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.

Advertisements

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

  • Adam Warren’s bullpen success will work against him in the rotation competition February 27, 2017
    The Grapefruit League season is less than one week old now, though the competition for the fourth and fifth starter’s spots is already well underway. Four of the five candidates (Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, Adam Warren) have already pitched in an exhibition game, and the other, Chad Green, will get the ball later […] The post Adam Warren’s bul […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Fan Confidence Poll: February 27th, 2017 February 27, 2017
    Spring Record: 2-1 (21 RS, 12 RA) Spring Opponents This Week: Mon. @ BAL (MLB.tv, MLBN), Tues. vs. Tigers (split squad, no TV), Tues. @ Red Sox (split squad, no TV), Weds. vs. Braves (YES, MLB.tv), Thurs. vs. BAL (YES, MLB.tv, MLBN), Fri. @ TOR (MLB.tv, MLBN), Sat. vs. DET (no TV), Sun. vs. PIT […] The post Fan Confidence Poll: February 27th, 2017 appeared f […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Open Thread: February 26th Camp Notes February 26, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.Earlier today the Yankees beat the Blue Jays by the score of eh who really cares. Starlin Castro smacked a three-run homer and Billy McKinney came off the bench to hit a two-run shot. I am all about the #TooManyHomers we’ve seen early in camp. Gary Sanchez went 0-for-3 at […] The post Open Thread: February 26th Camp Note […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Spring Training Game Thread: Severino’s First Start February 26, 2017
    I didn’t realize how much I missed baseball on a lazy Saturday until yesterday. Now I look forward to realizing how much I missed it on Sundays too. The day-in, day-out grind of baseball has returned even though these games aren’t all that meaningful. The prospects have brought us some fun highlights already though, and […] The post Spring Training Game Thre […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Assorted Baseball Thoughts February 26, 2017
    Hey, baseball! You’re unofficially back and that’s all sorts of awesome. It’s still a while before things really count, but it’s nice to have the game back in our lives on a daily basis, even if it’s just in the form of players doing workouts or taking batting practice or throwing bullpens. Dinner, so to […] The post Assorted Baseball Thoughts appeared first […]
    Matt Imbrogno
  • Open Thread: February 25th Camp Notes February 25, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.The Yankees suffered their first spring loss today, though they showed some #FightingSpirit by rallying to tie the game in the top of the ninth. The Phillies then came back to win in the bottom half. Womp womp. Gleyber Torres had a double to left, a double to right, and […] The post Open Thread: February 25th Camp Notes […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Spring Training Game Thread: A Prospect-Laden Lineup February 25, 2017
    Yesterday’s Grapefruit League opener sure was fun, wasn’t it? Aaron Judge cranked a monster homer, Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar both did some exciting things, and of course the Yankees won. That’s always cool, even in Spring Training. This afternoon the Yankees are on the road for the first time this spring, and they brought […] The post Spring Training […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Open Thread: February 24th Camp Notes February 24, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.The Yankees played and won their first Grapefruit League game of the year this afternoon. We play today, we win today, das it. Aaron Judge hit the monster home run you see in the video above. What a shot. Didi Gregorius and Kyle Higashioka also went deep. Clint Frazier and […] The post Open Thread: February 24th Camp Not […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Friday Links: A-Rod, YES, Judge, Frazier, Gagne, Littell February 24, 2017
    The Yankees are, at this very moment, playing their first Grapefruit League game of the season. Turn on YES or MLB.tv to watch. Here’s our game thread. Don’t miss it. Here are some bits of news and notes to check out in the meantime. A-Rod to meet with YES At some point this spring Alex […] The post Friday Links: A-Rod, YES, Judge, Frazier, Gagne, Littell ap […]
    Mike Axisa
  • RAB Live Chat February 24, 2017
    The post RAB Live Chat appeared first on River Avenue Blues.
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,171 hits

%d bloggers like this: