Juan Francisco Puello about to lie about something.

A Caribbean All-Star Problem

A couple of months back I wrote about the turmoil present in Serie del Caribe. Specifically, the issue at hand was the statements of Juan Francisco Puello, President of Confederación de Béisbol Profesional del Caribe. As the President of the SDC’s governing body, he had talked about wanting to increase the number of teams participating in the yearly tournament. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Except, it is when there’s a whole lot of shadiness behind the invites and the end result is two of the most deserving countries, Cuba and Nicaragua, not getting a representative while two nowhere near SDC ready countries in Curaçao and Argentina get to participate. While Puello has yet to pull the trigger on the invites, events from this week may nudge him in that direction and weaken the tournament even more.

This week it was announced that Béisbol Profesional de Panamá had canceled their season. It was supposed to their 2020-2021 season, but after pushing back Opening Day multiple times they finally decided to take an ax to their 2021 season entirely.  As soon as that announcement was made a follow-up press release started making the rounds. In the press release, PROBEIS announced that the country would still be participating in the 2021 SDC. Since they did not have a champion they would instead send an all-star team consisting of available players from the four teams that make up their league. It’s a solution to a developing problem, but it’s not a solution that ever needed to be an option.

Unlike PROBEIS, Serie Nacional de Béisbol and Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional are both in the middle of winding down successful seasons. Whether they should have played is a valid question, but they did play. SNB is easily one of the top leagues throughout Latin America, and the world for that matter. Meanwhile, LBPN is a league that has been knocking at the door of being able to compete with the likes of the SDC member leagues. All they need is a chance, but Puello and his cronies refuse to give them that chance.

LBPN officials have paid $50,000+ to gain entry to the league only to have Puello deny them membership and then pocket the money. It’s clear from watching their league that they belong in the SDC. The quality of play is at a level where they could compete. There’s no reason for them to not have been granted the right to play in the tournament before this. Yet, they were never granted that right and now they will sit on the sidelines once again while an all-star team from Panama gets to play.

When it comes to the SNB representative the situation is a little trickier. There’s no question whatsoever that the Cuban champion deserves to play in the tournament. There’s no doubting the quality of play in their league or that they want to play. They pulled out of the 2020 tournament thanks to visa issues and the game being played on American soil in Puerto Rico. Then Puello announced they would not be invited this year and likely in future iterations of the tournament. For no apparent reason other than spite Puello has lessened the quality of his tournament. The champion of one of the best leagues in the world will sit at home and watch an all-star team from Panama play instead.

I love the SDC, anyone reading this knows that to be a fact. It is my favorite baseball tournament that takes place all year. My love for the play on the field doesn’t mean I’m not able to look at this Panama situation and recognize it as the lessening of the quality of the tournament that it is. Instead of deserving leagues getting to play against their rivals, an all-star team will don uniforms and play in a tournament they haven’t actually earned the right to partake in. It’s pathetic that a great tournament has taken this tumble due to corruption and spite. If the Serie del Caribe no longer actually represents the champions from the best Latin Winter Leagues, does it serve a purpose any longer?

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – El Nuevo Herald

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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