As happened to a lot of baseball fans who were fans of the Almendares club, becoming industrialists, at the beginning of the national series, was the most natural thing; blue was the color of our heraldry: the transition occurred almost without realizing it. Fifty-eight years later we remain faithful to the Lions of the capital, but of that glory we have only memory.
Industriales’ four straight crowns in its first four seasons (1963-1966) built a legend: that of the ensemble that plays baseball best on the island. Although never again in the national series we have had a director like Ramón Carneado, nor a machinery like the one he directed, for many years the legend stood, and occasionally we believed it alive. His last flash occurred in 2010. Eleven years later, the flame’s out. Definitely.
The recent match between Industriales and Granma to define the team that would move to the semi-final stage of the post-season was the clearest and most notorious proof that the blue team has become one of the worst played by baseball in Cuba. The papers have been reversed. If decades ago, the granmens did not advance in the play-offs because of the number of mistakes they made in the gameplay, now that just happened to their capitalist opponent.
The corrings of Andrés Hernández and Lisván Correa in yesterday’s game reminded us clearly of those outs that Granma used to give away in similar situations in front of rival ensembles in their area, be it Santiago, Ciego de Avila, or Villa Clara. And baseball doesn’t forgive those things. Although it doesn’t always happen, if you play so badly, you must lose, it’s a kind of divine justice.
In fact, in that fifth game, although Industriales scored a career in the first inning, from that start, he began to till his defeat. After Stayler Hernandez – the only legend player left to the team – hit his double booster and placed runners in third and second, with a single out, when it looked like Blanco was going to explode, the opposite happened, he stayed and came out of the impasse.
In that game situation, and in turn three good hitters, things were ugly for Granma, but Wilfredo Aroche swinged the first pitch and pulled a short fly to the left for the second out. Blanco improved quite a bit, but he still had Peñalver ahead of him, whom he transferred. So he confronted Jorge Alomá with full bases and had to dominate him, that was what the future of the game depended on.
The first pitch he made was strike, and Alomá didn’t throw at him. The second was ball; the third was a poisoned low ball, with which Industriales’ short field held the swing in time, but the referee sang strike. I’ve seen the video several times and I can’t understand why Juan de Dios León did that count that, like Hernandez and Correa’s bad corrings, could cost the game. It seems exaggerated, but it’s real. Had he not lifted his arm – misguidedly – the former Pinareño player, Blanco would have been forced to look for the strike closer to the center on the next pitch, and Alomá would have many greater opportunities to make a good connection that could have decided the game. (Perhaps in the future a count can be claimed. How many things distort a bad count.)
But in one ball and two strikes, Blanco took advantage, and Alomá, now defensively, had to swing to almost everything so as not to fall victim, again, to the pitcher and the referee. It still reached the count of 2 and 2, and with a throw stuck, produced a harmless rolling at first. What could have been a decisive rally barely served to score a solitary race. Granma’s pitcher came out of the abyss, albeit with a good deal of pitches, something the blues didn’t capitalize on.
At the top of the first inning the party took another turn that, in our view, led to the direction of Industriales. I am referring to the fact of appointing pitcher Maikel Taylor, who had pitched the second game well, but is well known for his tendency to get out of control, which he also stated in this decisive match where he was unable to get a single out.
With men in second and first, engaught by Taylor, he was called to the Pavel Hernandez mound, who must have been, in our opinion, the opener. Pavel quelled the rebellion, but couldn’t stop Granma from scoring a race. He later threw another good game – just as he had done in the third match – as he allowed a single run in the six innings pitched. However, the two inherited runners had a double cost: in addition to the draw race, they implied that Pavel had to overdo it in pitches at that first inning.
Already at the height of the seventh came that absurd play in which Andrés Hernández starts to observe his sweet potato instead of running and is put out in second, killing a huge possibility of tying and even deciding the challenge, because Blanco could no longer. Had he done the right thing, Industriales would have had men in third and second with the tournament’s driving leader in turn.
So exhausted was Lazarus Blanco that he could not throw in the eighth, inning that he initiated Lisván Correa with another capital awkwardness. In case Hernandez hadn’t been enough, he did the same thing, got into his long gown, trotted out, and couldn’t reach the second pad. It was the end of the colossus.
Industrialists fall short again in a post-season. But the paradoxical thing is that the new failure was not due to his body of pitchers, who, in the long run, fulfilled his role. His defeat was decreed because the team did not bat in three of the five games, and he played the decisive match very badly.
The team of the capital must think seriously of a total renewal, as Pinar del Río did, and focus on a future where legend does not weigh on the uniform and on which glory must be forged from scratch. Manuel Hurtado, Tony González, Urbano González, Pedro Chávez, Jorge Trigoura, Agustín Marquetti, Inco Jiménez, Arturo Linares, and the rest of the heroes of yesteryear, did their thing a long time ago. That’s history and food for nostalgia. But he doesn’t win championships.