CUBAN BASEBALL REFORMS PART IV
Updated: Oct 5, 2019
Cuba’s National Baseball Series is a professional baseball league which consists of sixteen teams. Each Cuban province fields a team, and since 1959 the number of provinces in Cuba has increased from six to sixteen, and the island hasn’t gotten any bigger! The two newest provinces were created in 2011, but just because you create a new province, doesn’t mean you can field a professional baseball team. Though the subject of Cuba’s National League having too many teams was covered in Part 3, we are now going to consider the requirement that players from each province only play for their home province, and the League’s 7th inning mercy rule.
PLAYERS LIMITED TO THEIR HOME PROVINCE
Baseball players in Cuba’s National League Series are only allowed to play for their home provinces team. Combined with the fact that no foreigners have played in Cuba’s professional league since 1958, and it adds up to low quality play. Cuban baseball lacks the financing and facilities to field so many teams, but if foreign players were able to play in the league it would go a long way to improving the quality of play. But who wants to play for less than $100 a month? Compared to the Dominican Republic, where some players are paid salaries of over twenty-thousand dollars a season, or Mexican league players who make an average of five-thousand dollars per month, Cuban baseball players are paid approximately $100 a month! There are no trades in the Cuban National Baseball Series, and teams must rely on home grown players, and hope that position players mature and can play when their home province needs them. In addition to this provincial restriction, many of the best mature players have contracts to play overseas in Japan and Latin America, and are thus absent during most of Cuba’s regular season. If players could be traded between teams Cuba has enough quality players to field a handful of great teams, but not enough to field sixteen teams scattered from one end of the island to the other. For proof of the kinds of baseball teams Cuba can put together when provincial provenance is not an issue, consider the Olympics, the Pan American Games, and the Central American and Caribbean Games. In the five Olympic Games which included baseball, Cuba won gold in three and silver in two. In the Pan American Games held between 1963 and 2015 Cuba won eleven gold medals, one silver medal, and two bronze medals. That is out of a total of fourteen games, winning gold eighty percent of the time, and coming in second or third the other three times. In the Central American and Caribbean Games Cuba has also dominated, winning eight times between 1966 and 1998, and coming in second to the Dominican Republic in 1982. Eight wins in nine tournaments!
AMATEUR RULES FOR PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS
Players in Cuba’s National Series are all professionals, they have been professional players since the league was founded in 1961, and though they were referred to as amateurs for many years, they never were. The fact that they have been paid like amateurs doesn’t make them amateurs. The Cuban National Baseball Series abides by World Baseball Softball Confederation rules that require games to end in the 7th inning when a team is 10 or more runs behind. But that rule was created for amateur players, and the players in Cuba’s National Series are professionals who play baseball for a living. While a ten-run lead is significant in any inning, professional players must be able to deal with that pressure, and should be required to play until the ninth inning. As this year’s World Series demonstrated, coming from behind and taking the lead is possible in a single inning, and this rule should not be part of a professional baseball league.
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By Frank Gonzalez