February 06, 2006

Ok to Play, but No Pay

Cubans who play at the upcoming World Baseball Classic tournament (March 3-20, in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan) will not receive a dime. Not even if they win the 16-nation tournament.

On January 20th the U.S. Treasury Department changed its previous ruling and decided that Cuba could play in the games. This change of mind came after Cuba offered to donate all the proceeds to Katrina Hurricane victims… after the International Baseball Federation threatened to cancel the games… after Puerto Rico threatened to withdraw from the games if Cuba was not allowed to play… and after numerous players, such as all-time U.S. home run leader Hank Aaron, and Japanese home-run leader Sadaharu Oh, spoke against isolating the Cuban team.

Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy set his sites somewhere beyond current politics. “Cuba is an important baseball nation,” he said. “It’s important to have them.”

“They deserve to compete,” said Hank Aaron in a Yahoo! News article.

So there we have it. Perhaps the best amateur team in the world, winner of 3 of the 4 Olympic Gold medals in baseball, will play in the 16-nation tournament, as the world’s foremost superpower sets aside an ideology of fundamentalist isolationism. Cuba’s first game is March 8 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, against the national team from Panama.

Surprisingly, none of the great Cuban-born players now in the majors are on the roster for the U.S. team.

I’m glad the Cubans will play at the tournament in March, but it seems wrong to change the rules this way.

It’s been suggested that the International Olympic Committee may reconsider staging future Olympic games in the U.S. (such as, possibly, Chicago for the 2016 Summer Games). Just imagine: no gold medals for countries that don’t practice Our Brand democracy, even if they win.



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