Wednesday, December 17, 2014
At one point Wednesday, Major League Baseball became so concerned about the reaction to Obama’s announcement that it sent a directive to its 30 teams pointing out that it remained illegal to scout players in Cuba, or to sign them, because the American embargo of the island remained in effect. Obama cannot lift the embargo on his own, and a Congress that will be fully controlled by Republicans starting in January is unlikely to go along with the idea, at least any time soon.
Don’t make me wish I’d chosen an “off-topic politics” tag for this thread!!
“The near (term) future baseball relationships will be with Japan. I don’t think Cuba is ready to hand over its baseball to MLB.”
Even if the Cuban government allowed U.S. sports franchises that level of autonomy, MLB clubs would want to see if an international draft is instituted under the next collective bargaining agreement before making infrastructure investments. The notion of a MLB-affiliated franchise in Cuba, which last occurred in 1960 with the Havana Sugar Kings of the Triple-A International League, is undoubtedly many years and political concessions away . . . but suddenly plausible, on a momentous day for the nation and national pastime.
Posted: December 17, 2014 at 03:37 PM | 11 comment(s)
“Mr. Burns, I think we can trust the President of Cuba.”
In August, Eliezer Lazo pleaded guilty to extortion charges stemming from his role in smuggling more than 1,000 Cubans into the U.S., including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin. A lawsuit against Martin argued that he agreed to pay 35 percent of his MLB earnings to the human traffickers who brought him stateside. On Tuesday, according to an ESPN report, Gilberto Suarez pleaded guilty to alien smuggling charges for his role in bringing Puig to the U.S.
Without more details of the eased restrictions between the two countries, it’s hard to say if or when Wednesday’s developments will provide easier and less exploitative routes for Cuban baseball stars to play in the Majors.
Again, in the bigger picture the baseball side of it does not mean as much as the broader political implications of the relationship. But it seems like at the very least a positive step toward allowing some of the world’s best baseball players to play the sport at its highest level without first risking their lives to do so.
Friday, December 05, 2014
But even executives who have spent years in the international player market are marveling at the mystery and innuendo surrounding 19-year-old Cuban phenom shortstop Yoan Moncada: his legal exit from Cuba, his subsequent romantic pairing with a player agent, and his representation by an accountant who has never had an athlete client in any capacity. Nobody has seen a Cuban defection story quite like this.
“It doesn’t make it comfortable for me, but in a way, we sort of have come to expect it with this market,” one American League team executive said of Moncada’s situation. “It makes us ask questions, but in the end, someone is going to spend smartly to get the services of a player that can change a franchise. Most teams are going to have a little reservation about the story itself, but I don’t think it’s going to stop the industry from paying.”
Monday, September 15, 2014
Cuba is one of the biggest sources of international baseball talent. But, because of the US embargo, most Cuban players have to use smugglers to get themselves to the United States. What’s more, due to a quirk in Major League Baseball rules around contracts, those Cuban players often first have to travel to a third country, like Mexico — a difficult process.
And that’s where traffickers come in. In recent years, some Major League Baseball players have revealed that a variety of criminals have been kidnapping and extorting talented Cuban players before they can get a major league contract — in order to get a cut of their future earnings. Some of these traffickers may even have ties to Mexican cartels.
This issue is only just starting to get attention from courts and investigators — the first conviction of a smuggler for trafficking Cuban ballplayers happened in 2011. These trafficking cases involve dozens of Cuban ballplayers, most of whom never even make it to the major leagues.
This year, Cuban-born Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig became the poster boy for ballplayer trafficking. In his journey to the United States, Puig was kidnapped and extorted — and some of the traffickers he was involved with have even resorted to murder as they try to get a share of his salary. Puig’s lurid story, and his stature as a star, have brought the trafficking issue to the attention of baseball commentators.
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