Thursday, September 13, 2007


A story about the struggles, and occasional successes, of Cuban baseball players in the United States. Seems that while agents and scouts salivate at the prospect of tapping into the allegedly rich Cuban baseball talent pool, successes have been few and far between.

I have never understood why so many people assume that Cuban baseball talent is on a different, higher level than talent from other places and that, by gum, once they finally confirm that Castro is dead, the floodgates will open and high-end Cuban talent will flow like water onto major league rosters. I suppose it has to do with the knowledge of how baseball-crazy Cuba is combined with the fact that so few players have actually made their way to the United States compared to, say, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. That makes for a pretty blank canvass onto which people inevitably paint pictures in overly-optimistic hues.

But if the example of the Dominican Republic has taught us anything, it has taught us that talent, while abundant, doesn't simply hang low from the trees, waiting for scouts to pluck it. The teams that have had success in the Dominican are the teams that have really worked the island, spending countless hours scouting and countless millions on baseball academies and signing bonuses.

Why anyone suspects it will be any different in Cuba is beyond me. The population of the Dominican Republic is not all that much smaller than Cuba's. While no Shangri-la, The D.R. is more prosperous than Cuba, which is likely to translate to more kids playing ball than working in fields or begging in the streets. As was the case with the D.R. (and Texas, Florida, and California for that matter), the teams that do the best in Cuba will be the ones that put the most effort and money into scouting and player development. The talent will come, but it will take a lot of time to fully mature, I think.

There are no free lunches when it comes to developing talent.

1 comment:

Walter Lippmann said...

Are you familiar with the Cuban Adjustment Act? I has been on the book since 1966 and provides special rights, special privileges, special advantages and special incentives to Cuban to come to the United States, by any means, legal or not?

Any Cuban who enters the U.S. illegally is guaranteed to be able to enter, while migrants from other countries (Haitians, Dominicans, Mexicans, whatever) are promptly deported if they show up illegally.

This is a big factor in Cuban migration to the United States.

My father and his parents lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1942. They were German Jewish refugees from Hitler’s holocaust. That’s where my own interest in Cuba comes from. Cuban society today represents an effort to build an alternative to the way life was under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

Some things work, some don’t. It has its flaws and contradictions, as well as having some solid achievements. No society is perfect. But we can certainly learn a few things from Cuba’s experience. I think we can learn more than a few. Among them, why Cuba seems to do so well in international athletic competitions in baseball and many other sports

Best wishes,

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California