By Peter C. Bjarkman

Rafael Orta was on the All-Defense Team as an outfielder for this year’s Cuban Baseball League. Strangely, he hardly played the position, instead starting as the DH for most of the season.

HAVANA TIMES, July 10 – Below is the complete summary of National Series #48 (2008-2009) Cuban League All-Star voting and individual post-season awards.

Three oddities should be noted in the balloting. First and foremost is the fact that Rafael Orta (Habana Province) was selected as one of the Gold Glove Outfield choices, even though Orta was employed for almost the entire season as team DH (frequently drawing comments in this role, since he batted cleanup and yet completed the entire regular season without a single home run).

Given the fact that Orta is so widely considered one of the league’s best fly chasers, and also given his lack of offensive punch in the DH role, one has to question why he was used in that latter capacity. Nonetheless it is difficult to second guess manager-of-the-year Esteban Lombillo’s decision on this count, since Orta was one of the post-season offensive heroes and Lombillo’s team did capture the league championship.

A second intriguing observation is the fact that Sancti Spíritus stalwart third baseman Yulieski Gourriel was the only individual to appear on both the league all-star team and the all-defensive team selections (tying for the latter honor).

And finally there is the issue of Alfredo Despaigne’s easy victory as league MVP.  Here the same question must be raised that always comes up when discussing major league MVP balloting. Despaigne unquestionably enjoyed one of the great offensive seasons in Cuban league annals, establishing a new league home run mark.

Undoubtedly the Granma outfielder was “player of the year” by any measure.  But how “valuable” was he to his last-place team?  It is a safe bet indeed that Granma would have finished 30 or more games off the pace and failed to make the playoffs even without Despaigne on their roster.

Should not the MVP award go to a player whose presence dramatically improved or contributed to team performance?

Most Valuable Player: Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) First: Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) 76 points (21 first place votes) Second: Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) 49 points (2 first place votes) Third: Michel Enríquez (Isla de la Juventud) 36 points (4 first place votes)

Rookie of the Year: Michel Gorgüet (Guantánamo) First: Michel Gorgüet (Guantánamo) 75 points (21 first place votes) Second: Denis Laza (Habana Province) 34 points (3 first place votes) Third: Wilfredo Aroche (Metros) 31 points (3 first place votes)

Manager of the Year: Esteban Lombillo (Habana Province) First: Esteban Lombillo (Habana Province) 28 votes Second: Eduardo Martin (Villa Clara) Third: Roger Machado (Ciego de Avila)

MVP (Post-Season): Miguel Alfredo González (Habana Province) Unanimous Selection

Rookie of the Year (Post Season): Dennis Laza (Habana Province) First: Denis Laza (Habana Province) 28 votes Second: Ramon Lunar (Villa Clara)

2008-2009 CUBAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR TEAM:

Catcher: Rolando Meriño (Santiago de Cuba) 27 votes First Base: Yoelvis Charles (Ciego de Avila) 22 votes Second Base: Yoilan Cerce (Guantánamo) 20 votes Third base: Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) 22 votes Shortstop: Alex Guerrero (Las Tunas) 16 votesOutfielder: Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) Unanimous Outfielder: Giorvis Duvergel (Guantánamo) 27 votes Outfielder: Yoennis Céspedes (Granma) 16 votes DH: Lerys Aguilera (Holguín) 20 votes Utility: Leonys Martin (Villa Clara) 10 votes RHP: Yunieski Maya (Pinar del Río) 21 votes LHP: Maikel Folch (Ciego de Avila) 26 votes Relief Pitcher: Vladimir García (Ciego de Avila) 32 votes

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM (GOLD GLOVE WINNERS):

Catcher: Yaimel Alberro (Matanzas) 24 votes First Base: Leslie Anderson (Camagüey) 16 votes Second Base: Mario Vega (Ciego de Avila) 27 votes Third Base (Tie): Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) 13 votes Third Base (Tie): Marino Luis (Cienfuegos) 13 votesShortstop: Yorbis Borroto (Ciego de Avila) 22 votes Outfielder: Juan Carlos Linares (Habana Province) 24 votes Outfielder: Alexei Bell (Santiago de Cuba) 23 votes Outfielder: Rafael Orta (Habana Province) 16 votes Pitcher: Wilbert Pérez (Isla de la Juventud) 22 votes.


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