• Cuba Travel


Updated: Oct 5, 2019


The smallest bird, the smallest frog, and the oldest revolutionaries in the world are all endemic to Cuba. So is the weirdest rule in professional baseball. Post-season baseball in Cuba’s National League includes one of the strangest regulations known to the sporting world. Once the baseball play-offs begin in Cuba, the best players from teams that did not qualify for post-season play join teams that are still in the playoffs. Stars from losing teams are included in winning team’s roster, and these players end up benching genuine team members. A veteran first baseman or promising rookie whose team lost in the first round of the qualifying series will be sent to a team that is still fighting for the championship, and if that team also gets disqualified, this same player could potentially be sent to another team to replace a member of that team. A national committee decides which players from non-qualifying teams are to be divvied-up, each playoff bound team manager then presents a list of the players he wants on his team, and the committee distributes them among the teams. Teams may have as many as five players added to their rosters, which means that over half of the players on the field could be stars from other teams. This may be great for those players whose season gets extended, but it does nothing for fans or the players from teams that worked hard to win their way into the post-season. This strange rule was enacted because of declining fan interest in post-season play, but it is absurd and unsportsmanlike. If a team makes it to the playoffs, then that team and its’ players should be playing, and not stars from other teams. This regulation is a joke, a mockery to fair play and the essence of the word team.


There are sixteen teams in Cuba’s National League, and that means the small amount of money available for Cuba’s favorite sport is spread thin. Every province on the island has its own team, and besides a lack of financing, there aren’t enough quality players for these teams. Consider the case of the Dominican and Venezuelan leagues. With three times the population of Cuba, Venezuela has eight teams in its professional winter league, and the Dominican Republic has six teams in its league. The Cuban league has one team for every province, so when two new provinces were created a few years ago, each received a new team. Too many teams for too few players! When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 a decade of Cuban history began which was named the “special period.” The Soviet Union stopped bank rolling the Cuban revolution, and the island ran out of money overnight. Cuba’s periodo especial included food shortages, daily rolling blackouts, a dramatic increase in violent crime, prostitution, and general societal disorder. One of the victims of this event was Cuba’s national baseball league, which because of drastic cost cutting had its season shortened from a ninety-game regular season, to a forty-five-game regular season. Though some may argue that the special period has never really ended, it is time for the regular season to be extended. A sixty to seventy game season would have more depth, and the regular season would need to be extended less than a month. Consider once again the Venezuelan and Dominican leagues, with a regular season consisting of sixty-three and fifty games respectively.

We offer small group baseball-oriented people-to-people tours of Cuba at cubatraveltrips.com.

By Frank Gonzalez

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