Well, the title is a bit of hyperbole, but what is true is that, according to reliable reports in the Dominican press (Nathanael Pérez Neró, Diario Libre, Santo Domingo), the vice-president of operations of Major League Baseball (MLB) , Kim Ng, wrote in early August to the Caribbean Confederation with the arrogant ultimatum that the MLB “gave it one day to rescind the agreement with the Cubans,” or no players with MLB contracts would play in the Confederation-sponsored yearly Caribbean Series, a “world series” of Caribbean teams of great interest to Latin American baseball fans. The Confederation had recently reached an agreement for Cuba to participate in this event for the first time in more than five decades.
The Caribbean Series is a yearly tournament that brings together the powerhouse national baseball selections in the region—Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic—for a “world series” of the winter leagues from the Caribbean. The Series can boast some of the best baseball in the world. Because a very high proportion of the players in it have US major league contracts (for example, more than 80% of the Dominicans), however, the threat effectively told the organizers that they had to throw Cuba out of the event, or those players would not be allowed to play. And what reason did the MLB give? That the US embargo forbid the Cuban participation, and there allegedly wasn’t “enough time” to obtain the appropriate permits. Astonishingly, the MLB letter also claimed that they did not not know about the accord until the last minute, despite multiple articles on the MLB’s own website reporting on the negotiations with Cuba as far back as February of 2012, and even an MLB.com article in early June that reported Cuba’s agreement to participate in 2013. The truth is that no baseball fan on the planet was unaware that Cuba would be coming back to this professional series for the first time in five decades, and neither was the MLB. It is a far safer bet to conclude that the MLB was told by US authorities to nix the Cuban participation, not that they “didn’t know about it in time.”
One doesn’t have to be a baseball fan to know that Cuban baseball talent would have added greatly to the quality, emotion and excitement of the series, yet it looks like the Cold War dinosaur embargo will keep the Cuban stars from playing, at least this year. Their participation would have been a dream come true for those who follow the sport, as I do.
I suppose I have to assume that the return of a Cuban baseball team to a professional tournament with MLB players must be considered by our authorities to constitute a threat to our national security, since not long ago the State Department persisted in the madness of classifying Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Perhaps those dangerous Cuban sluggers have been trained to direct their foul balls to hurt unsuspecting fans, or to use their bats for who knows what subversive terrorist purposes, and our taxes will go to pay our anti-terrorist experts to tail them carefully. You go figure.
Manuel R. Gómez, a Cuban-American public health professional in Washington, DC, member of the Board of the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), and a member of Cuban-Americans for Engagement (CAFE).