2017 World Baseball Classic Report (Day 9)
The Cubans are in a tough spot after making it through a first round that they barely escaped thanks to a poor performance from the start.
The Cubans are not used to this type of performance when the play internationally as they are a country that is known for their love of the game.
Cuba is a place that has produced more talent than most people would expect from a country so small.
Right now, Cubans count as some of the best players in the world and it seems like every year there is a new bidding war for the next star.
The MLB is full of Cubans from superstar players to future stars in the minor leagues trying to work their way up to the major leagues.
With the type of history that the country enjoys in terms of producing stars and their simple love of baseball as their main sport it seems like a good bet that they will be good every year that they play in the tournament.
Yet there is one big issue that has held them back and continues to hold them back throughout the tournament this year.
That issue is one that has little to do with baseball and everything to do with the politics of the country and of other countries.
Cuba has long been a communist country and as a communist country that was within reach of the Americans they were heavily involved in the Cold War.
Their involvement in some major moments of the Cold War led the Americans to put sanctions against the country including a trade embargo and a travel ban.
Essentially Americans could have nothing to do with Cubans and Cubans, in turn, could have nothing to do with Americans.
Much like the era of the Soviet Union and the NHL if a player from Cuba wanted to play major league baseball they would have to find a way to do so illegally.
The Cuban government refused to let citizens go to the USA and when international teams travelled they were closely watched by security to ensure that the Cuban players returned to the country after the tournament.
It didn’t stop a number of players from finding their way to the USA to play baseball as every major Cuban star that is on an MLB team right now made their way out of Cuba illegally.
The MLB does have rules to ensure nobody comes straight from Cuba but with massive bidding wars to get the best prospects not much has stopped some great players from finding their way out.
The problem for the national team has always been that these players left illegally and therefore could not be a part of the Cuban team any longer.
It means they lost massive talent every year leaving their teams without players like Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, Kendrys Morales, Aroldis Chapman, and Yasiel Puig.
That new landscape had many wondering what the Cubans would do with their national team for the World Baseball Classic.
If they began to allow their current MLB players to come back and play for the team it could be one of the best in the tournament.
With their best players that defected to the USA, the Cubans could have been one of the toughest teams and could prove just how good they are as a baseball country.
A few months before the tournament began, Cuba announced that they would not allow anyone who defected to play for their national team.
They kept the same stance that they had for years and for the national sport it meant some major questions.
They were always going to be good simply due to a great system that produces consistent talent every year.
Adding their MLB players could have been the difference for them as players like Cespedes, Puig and Chapman could have put them over the top.
There was no doubt that it could have been one of the most feared lineups in the tournament but the Cubans continued their policy and the team may suffer.
They made it through the first round but only after losing to the Japanese in their first game of the tournament.
In Day 9 they lost to the Japanese for a second time which added to their loss total after dropping their opening second round game to Israel.
They are now 0-2 in the second round and their hopes of a semi-final berth are slim.
It may be too much speculation but adding some of their MLB players could have been the difference against the Japanese and the Israelis but politics got involved and all fans are suffering for it.
Venezuela 4-3 Italy
– The first tiebreaker was a thriller as the Italians were looking to cause the upset but couldn’t get it done losing to the Venezuelans who put up three runs in the ninth and ended an Italian rally to move to the next round
Japan 8-5 Cuba
– The rematch was slightly more controlled than the first shootout but the result was the same as the Cubans took their second loss to the Japanese who inched closer to the semi-finals while the Cubans are left with little hope to move on to Los Angeles
Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico (Tuesday, March 14th; 9:00 pm ET)
– The second round kicks off with one of the most dominant teams in the tournament taking on a team that surprised many with their firepower in a game that could come down to a shootout in the batter’s box
Netherlands vs. Cuba (Tuesday, March 14th; 11:00 pm ET)
– If Cuba has any hope of moving on they need this win as they take on the Dutch who are hoping that they can earn the win and move to their second straight semi-finals and prove that the Netherlands are a baseball power
Israel vs. Japan (Wednesday, March 15th; 6:00 am ET)
– The Japanese can still make it with a loss but they are hoping to go undefeated into the semi-finals while the Israelis take on their toughest test yet as the Cinderella story seems to be running out of steam in the second round