Big Teams Struggle in Cuba Baseball

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 21 — With less than a third of the 90-game season to be played traditional Cuban baseball powerhouses are struggling to stay in the race for a playoff ticket.

In the Western Division, last year’s league champions, Industriales, are in fifth place 7.5 behind leader Cienfuegos.  Nonetheless they are only 1.5 games out of third (La Habana) and a half game out of fourth (Sancti Spiritus).  The first four teams reach the quarterfinal playoffs.

In the Eastern Division, last season’s runner-ups, Villa Clara, are in fourth place 5.5 games behind leader Guantanamo.  The perennial powerhouse, Santiago de Cuba, has dropped to a tie for sixth place 9.0 games out of first and 3.5 games behind fourth place Villa Clara.

A full schedule of games begins on Tuesday.  In an attractive series of playoff contenders, Granma hosts La Habana; Pinar del Rio travels to Holguin; Industriales has a tough rival playing in Ciego de Avila; Villa Clara should have an easy go at home vs. Matanzas; Las Tunas travels to Sancti Spiritus; Camaguey faces a tough challenge on the road against Cienfuegos; Guantanamo travels to the Isla de la Juventud and Santiago de Cuba is the visitor against Metropolitanos.

Standings including games of Feb. 21, 2011

Teams (Western Division) W L GB
Cienfuegos 41 22
Pinar del Rio 37 26 4.0
La Habana 35 28 6.0
Sancti Spiritus 34 29 7.0
Industriales 34 30 7.5
Isla de la Juventud 26 37 15.0
Matanzas 24 39 17.0
Metropolitanos 21 42 20.0
Teams (Eastern Division) W L GB
Guantanamo 38 25
Ciego de Avila 37 26 1.0
Granma 37 26 1.0
Villa Clara 33 31 5.5
Las Tunas 30 33 8.0
Santiago de Cuba 29 34 9.0
Camaguey 29 34 9.0
Holguin 20 43 18.0