14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 18 July 2019 — At this point, to say that Cuban baseball suffers from an unprecedented crisis doesn’t begin to describe what is happening. The game against Nicaragua, closing the preparation for the Pan American Games in Lima, has surprised even many skeptics.
When the fourth and last game was suspended for rain on Tuesday, the team led by Rey Vicente Anglada had been officially swept away in the most surprising way by a team that, it was supposed, did not even come close in quality, but that won twice (4-1 and 4-3) and tied once.
When that tie occurred, in the first match, Nicaragua had played 23 games without beating a Cuban team and, nevertheless, won the next two games. The visitors only came up with 15 hits in those three games, including a double from César Prieto, the only one, and batted for a fabulously miserable average of 167.
Previously, since June 14, Cuba had played five series of three matches in the CanAm League, against different squads from Canada and the United States. In total, it won eight games, with two blanks, sweeping the Capitals and the Boulders, and suffering a sweep against the Aigles. The offense averaged a discrete 257.
Those who worried about these results later saw how the American university students beat the Cubans in the traditional annual match-up with a lower batting average (224). They lost four of five games and hit just three doubles and a home run, scoring 11 runs in 45 innings. The pitching, without surprises, appeared very vulnerable in this tour of North America, throwing balls of 85 miles and less.
Although the CanAm League certainly does not have a remarkable quality, its pitchers showed the Cubans, in general, a speed and a variety of pitches that they are not used to facing. But in North Carolina, facing the students, they were overwhelmed by an overwhelming efficiency.
Among the young Americans, some 19 or 20 years old, 15 were about to sign professional contracts. In total, these guys exemplify the current revolution of American baseball, especially the students, with a level of competitiveness todaynever before known.
Their pitchers easily reach 95 miles per hour and have a reserve of three or four secondaries, and there is no way to compare them with Cuban pitchers, who also lack a well-thought-out sequence. As a result, our hitters struck out 38 times and pitching gave away 19 bases on balls.
Undoubtedly, it was easy to lose four of five games against a team like that, but neither can it be said that the Cubans won in experience, taking into account what happened shortly after against Nicaragua. The escape of three players — who left the team to play in the United States: Yoelkis Céspedes, Norge Carlos Vera and Orlando Acebey — was not decisive. Fortunately, and for a reason that is still unknown, the United States will not participate in the hemispheric match up, thus saving our national team a serious problem.
The worst of the sweep before the Nicaraguans has less to do, basically, with the lack of a winning pitching staff as with the absence of combativity itself, of the live game and creativity. What was the value of altitude training in Mexico and the months of intensive preparation in different countries, which not a few have criticized since it was announced?
According to the specialized press, the selection that will go to the Pan American Games will be more complete than this one, as it will be reinforced by up to a third of the lineup with players from foreign leagues, but it has already happened in the past that those players, exhausted and without time to recover, have not turned in the expected performance.
Cuba has become accustomed to losing against inconceivable rivals — let’s remember Germany — against strong and weak, against countries with a baseball tradition and without one, with the pitching or the offense of opponents, dues to the lack of timely batting and due to the lack of pitchers with sustained efficiency.
Before the shipwreck in Central America, Yosvani Aragón, leader of the Cuban team, declared: “We can not think of anything other than winning the Pan American Games in Lima and for that we carefully prepared and it ended with blanks in Nicaragua.” What would he say now? Surely he keeps thinking with the same optimism, as do all the nefarious baseball bureaucracy.
But fans believe something very different. They are not blind and they know that there is no name for what is happening in Cuban baseball.
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