Cuba and the WBC: Cuba’s chances in the tournament

The news keeps getting worse for those in charge of the World Baseball Classic.

Major League umpires won’t be officiating the WBC games. Manny Ramirez has elected to stay with the Red Sox. Pedro Martinez’s injured toe will keep him from pitching in the first round. A Vernon Wells injury will keep him out of the Classic. Roberto Kelly, the manager of the Panama team, quit in frustration over a lack of support for his team.

So as the World Baseball Classic organizers struggle to fill holes and mend gaps just a week before play starts in Asia, it’s getting harder and harder to determine just who will win this tournament. While the Dominican Republic and the United States are the gamblers’ favorites, the Cuban National team is currently the defending World Champions. They took home a gold medal during the 2004 Olympics and won the Baseball World Cup in 2003.

“They are the dominant international team in baseball right now,” Kevin Baxter, international baseball writer for the Miami Herald, said, during last Friday’s talk on Cuba and the World Baseball Classic sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue.

For all of the talk and hype, however, no one really knows how the Cuban team will fare. For starters, their previous victories on the international stage have all come against teams consisting of non-Major League players. As the rules of the International Baseball Federation dictate, the international competitions have always omitted Major Leaguers.

The World Baseball Classic, however, will pit Cubans against some of the best players in the world. Plenty of tournament teams are loaded with Major League All Stars. While the Cubans defeated the Orioles in an exhibition game back in 1999, those Orioles were 84-78 and finished a disappointing fourth place in front of just the Devil Rays in the American League East. All Stars they were not.

During the dialogue, I asked if any current Major Leaguers could potentially play for Cuba. I figured Jose Contreras, after his postseason success, or El Duque would be assets to the Cuban team. Knowing about their defections, I did not expect them to be eligible to play.

For the most part, these players would not play for Cuba. Castro considers them traitors to the country. However, I found it interesting that Jose Contreras has a clause in his contract allowing him to play for Cuba if the Cuban Baseball Federation, the governing body of Cuban baseball, invites him to play. Contreras is also eligible to pitch for the team that could replace Cuba in the tournament. Because Contreras has to be a citizen of a foreign country to declare free agency in the Majors, he defected to Nicaragua. He could join the Nicaraguan team as a pitcher. However, that possibility is unlikely.

So then could a team of Cuban professionals with no Major Leaguers among them upset the tournament bigwigs? Baxter, in an informal conversation with me after the dialogue, expressed his opinion that the Cuban team could very well be the dark horse candidates of the tournament. The 30 players ultimately selected for the team will be the top athletes in a competitive sport on a very competitive island, and most, if not all of them, would fit excel playing for a Major League club.

Furthermore, the Cubans would be able to exploit the tournament rules to their advantage. During previous international exhibitions, the Cubans have generally ridden a few pitchers. Under the tournament rules, pitchers will be faced with strict pitch counts, and Cuba will have to go to the bullpen. While atypical for Cuban baseball, this rule change could very well help the team.

Cuban pitchers are notorious for their deception. Look at Orlando Hernandez or Jose Contreras. By mixing up arm angles, delivery speeds, and pitch selection, El Duque and Contreras have excelled as starters at various points in their professional careers.

Baxter feels this pitching edge gives the Cubans something of an advantage; by throwing their top-notch pitchers at American players, the Cubans could deceive the other teams enough to eke out a tournament win. As Baxter put it, the Major League players have seen Johan Santana, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez plenty of times, but they have never faced these Cuban pitchers. It could just be enough for Cuba to win the tournament.

About these ads

3 Responses to “Cuba and the WBC: Cuba’s chances in the tournament”


  1. 1 Sarah February 24, 2006 at 8:02 am

    What’s the difference between the WBC and the BWC? Was the last BWC in 2003? The Cubans won gold then and in the 2004 Olympics, but what about 2005?

  2. 2 poori February 24, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Its really too bad so many players are deciding not to play. People try to do something awesome and the status quo defenders just feel threatened by it. Retarded. Its bad for baseball in general if WBC turns out to be a bust. I hope you don’t mind me posting it up on http://sportsken.com for the folks over there.

  3. 3 fastball February 24, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Yeah, I think Cuba has a good shot, with or without the MLB players on other teams. They’re traditionally good, and the advantage of having unfamiliar pitchers is huge.


Comments are currently closed.



RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Yankees did not place bid for Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang December 21, 2014
    The Yankees did not place a bid for Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang prior to Friday afternoon’s deadline, reports Bryan Hoch. That’s not too surprising. They were never really connected to him these last few weeks. The Nexen Heroes are expected to accept the high bid, which came in at approximately $5M, according to a Yonhap [...] Yankees did not place bid for […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Weekend Open Thread December 20, 2014
    The Yankees had themselves a pretty busy Friday today and I missed most of it because of some family stuff. I’ll chime in with some thoughts about the big Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi trade over the weekend, though my quick analysis is that this is a really fun but really risky trade for the Yankees. Fun [...] Weekend Open Thread is a post from: River Avenue […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Thoughts following the Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi trade December 20, 2014
    The Yankees made perhaps their most significant move of the offseason yesterday, at least the most significant in terms of the number of players involved. I think you could argue the Didi Gregorius trade was their most significant move of the winter because getting a new young starting shortstop is kind of a big deal. [...] Thoughts following the Martin Prad […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Yankees acquire righty Gonzalez Germen from Mets December 19, 2014
    The Yankees have acquired right-hander Gonzalez Germen from the Mets for cash considerations, the team announced. It’s first trade between the two clubs since the Mike Stanton-Felix Heredia swap in December 2004. Preston Claiborne was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot. Germen, 27, has a 4.31 ERA (4.15 FIP) in 64.2 relief innings [...] Yankees […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Yankees trade Martin Prado and David Phelps for Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones December 19, 2014
    According to Jack Curry, the Yankees have traded Martin Prado the Marlins for RHP Nathan Eovaldi. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the deal will also send David Phelps to the Marlins and 1B/OF Garrett Jones to the Yankees. The Yankees will also get RHP prospect Domingo German. The 40-man roster is now [...] Yankees trade Martin Prado and David […]
    Joe Pawlikowski
  • Mailbag: Hamels, Wilson, A-Rod, Prado, Jagielo, Tulowitzki December 19, 2014
    Another big mailbag this week. Thirteen questions. Use the “For The Mailbag” widget in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week. I know it doesn’t look like the question gets submitted, but trust me, it does. Alex asks: Which trade would you rather make: 2 of the top 3 Yankees prospects, plus another [...] Mailbag: Hamels, Wilson, A-Rod, Prado, Ja […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Thursday Night Open Thread December 19, 2014
    Use this as your open thread for the night. The Thursday NFL game is Titans-Jaguars, plus the Knicks are playing and there’s college basketball. Talk about anything and everything right here. Thursday Night Open Thread is a post from: River Avenue Blues Thursday Night Open Thread is a post from: River Avenue Blues The post Thursday Night Open Thread appeared […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Report: Kenta Maeda will not be posted this offseason December 18, 2014
    The Hiroshima Carp have decided not to post ace right-hander Kenta Maeda this offseason, according to a report in Kyodo. The team has informed the player he will not be posted. Back in October, Carp owner Hajime Matsuda said “we would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will [...] Report: Kenta Maeda will not be posted this offseason […]
    Michael Axisa
  • Yankees no longer interested in Jason Grilli December 18, 2014
    The Yankees are no longer interested in free agent right-hander Jason Grilli, his agent Gary Sheffield confirmed to George King. (Yes, that Gary Sheffield.) “We talked to (Brian Cashman) and he said ‘not at the moment.’ We will sit back with the offers we have and wait,” said Sheff. “I don’t see a reason why [...] Yankees no longer interested in Jason Grilli […]
    Michael Axisa
  • 2015 Payroll Breakdown: Part Two December 18, 2014
    Although the Yankees didn’t do anything of note at the Winter Meetings last week, they have been busy this offseason and especially this month. Most of the moves have been on the smaller side, at least relative to last offseason, though the club has remade the left side of the infield, added some pitching, and [...] 2015 Payroll Breakdown: Part Two is a post […]
    Michael Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 60,622 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: