With a number of organizations deeply invested in Japan, the Pirates look for Cuban arms to help pull them out of the cellar.
If you don't believe it, just think back to a few months ago when the chat rooms, talk shows, and highlight shows were filled with news of the posting for Daisuke Matsuzaka by Seibu Lions, the spirited bidding war that ensued, the Boston Red Sox winning that bidding at a whopping $51,111,111.11 and the subsequent negotiations than ended with Dice-K signing a six-year contract worth $52 million.
Throw in the $26,000,194 the New York Yankees paid through the posting system to the Hanshin Tigers in order to sign left-hander Kei Igawa to a five-year, $20-million contract, and Japan has clearly replaced Cuba as the nation major league clubs look to for quick fixes.
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Jay Jaffe checks in with a WBC report after taking in some exciting games in Puerto Rico.
But as the first round revealed, even the hardest heart is capable of being warmed once the games begin. The sudden presence of baseball in early March--not the lazy exhibition walkthroughs in front of somnolent audiences of sun-worshippers but tooth-and-nail battles between bitter rivals in front of frenzied fanatics--trumps all. Either find a way to enjoy the first (relatively) meaningful baseball in four and a half months, or fill out your bracket and kiss Andrew Jackson goodbye.
As of five weeks ago, I had been planning my own sun-worshipping Florida pilgrimage when my brother-in-law Adam upped the ante by suggesting a couple of second-round WBC games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Though mindful of my own reservations about the tourney, I've got enough experience in marquee event attendance to know that even the most pilloried events--such as the birthed-in-scandal 2002 Winter Olympics in my hometown of Salt Lake City--look much better when you're holding a fistful of ducats. As my wife, Andra, likes to say, we're "event people"; it doesn't take much arm-twisting to induce us to hunt big games. So with her blessing, we procured a quartet of tickets for the Pool D winner versus Pool C winner matchup on Monday, March 13 (Adam's girlfriend Nicole would also be accompanying us), and a boys-only pair for the previous night's matchup pairing the Pool D winner and the Pool C runner-up. With the Dominican Republic and Venezuela likely to come out of the D bracket and Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Panama vying for the C slots, we were virtually assured of a pair of high-end Latin-flavored ballgames.
Most Cuban players coming to the major leagues have been disappointments. Now, we may know why.
What did we have to say about him? Scouting reports said he had power to all fields, and he hit .391 in Cuba one year. Pretty much everything we knew about him was in the Baseball America article announcing his signing.
As much as I love reading BA, though, that was a pretty unsatisfying answer. We're performance analysts, dangit, and we didn't have a performance record to analyze, because Cuban baseball has always been this gaping black hole. Players came out every once in a while, the scouting reports raved over them, and George Steinbrenner or some other sap wrote out the big checks for them, but no one really knew how they would perform. While the Brothers Hernandez did fine, it seemed that the greatest talent of Cuban players was to be little Barnums, making suckers of the U.S. baseball establishment. Fidel may have been upset at losing the players, but the sight of so many capitalists losing so much money to Cubans had to bring him at least a small chuckle.
One of the things that I heard the Olympic Committee really wanted to get
was "foot speed". I read that over and over, and it made me think
that maybe they were going to go out of their way to get former major
leaguers, like Vince Coleman, so they could steal some bases.
They didn't. I'm happy about that. The big speed threat is Brent
Abernathy, who was 21-for-36 in steal attempts when I pulled his stats
on selection day. Foot speed, apparently, has run out.