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.

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 place trust in Mitchell and Severino to bolster rotation August 4, 2015
    Tomorrow, top pitching prospect Luis Severino will join the rotation and make his big league debut with the Yankees. I wouldn’t call it a long-awaited debut — Severino zoomed through the minors and wasn’t much more than an “intriguing arm” at this point two years ago — but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. [...] Yankees place trust in Mitchell and Seve […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Hendrix extends hitting streak in Staten Island’s win August 4, 2015
    IF Abi Avelino was named the High-A Florida State League Offensive Player of the Week, so congrats to him. Also, Chad Jennings posted a bunch of minor league notes earlier today, so make sure you go check ’em all out. Here are the important injury updates: LHP Ian Clarkin (elbow inflammation) is currently on a [...] DotF: Hendrix extends hitting streak in St […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Monday Night Open Thread August 3, 2015
    The Yankees have a well-deserved off-day today following that long ten-game, three-city road trip. They have 34 home games and 24 road games remaining, and three of those road games are in Citi Field, so no travel required. Their longest flight from here on out is New York to Tampa, and that’s not bad at [...] Monday Night Open Thread is a post from: River A […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Severino and Judge among MLB.com’s midseason top 100 prospects August 3, 2015
    Last week, the crew at MLB.com released their midseason top 100 prospects update, which includes 2015 draftees and has since been updated to reflect all the players who were traded at the deadline. Twins OF Byron Buxton, who is currently on the MLB DL but is still prospect eligible, holds the top spot. Dodgers SS [...] Severino and Judge among MLB.com’s mids […]
    Mike Axisa
  • King: Yankees declined Gary Sanchez for Cameron Maybin overtures from Braves August 3, 2015
    According to George King, the Yankees “turned down overtures” from the Braves regarding a deal that would have sent catcher prospect Gary Sanchez to Atlanta for outfielder Cameron Maybin before the trade deadline last week. The Yankees made their top prospects off limits in trade talks but it’s unclear whether Sanchez was included in that [...] King: Yankees […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Proximity to MLB makes hanging on to top prospects at the deadline a sensible move for the Yankees August 3, 2015
    As I said over the weekend, I think it was quite risky for the Yankees to let the trade deadline pass without adding some kind of pitching depth. They could always add a pitcher in an August waiver trade, sure, but they won’t have access to the high-end arms. Guys like Jeff Samardzija and Hisashi [...] Proximity to MLB makes hanging on to top prospects at th […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankeemetrics: Scoring on the road is easy (July 31-Aug. 2) August 3, 2015
    #Tex4MVP So I guess the Yankees figured out how to score away from the Bronx, eh? It got so bad in Friday’s 13-6 win that the White Sox used designated hitter Adam LaRoche in the ninth inning, the third time this season that a position player has pitched against the Yankees. The last time three [...] Yankeemetrics: Scoring on the road is easy (July 31-Aug. 2 […]
    Katie Sharp
  • Fan Confidence Poll: August 3rd, 2015 August 3, 2015
    Record Last Week: 4-3 (62! RS, 36 RA) Season Record: 59-45 (512 RS, 452 RA, 58-46 pythag. record) 6.0 games up in ALE Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.) Top stories from last week: The week started with a four-game [...] Fan Confidence Poll: August 3rd, 2015 is a post from: Riv […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Gamel, Bird, Judge, Austin lead the way in AAA win August 3, 2015
    Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Columbus) CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 K — fourth triple in his last nine games and his 13th of the season 3B Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 RBI 1B Greg Bird: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) — 7-for-17 (.412) [...] DotF: Gamel, Bird, Judge, Austin lead the way in AAA win is a post from: River Avenue Blues The post DotF: […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Sunday Night Open Thread August 2, 2015
    Your browser does not support iframes.Here is your open thread for the remainder of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Nationals at the Mets (Zimmermann vs. Syndergaard) and that has been a very entertaining series. The Mets are only a game back in the NL East, so the division is on the [...] Sunday Night Open Thread is a post from: River Avenue […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 60,990 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: