Cuba: Baseball and Politics
Catcher Ariel Pestano of Cuba speaks with pitcher Pedro Lazo during their 7-2 victory over Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Baseball is a great lens for politics. Behold some of the mini-eruptions already in play surrounding Cuba, the US and the wonderfully compelling World Baseball Classic.
The largest noise came as the result of an engineered media stunt perpetrated by associates of The Real Cuba (Enrique Rubio) during the Cuba-Netherlands game. Even though this fella purposely changed seats in order to get his sign in the camera's sights (where it remained) and even though such political and offensive signs are never allowed, particularly not directly in the camera's view - this was played in the MSM and blogosphere as an example of Cuban's restricting "free speech." This despite MLB and WBC security clearly stating such signs are against longstanding sport policy.
Then in losing bad to Puerto Rico in a game that meant absolutely zilch, the "end of the Cuban baseball mystique" was prematurely declared by the ESPN announcers every 2 minutes. We were told the emporer has no clothes and that it's clear these "paper tiger" Cubans can't play with major leaguers. We heard idiotic political commentary from the ESPN booth, such as in socialistic/Communistic societies people don't get paid. We heard about phantom defections and "heavy security." The announcers went nuts about the supposed foul play of Cuba in headhunting Pudge Rodriguez - after PR had underhandedly stole a base Cuba was not defending with a 7 run lead. As I recall the PR pitcher was the one ejected.
But the drubbing Cuba eunleashed on Venezuela's MLB star packed lineup today is blamed on errors and poor coaching. It gets little notice for the major surprise it was for everyone, including me (except the announcers who displayed their shock all game). But no articles refer to a major upset - and the Cuban game was not mentioned during the later games.
On the other side, the US, playing in a much weaker bracket, wins a critical game on the account of a very rare (and totally incorrect) overruled call against a Japanese tag runner.