Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cuban Baseball

Ten Changes over the Next Decade for Baseball
#2: Cuban Politics Affecting Baseball

In the 2000's Cuba saw a few players defect from their country to be eligible to play baseball in the United States. Examples of such players include Lvian Hernandez, Orlando Hernadez, Jose Contreras, Yunel Escobar and Kendry Morales to name some of the more famous players. There already is some history of Cuban players succeeding in Major League Baseball and being well compensated (See Jose Contreras and bidding war).

[For an excellent story detailing Yunel Escobar's defection, the following Sports Illustrated article opened my eyes: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1130711/index.htm]

With Ardonis Chapman now being contacted by double digit number of teams, and the performances at the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, there is a lot of top-tier talent that remains untapped from Cuba. There is talk that border restrictions will be loosened for their country now that Fidel Castro is no longer in leadership. Contingent on political changes in Cuba, a country rich in baseball talent, there will be a major influx of Major League and Minor League talent. With 48% of minor leaguers born outside of the United States and 28% of major leaguers, this is going to increase the supply of talent, which is going to hurt salaries and improve the product on field. While the changes will be tough to observe on the surface. Having such a high amount of new talent available is going to impact the economics of the game to some extent and certainly create some new story lines.

I would come down on this as being a positive for baseball. Whenever there is an opportunity to have the overall product on the field improve, baseball needs to take it. It may stifle salaries a bit at the lower level, and make the conversation about an international draft very interesting, but it should create a great deal of pride for people of Cuban heritage. MLB Marketing would benefit well from this as a result.

Perhaps this is why the Marlins aren't in Portland, OR.?