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Stephen Kaus

Stephen Kaus

Posted: December 15, 2005 12:08 AM

Play Ball!


When the World Baseball Classic was announced, the chance that a United States team would play the Cuban national team was truly exciting. Aside from the good sports fun of the best players from these two baseball superpowers meeting, this new version of ping-pong diplomacy could be a push to reconcile the inexplicable difference between our Cuba and China policies.

After the annoying attempts by our major sports to generate global interest by playing games in foreign venues, this venture, promoted by Bud Selig of all people, seemed brilliant. Stars from each of the participants, the Dominican Republic, Japan and U.S. to name a few, agreed to play. Even Barry Bonds, was willing to submit to the strict drug testing regimen of international sports.

Dream on. Castro indicated that Cuba would play, but the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has decided that Cuba cannot participate since some proceeds would go to the Cuban baseball federation.

Baseball said it would try to change the government’s mind and Rep. Jose Serrano is mounting a campaign to influence Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary John Snow to allow Cuba to play.

Continuing the Bush administration’s policy of transparency, a Treasury spokesman said, “it is our policy that we do not confirm, deny or discuss licenses." Others talked of a team of Cuban refugees, such as the Hernandez brothers. Maybe they can get Ariel Prieto out of mothballs.

This is stupid. Mixing politics and sports accomplishes little politically, but it sure wrecks the sports. The Soviet Union's Afghanistan policy was not affected by our Moscow Olympics boycott in 1980, but the 1984 L.A. Olympics certainly suffered from the Soviets’ retaliation.

It is a cheap shot to say the government should work on improving intelligence and disaster relief and leave baseball alone, but that seems about right. Anyway, its good that I didn’t buy any tickets. I have seen El Duque and the Yankees before.