storylines y ratings?
I know, it’s all a pipe dream for now. But here’s the thing, we’re not talking about a 100-year tradition of the WBC that would be over-reaching in allowing this to occur. It’s baseball and if you’re going to put on an international event that showcases your game as well as your players, then ALL of your players should be given the opportunity to represent their country and/or heritage…one way or another. Remember, it’s ok to think outside the box and it may just get me to care about the event a little bit more.
As always, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just livin’ the dream…