We read again in several media that a “Cuban baseball player flees” his country to play for Major League Baseball (MLB) of United States (1).
But how is it possible?, should the new sports and immigration policy of Cuba now allows these athletes to play as professionals in any country around the world?. The explanation is simple, because the U.S. Department of the Treasury bans any Cuban athletes from signing with a US club if he keeps his residence on the island or is unable to reliably demonstrate he has broken all relationship with Cuba’s Sports Institute (INDER) (2).
Cuban ballplayers have already signed up with Japanese professional clubs (3). They earn large sums of money and also pay some percentageto the Cuban state, which allocates those funds for grassroots sport. This is what the US blockade tries to avoid at all costs: that a single dollar reaches sports schools in Cuba.
For a better understanding of this issue, let’s explain how U.S. MLB’s contracting system works. Let’s differentiate three groups of players (4).
The first group, the largest one, is composed of those residents in the United States, talents mostly coming from college teams. They make up the so-called “draft”, with a contracting and wage system clearly regulated by clubs and unions. Just after four years, the players will be able to leave the “draft” and become “free agents”, with capacity –some figures– to negotiate million-dollar contracts.
The second group is made up by Latin American ballplayers, trained in the academies that US teams have throughout Latin America. They are barely children and sign up contracts with the clubs that invest in their training, hence their future economic conditions in US professional baseball remains tied.
The third and last group comprises Cuban ballplayers. They are banned to play in U.S. should they reside in Cuba and keep links with the sports system on the island. The usual mechanism to play at MLB is the following: the player leaves Cuba towards another country, except U.S. or Canada, because there he would be forced to join the “draft” system, which reduces his economic expectations. Residing in Haiti, Dominican Republic or Mexico and as a “free agent”, a representative negotiates on his behalf with the talent-spotter or “scout” of the interested team. A very recent example: Boston Red Sox have signed Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo for the trivial sum of $69 million (5).
But the mainstream press continues ignoring all this cynical game and instead publishes news of alleged “escapes” or “fleeings of players from the island, as if their contracting and movement freedom were limited in Cuba and not in the United States. Ballplayer “Hector Olivera left the island and his name joins a growing list of Antillean athletes who have decided to try their luck at MLB”, we read some days ago in a note reproduced by several outlets (6). But there was not the slightest explanation about what’s behind all this.
Nor will we read a line on an even bigger issue: the fair deal meant by Cuban players for U.S. professional sports system, because local clubs do not spend a single cent in their training, which is carried out for years by Cuba’s Sports Institute (7). But mentioning this issue would lead us to a much deeper debate about the commercialized caricature which professional sports has become at present, mainly thanks to the mainstream media, whose big business is precisely the sale of advertising spaces in the framework of sport as a spectacle.
Translated by Cubasi Translation Staff