Cuba's return to the Caribbean Series was being considered one of the highlights of this 2014 popular baseball competition. The last time Cuba had represented themselves in these classic games was in 1960, one year after the Cuban revolution.
Cuba has always played great baseball and the number of Cuban baseball stars is too long to write in a short article. They also have two players in the HOF: Tany (Tony) Perez and Martin Dihigo representing in Cooperstown, NY at the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Perez being from the Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, and Dihigo considered one of the best players ever from the Negro Leagues.
In 2006, Cuba's first appearance in the world professional baseball stage against top players was impressive when they went on to the finals of the first World Baseball Classic. In the semi-finals they defeated a strong offensive Dominican Republic team to face off against Japan in the finals and lost by a score of 10-6. It was an opportunity to see Cuban baseball talent up against some of the best and they did not disappoint. They performed for the world to see the value of Cuban baseball players who were playing against top professionals for the first time in decades.
However, since then many of the Cuban-born stars have also seen what baseball is like in the other side of the professional world. That has initiated an exodus of Cuban players defecting and leaving the home glory of socialism for the capitalist money in the USA. In fact, there are almost as many Cuban-born players on today's major league rosters than Puerto Ricans who have dwindled in almost the same period (topic of a future article).
Another interesting fact is that this team representing Cuba in the Caribbean Series is perhaps not a true reflection of Cuban baseball today. The reason is that Cuba has 16 teams playing in their Cuban Baseball League that makes their baseball quite regional. Cubans take their baseball serious, thus their teams are the pride of their region. This regionalism does not allow for a team to want to expand and take in reinforcements players from other teams. That is why the Villa Clara Cuban team has only six players added as reinforcements to their squad as compared to Mexico with 16, and the other countries who have more than Cuba. Cubans in Villa Clara made it clear when the decision to add on players began after winning the Cuban championships: "If Villa Clara won the Cuban Baseball series, then it should be Villa Clara representing." Thus, while most of the teams are representing their entire country, this team went to the Caribbean Series representing a province with young players with little, or no international experience.
I don't know if that explains why the Cubans are not performing as well in this Caribbean Series. But lacking some of that young talent from other teams and the talent that has left the island has affected this teams performance. This Cuban team is lacking the strong pitching that once dominated international competition. The 2013 American League Rookie of the Year, Miami Marlins' José Fernandez, is one of the recent arrivals from Cuba to climb the superstar status in record time. Like Fernández, we know that many of their players are making a name for themselves here in the USA. I'm sure this Cuban team misses that talent as they have lost the first two games in this tournament. Cuba, or as some Cubans would say, "Santa Clara," lost the opener to Mexico 9-4 and were blasted by the Dominican Republic 9-2.
Their next game is against Puerto Rico scheduled for today. Let's see what this game holds for the young players from Santa Clara who in the eyes of the baseball world is representing their country -- Cuba.