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The Impact of US-Cuba Relations on Baseball

Before we begin, it should be noted that the US new diplomacy policy about Cuba is much more important than what this blog post is about. But it is called SPORTSblog, not POLYSCI-blog, so here goes.

President Obama said the U.S. is re-establishing long-broken diplomatic relations with Cuba. This opens doors that were closed for over 50 years. Now, the wealth of baseball talent that has braved unconscionable dangers to come play Major League Baseball, might have new options in front of them. Tony Oliva told ESPN that would mark an end to America's "outdated approach" to the island nation

The problem lies in the idea that players can simply leave Cuba, come to the US, and be eligible for the big leagues. How do they get selected? How much financial resource would teams invest in scouts for that area?

Players that have successfully left Cuba, have had huge impacts on the sport, & the recent salaries reflect that. Arizona recently announced their six-year, $68.5 million deal with Yasmany Tomas. Outfielder Rusney Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox in August, Jose Abreu signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox last October and Yasiel Puig inked a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers in June 2012. The saga of Jose Fernandez is the most recent documentation of an athlete’s amazing journey to freedom from Cuban oppression.

MLB issued a statement Wednesday shortly after President Obama’s proclamation.

"Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House's announcement regarding Cuban-American relations. While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba."

So there’s still time.

Since 2002, the sport has had the subject of a WorldWide Draft on the bargaining table. Every labor negotiation the subject is discussed, & then shelved because there were more pressing issues at the time. In ’02, the sport was on the brink of the strike. I remember talking to then negotiator, now Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred about the decision that was made to shelve talk of a worldwide draft because there were simply more pressing issues.

The MLBPA issued this statement as well.

"We will watch this situation closely as it continues to unfold and we remain hopeful that today’s announcement will lead to further positive developments."

Since then, there has been a stronger relationship with the MLBPA, & the sports’ revenues have all hit all-time highs, now is a time to begin negotiations for a new, worldwide draft. It should begin immediately. Set up some structure, so when the floodgates open, America’s “National Pastime” can be ready.

Something I have never said publicly before. My father was born in Cuba. My whole paternal family is from there. My late grandparents were very passionate about their Cuban heritage. They fled the country before Castro took over. They left easier than any athlete. Their struggle is something I have followed very closely.

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