Cuban baseball between reality and chimeras

By: José Antonio Michelena

The evils of bureaucracy

The baseball atmosphere on the island is heated. On the one hand, there is a rain of comments about the preselection that the Olympic ticket must contest, and on the other, the so-called renewal of the Industriales team has also aroused many opinions found on social networks.

Anyone who is aware of baseball news is able to envision the impossible mission that the Cuban team has in the tournament that will be played in Florida from May 31. There will be the powers of America – where Cuba no longer appears – in this sport (United States, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico) along with Canada, Colombia and Nicaragua. And there is only one ticket to Tokyo.

Equipo Industriales
Equipo Industriales

Taking that possibility for granted, there is still another one, as unlikely as qualifying in Florida: to finish there in second or third place to fight for the last place in Taipei with the hosts, the Netherlands, Australia, China, and the teammate of America. An unattainable chimera.

In recent months there has been speculation about the possible inclusion, in the national team, of players who play in other leagues, but that is another utopia, something that will not happen immediately. There are many injuries among athletes in the diaspora, caused over many years by hostile language and treatment, and there are also multiple drawbacks to the employment contracts of these players.

So the team will attend Florida with the national series players, several of those hired in Japan – if they are not injured – and three veterans who went, at some point, through the MLB – if they do not eliminate any in the last cut. It is what it is. Insufficient to harbor hope.

Considering that baseball will not be present at the 2024 Paris Olympics, there is a long way to go until Los Angeles 2028. Will there be a Cuban national team in California in seven years? It is not a long time for everything to correct and change the ball at home. You have to hurry.

The paradox is that while on the Island the quality of baseball has hit rock bottom, there are many Cuban players who in recent seasons have managed to establish themselves – some in a very prominent and brilliant way – in the highest level organization of that sport, Major League Baseball (MLB). So what is the problem? Where does the water enter the coconut?

In August 2020, the digital magazine Playoffmagazine published an interview with outfielder Yadir Drake, who, with the experience of having played in various leagues, including MLB, when asked if Cuban baseball is in crisis, declared: « Cuba has good players to prevail in international events, but they still have things to learn. The quality of the players is there, but there is a lack of things that escape their hands when it comes to playing against professionals. That is not arranged in the field, but in the offices.

It was an elegant and precise answer. The term “office” is a metaphor to refer to the bureaucracy that runs Cuban baseball, which paralyzes any development. His inability and clumsiness affects the entire structure that supports him. The deficiencies, even if they manifest themselves on the ground, emanate from those who lead. And in the national teams you can see the long and clumsy hand of that bureaucracy.

The brain drain that has bled Cuban baseball over the past thirty years is, in part, a consequence of the poor procedures of bureaucrats. Not a few of the diaspora athletes would have continued to play in their country if they had seen opportunities and fairer treatment.

Among the several dozen of those who were able to settle in the Big Top, there are plenty of cases that exemplify the lack of vision of local technicians to assess and develop talent. Many of them would never have even been selected for the Cuba team. They were there, but the technicians did not see them, they ignored them, or they worked in other positions, or they did not meet the essential parameter: not to be suspected of defecting.

The handling of the bureaucracy has made itself felt ostensibly in the teams of the national series. Since the arrival of the reinforcements and the transfers of players between provinces, the map of places in the standings has been restructured and a strange, rarefied time has happened.

The province most favored with transfers has been Matanzas, but beware, not (only) because the players of that team have been offered what they were not offered in their provinces of origin, but because there, in addition, or above all, there were a deep connoisseur of baseball, a visionary, someone who was able to see and develop talent that others did not see, even if as a manager he was a disaster.

Perhaps the opposite case to Matanzas, at this time, is Havana; that is to say, Industrials, mired in a long crisis that does not end. It is known that the capital has suffered like no other province from the brain drain, but it has also been a victim of this turbulent period. Not all of his talents have gone abroad; Many have had to look for opportunities in other provinces, because the technicians denied them the opportunity to demonstrate their quality in Industriales. It is a paralysis that has been going on for more than a decade.

Now, after the last shipwreck of the blue ship, a renewal is announced, but like almost everything in this era, it starts badly: with the voluntary retirement of its star captain, Stayler Hernández, and the forced retirement of the still young receiver Frank Camilo Morejón. , the best of his defensive position in the country.

The forced retirement of Frank Camilo has been highly questioned and commented on because the player himself declared: “I am not retiring, they are retiring me.” Hip surgery in 2009, and victim of a thrombosis two years ago, that state of health was the argument that was handled to separate him from Industriales, but the receiver from the capital, who has been playing for twelve years after the operation, often in pain, said that that decision should have been left to him.

The renovation of Industriales, if it were true, should have begun by recognizing the absurdities committed in the last decade under the various management bodies, the same ones that were unable to stop the fragmentation of the team, increasingly distant from its legend and its twelve crowns. how much anger they arouse. Right now number thirteen looks as distant as qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

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