Cuba is on the electronic scoreboard – in baseball and politics, cheap too – because it has one of the top-rated teams in the World Classic (WBC), sildenafil and can claim one of three super-sophomores in the coming major league season. Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes ranks with the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in the glamour trio, based on his 2012 numbers – BA .292, HRs 23, RBIs 82 in 129 games. Cuba eased its travel rules for residents a few weeks ago, but “strategically” important people like Cespedes, who had to defect, would not have qualified to depart the island legally.
We remember Billy Beane’s surprise signing of Cespedes to a four-year $36 million deal a little over a year ago. What did the A’s GM know that everybody else seemingly didn’t? He knew that in the 26-year-old Cespedes he was getting a five-tool outfielder who played with fire and discipline. Cespedes played with the Cuban team in the 2009 WBC, two years before slipping away to take up residency in the Dominican Republic. Many of his former national teammates helped defeat Brazil, 5-2. in Cuba’s first 2013 tournament game over the weekend. The Cubans routed China, 12-0, yesterday.
Fidel Castro used to complain about American “capitalism” tempting players like Cespedes to leave Cuba. Fidel, now 86, has mellowed along with some of his former adversaries on the other side of the Straits of Florida. The record book of what has been a long, hostile matchup between the two countries makes sad reading. The International Herald Tribune’s William Pfaff links what has happened to what is unfolding in Iran-U.S. relations:
“The great half-century struggle between the U.S. (pop.315 mil) and Cuba (11.5 mil), a struggle once feared as likely to cause a nuclear war…is over, or soon will be over – Cuba the winner on points as a result of…(enduring) decades of embargos and sanctions…To summarize what turned an apparently blossoming friendship with the United States to bitter enmity: Castro nationalized foreign holdings, sending American business into uproar; was befriended by the Soviet Union, so announced that he was a Communist; frightened Cubans fled; the Eisenhower administration decided that Castro had to be overthrown, and the CIA prepared a ham-handed invasion that predictably failed, humiliating the United States.
“The Cuban missile crisis that followed in October 1962 was…considered an effort to protect Cuba from invasion, and an American effort to protect the U.S. from a Soviet nuclear attack. Both sides misread the other’s intentions…In October 1963, shortly before his assassination, President John Kennedy told a French interviewer (Jean Daniel of the weekly Nouvel Observateur), ‘I believe that there is no country in the world… where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the (Dictator Fulgencio)Batista regime…(T)o some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins.’ We have paid, and the Cubans paid much more heavily than Americans, ever since — to no purpose. Now, Americans seem ready to make the Iranians pay the price of our obsessions. We will pay too, as we always have before.”
Lesson Unlearned? The connection between our paying lately in Iraq and Afghanistan and the alleged menaces identified through the popular game of threat-hysteria.
P.S. “The…case for a worldwide state of war against a…thing called Al Quaeda looks increasingly threadbare. A war against a name is a war in name only.” – Steve Coll, New Yorker
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Accolade: Oakland Skipper Bob Melvin on Cespedes’s “focus”: “He had to deal with being hurt most of the last two months of the season, playing through pain because we were in the race. He’s very driven…You could see it from the minute he got here.”
A Cuban Stat: Headed by Cespedes and the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, there are 18 Cuban-born players on major league rosters.
Juicy Bits from the AL Grapevine say change may be in store for two fireballers – one a legend, the other a rookie. In Texas, CEO Nolan Ryan is reported close to leaving the Rangers after owners shifted some of his operational power to newly promoted president Jon Daniels. At Lakeland, FL, Tigers Skipper Jim Leyland, unhappy with the wildness of 22-year-old would-be closer Bruce Rondon, is said to want the front office to re-sign Jose Valverde, who lost the closer’s job last season. For now, GM Dave Dombrowski is resisting the request, just as Rangers owners say they’re determined to persuade Ryan to give up on his possible plan to leave.
Also-Ran Land: “Many Red Sox fans…have made their peace with the upcoming season. The days of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz combining for 250 RBI are gone, and there is no Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling to shiver the timbers of opposing batters. Years of passionately following baseball have turned Red Sox fans into sharp-eyed scouts, and, as such, they know there are question marks aplenty with this year’s team.” – Steve Buckley, Boston Herald
Other Super-Soph Stats: Mike Trout – BA 326, HRs 30, RBIs 83 in 139 games. Bryce Harper – .270, 22, 59 in 139 games.
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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below