Cheering for Team USA against Cuba
Team USA beat Cuba rather easily to move to the WBC Title game. It was over when the Cuban team could not score with the bases loaded. They got a run on a walk, but nothing more.
Once upon a time, communist Cuba dominated amateur baseball in much the same way that the old USSR beat up college kids in hockey. "No más"!
This weekend's game may have been the clearest example that this is not much a rivalry at all, as Tom Verducci explained:
By a 14–2 score that understates the talent gap, Team USA waxed a Cuban team loaded with cast-offs, 30-something Mexican League hangers-on and post-glory-days veterans who filled their all-red uniforms the way burly Boog Powell did those similarly monochromatic 1975 Cleveland unis, which were so bad the players back then offered to buy blue jerseys themselves.
It's funny, but I had the same thought about Boog Powell and those horrible uniforms. The only good thing about those uniforms is that they were still called Indians rather than this silly "woke" Guardians.
Another point made by Verducci:
The Cuban offense was no better. The starting lineup included two players released by the Dodgers — five and seven years ago — a right fielder who hit .225 in indy ball last year and Boog-like 36-year-old Alfredo Despaigne, playing in his 20th season. The Cubans made it to the semifinal largely by getting through an easy pool as a runner-up, squeaking by Australia by one run.
The contest brought home some realities.
First, wonder how many guys were left in Cuba for fear of losing them in Miami? It has happened before.
Second, the Cuban batters looked confused against all the Major League breaking pitches. They never saw balls break like that when they were beating up amateurs, from the U.S. to Taiwan to Mexico. Back in the 1980s, I saw the Cuban national team in Mexico for a weekend exhibition series against a local team. It was a mismatch, like all those Pan American Games that they'd win year after year.
Last, but not least, I could imagine all the cheering going on in that anti-communist Cuban corner up in heaven. They love Cuba, as my late parents would always say, but they hate the regime that team represents.
My late parents grew up cheering the pre-Castro winter league that saw a young Brooks Robinson and many other major leaguers who knew that a good winter season would enhance their Major League résumé. I recall showing my father a Major League card and often hear that "he played in Cuba." I would ask, how many played in Cuba? His answer was always "muchos."
Yes, I am delighted that the U.S. beat the crap out of Cuba. It was a battle of freedom vs. tyranny, and the good guys won, especially Nolan Arenado, son of a Cuban immigrant.
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Image: USA Baseball.