The Golden Season of Cuba Baseball

Osmel Almaguer

Cuban baseball fans at the Latinoamericano Stadium in Havana.

The fiftieth edition of the Cuban National Baseball Series has been dubbed the “Golden Season,” evidently in reference to the round figure it will mark since it has nothing to do with the quality of our national sport.

Expectations that were sowed before the season began (those of a high-quality season ensured by fifty years of experience and successes, and a certain air of classicism) have gradually collapsed even though we still haven’t finished the first third of the regular season.

More than indicators, the symptoms of decline — much more radical since the last season —are scandalous.  The general tendency has been for the batting to silence the pitching, which in general also doesn’t have good defensive to back it.  The batting average is about the .290, nearly the highest index in the history of our baseball; the pitching performance has been well above four earned runs in each nine-inning game, and the defensive average has fallen to .970.

Perhaps these data are not very illustrative, but if we look at the box score daily we can see the clear tendency for more than one team to commit four or five errors in a game, more than two teams batting five or six homeruns in any match, and almost half of these end up in high scores.

If that still weren’t enough, when we sit down in front of the TV to watch the games that are broadcast, the first thing we’ll notice is the dearth of viewing options.  ICRT (the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television) argues that it can only cover one game a day (except during the playoffs).  However let’s remember that we’re talking about more than the national sport; baseball is one of the principal ideological tools on which the revolutionary government counts.

Another remarkable fact is that the games featured on TV are sometimes not the best match-ups.  Recently we had the “great fortune” of being able to view all the plays in the series between Holguin and Guantanamo, two of the basement-level teams in the eastern region.

However, the saddest of all is when we notice that the great majority of the teams, decimated by the emigration of top-notch players to the United States, are made up of players who in many cases aren’t up to the league level.

I’m not referring here to their talent, power or speed, but rather to their understanding of the fundamentals of baseball, their mastery of defensive mechanics, their knowledge of what to do at each moment in a game, how to think and make decisions that positively influence the final score.

That is what’s lacking, and if you doubt it, why do we increasingly hear the opinion — even in the circles of sports journalists — that a more elite national series should be organized, one that assembles the real talent we have left.

osmel

Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.



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