Lumberjacks, crocodiles, and the swamp

By: José Antonio Michelena

Leñadores, cocodrilos, y el pantano
Leñadores, cocodrilos, y el pantano

Cuban baseball postseason advances

Finally the National Series number 60 of the Cuban ball has its two finalists, Granma and Matanzas, after the team of the morning crocodiles will take the lumberjacks of Las Tunas to the depths of the swamp and win the semi-final 4-2, a series with more penalties than glories, as has been the tonic of these play-offs , though less boring.

Matanzas was the favorite team in that semi-final – as it is for the final – but had to fight hard after losing the first two challenges. So from the third game he knitted a chain of four consecutive victories that tied the record for a postseason.

Matanzas’ arguments, which make him a higher set than the rest (whether he is champion again or not) are essentially two:

a) your payroll is multiprovincial, as no one else is. It has platoteros de Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, Camaguey, Havana, Artemisa…
b) the recent incoroporation of three players with extensive experience in foreign leagues, including MLB: Yadir Drake, Erisbel Arruebarruena, and Yadil Mujica.

The contribution of this trio has been fundamental in what goes from postseason. They’re the ones who made a difference. His level, especially on the plate, is ostensible, and they decided more than one game with the lumber, but they also saved him with the glove.

Had it not been for these three players, the history of the semi-final would have been different, because the six games made, albeit with different characteristics each – different in their scores, among which there were two very close and very few races (4×3 and 1×0) – had many aspects in common: defensive errors, marked gaps in pitching, and disconcerting steering strategies in both sets.

The last two aspects are related, and the third, in a broad sense, conditions the latter, even if it seems otherwise. The shortcomings of Cuban baseball, although manifested on the ground, in the players, emanate from the leaders and technicians. Just Yadir Drake, in an interview with the digital magazine Playoffmagazine, in August 2020, to the question of whether Cuban baseball is in crisis, stated:

“Cuba has good players to impose itself on international events, but they have things to learn yet. The quality of the players is, but there is a lack of things that get out of hand when it comes to playing against professionals. That’s not fixed on the ground, but in the offices.”

Lumberjacks, crocodiles, and the swamp
Lumberjacks, crocodiles, and the swamp

Clearer or water: the word office is a metaphor that points to where. That crisis is old; however, the players here continue to arrive – and succeed – the best baseball in the world. In the MLB campaign that will begin in April you can break the record number of Cubans (30) for one season. And it’s also possible that players on the Island will be included in important prizes again. Let us remember that José Dariel Abreu was the Most Valuable Player of the American League in 2020, and that Luis Robert Moirán was the rookie of the year, as was Yordan Alvarez the previous year, a campaign in which Jorge Soler led the home runs.

But under the direction of our “office”, on the island a baseball is still played several decades behind: the ball is played over and over again, in any gambling situation, in any inning; the starting pitchers are left in the lomita until they can no longer; and relays are brought on almost impossible missions.

Battered by that poverty generated by “the office,” few hitters know how to make adjustments to their at-bats and are seen with the same shortcomings year after year; even the most talented veterans look like newbies when they throw a steep slider at them.

I hope the Matanzas-Granma final (still no calendar) has more shine than I’ve seen so far in the postseason. Unfortunately Matanzas will not be able to count for the first game (at least) with its greatest figure, Yadir Drake, expelled by the squabter of the last challenge against Las Tunas, originated by the unsportsmanproof attitude of a Tunero player, a pitiful, absurd spectacle, that should never have happened.

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