The Major League Baseball (MLB) season of 2020 will forever be remembered by the worldwide Covid pandemic. The season was adjusted so that all involved in the national pastime could be played in conditions deemed as safe as possible. MLB continued its international appeal although surprisingly the number of players as part of each team’s 40 player active roster, dropped by 3 from the previous year. Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest country and also known as a Latin powerhouse. For the 2020 season twenty-two players are part of MLB’s thirty team active rosters. Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest country and prides itself as a Latin baseball powerhouse and ranks in the top five around the globe. A key metric not openly discussed is the national team has lost some of its lustre through defections as stars lucky enough to be noticed by an MLB team gladly make the transition. Similarly to the Negro Leagues before Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier was its popularity. However once Robinson opened the door the rest is history as many wanted to see those “stars.” Thus the Negro Leagues “prime product” was diluted and eventually disappeared. Hopefully high level baseball in Cuba can be sustained.
One more point about this year’s lineup, two star studded players have experience in MLB but as of this writing are not officially on any teams roster.
Just in. Managers of three of baseball’s perennial organizations have been fired or otherwise parted ways. For the upcoming season and in the foreseeable future, A.J. Hinch manger of the Houston Astros, Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets will not be watching any baseball games from their respective dugouts.
The season for 2020 hasn’t even started yet Commission Robert Manfred dropped the bombshell of the year, and for many it may be the decade or perhaps a lifetime. His announcement came yesterday morning by concluding the Houston Astros were guilty of a sign or signal calling scheme.
What!!! You may ask…..stealing signs, what is that?
Ever since sport was created as a competitive exercise many have a “win at any cost” or “whatever it takes to win” mentality. Fortunately, over time those who have operated to “bend” the rules are usually ferreted out. Of course, the credibility of fair competition is the result.
In most sports there are enough rules and regulations to choke a horse!!! Yet, the manner of mankind has always found a way to manipulate those rules and regulations as an advantage to them. Most define that as stone-cold cheating.
That is the situation the Houston Astros found themselves in following Major League Baseball’s (MLB) investigation into the signal scheme.
The investigation covered the period from 2016 through the present. During the investigation, the DOI interviewed 68 witnesses, including 23 current and former Astros players.
Signs or signals are used to communicate a variety of things during the game. Metrics or analytics is also used as a complement so that players can be positioned based on sequences, probability or the likelihood of when and where the batter will hit the ball. Assuming he is lucky enough to make contact. As difficult as it is to hit a baseball that is coming in at 80 to 90 or even 100 mph, and is also moving requires great skill! Yet, knowing what kind of pitch is coming in helps improve the odds of being able to make contact or to not swing. MLB has specific penalties for team’s or player’s who are caught stealing signs.
A bird wouldn’t get caught if it never opened its mouth!
Interestingly, MLB’s investigation started following an allegation made by a former player of the Astros!!! As quoted in Manfred’s finding, “On November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules.”
The Astros were dealt swift punishment by Manfred. Starting with the ownership led by Jim Crane, General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager, AJ Hinch also received news they were not expecting. Surely, more punishment and fallout is expected. At the top of the lineup is Alex Cora who was a coach with the Astros during the period in question and who subsequently was selected the manager of the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Many have posed the question? Did the antics he employed with the Astros go with him to Boston as during his first year they became world champions? For many the answer is a resounding yes. As mentioned at the top of this article – Cora and the Red Sox have parted ways.
Then there is Carlos Beltran who was quoted in Manfred’s report but somehow was exonerated from any illegal behavior. His last team as a player was with the 2017 Astros. Even though he was not fined by MLB on Thursday Jan. 16th the heat became too much so he and his new employer of just two months, the New York Mets have parted ways. The result is not only has he lost out as being a freshman manager but now his prospects of being selected into baseball’s coveted Hall of Fame is in jeopardy.
To get snakebit once is bad enough. But, to get snakebit twice in back-to-back years has Dodger fans in disbelief as in 2017 they lost the world series in seven games to the Astros. Then, in 2018, they again lost the world series in seven games to the Cora managed Red Sox. For some, equity is stripping the respective winners of their “title” and awarding the Dodgers as the winners. Unfortunately, that outcome is highly unlikely.
In the meantime, some fans are so incensed about the scandal they are consulting lawyers claiming it resulted in financial harm from the Astros and Red Sox. Also, led by City Councilman Gil Cedillo a resolution has been passed seeking MLB’s intervention of stripping titles from the Astros and the Red Sox and renaming the Dodgers as the rightful winner.
In the meantime, Crane, Luhnow, Hinch and Cora are tied to this disgrace of the national pastime. Surely other heads will roll and while the scheme is in the lap of the Houston Astros it is unlikely, they were the only participant. What other teams will be implicated? In the meantime, stay tuned.
Above photo: ‘Ted Williams, Minnie Minoso’ Boston Red So, baseball player Ted Williams and Cleveland Indians player Minnie Minoso, posed in dugout for 1959 All Star Game, Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 1959. (Photo by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris/Carnegie Museum of Art/Getty Images)
[Havana] The 2019 All Star Game (ASG) will feature 15 players that were born outside of the United States. Behind the Dominican Republic, Cuba is number two and will feature three players who will be part of the July 9th festivities.
[Havana] For the third year we feature Cuban national baseball players who are play in MLB (Major League Baseball).
I was in Havana on my way to Estadio Latinoamericano when MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Cuban Federation reached a historic agreement allowing Cuban nationals to achieve a path to play in the MLB. The agreement eliminated the need for players to defect or leave under negative circumstances. Unfortunately, four months later the Donald Trump administration maintained its posture of dismantling anything viewed as positive which the Obama administration was part of, and abruptly canceled the agreement. In the meantime, many have adopted a slogan adopted by MLB last year which simply states, “Let the kids play!!!!”
Ranked #5 in the World
Baseball is still an important part of Cuban culture. With a population of approximately 11 million their impressive ranking is 5th as determined from the World Baseball Confederation. While it is great that MLB fans get a first-hand opportunity to see the players perform, one can only imagine how good the national team would be had there not been defections, which have impacted the talent pool?
25 player v 40 player?
This year’s edition has been expanded to include the 40-man roster instead of the 25-man roster. This was done since technically they are eligible to play at a moment’s notice.
To understand the difference please read here
25 player roster – known as the Active Roster – A club’s 25-man roster is its full roster of active Major League players.
40 player roster – The 40 Man roster is the group of players who are eligible to be added to the active (25 man) roster.
Currently there are 25 players who are Cuban nationals who meet the criteria. Of the thirty MLB teams, Houston is the leader with five players.