CBPC Commissioner Juan Francisco Puello at a press conference

Turmoil in the Caribbean

Earlier this year I wrote about some interesting decisions being made by Confederación de Béisbol Profesional del Caribe, the governing body of Serie del Caribe (CWS). I don’t particularly care about the CWS being moved up a week or two. The tournament only takes a week to complete and moving it either forward or backward a week will not make a lick of difference in the quality or appeal of the tournament. However, when CBPC Commissioner Juan Francisco Puello announced that the Serie Nacional de Béisbol (CNS) champion would most likely not compete in the 2021 tournament the quality and appeal of the tournament took a big hit.

How we got here is up for debate. The basic gist is that the 2019-2020 CNS champions missed last year’s CWS after visa issues. In what appears to be a petty retort to Cuba’s representative missing the 2020 CWS Puello has announced that they will not compete in 2021 either. In their stead, he announced the same 6 teams that competed in last year’s tournament will compete in 2021 with the possible addition of one or two more squads. Puello later revealed that the countries under consideration for access to the 2021 series were Curaçao and Argentina.

The above gives us a lot to unpack. The obvious place to start is Cuba and the absence of the CNS champions. Ever since it reentered the CWS in 2014 the Cuban representative has been a force to be reckoned with. A Cuban club won the title in 2015 and they placed second in 2019. In every tournament, the Cuban team has shown itself to be the equal, or better, of the other participants. On the whole, the CNS has proven they are better than the new entrants from Panama and Colombia, but there’s no reason there can’t be a CWS with all three countries represented. Be that as it may, it is clear that by losing Cuba the quality of the CWS is taking a major hit.

Colombia and Panama aren’t an issue as I believe that both should be competing in the CWS. They shouldn’t be taking a spot away from the CNS, but if the CBPC wants to expand the series then they belong with the other 5 countries. No, the real problem is the possible additions of Curaçao and Argentina. Both come with their own set of unique problems and the inclusion of either represents a threat to the existence of the Serie Latinoamericana (SLA).

When it comes to Curaçao there is one glaringly obvious reason why they shouldn’t be granted entry into the tournament. At the present time, there is no professional baseball league in Curaçao. There once was, but they haven’t played a season in the past two years. When they did play they were an SLA level club and if the league returns that’s where they still belong while they continue to prove their merit for any sort of CWS inclusion. The larger question is why in the heck Puello thinks it’s prudent to advertise a country without a league as possibly getting a CWS spot?

Argentina is young in baseball terms. Liga Argentina de Béisbol (LAB) has only been around for three years. They are growing, and by all appearances, the future of baseball in Argentina is in good hands. A future goal of a LAB team making it to the CWS is admirable. That shouldn’t be a present goal. In the here and now LAB isn’t ready to compete with the champions of Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, etc. I’d go so far as to say that if the LAB champion does get to compete in the CWS in 2021 they will suffer lopsided defeat after lopsided defeat. It’s clear to anyone who pays attention to the international game of baseball that LAB is years removed from being able to compete in the CWS in any meaningful manner that will help to continue their growth. Why does Puello think they should be in the tournament now?

The answer to the above two questions more than likely rests on the shoulders of the CBPC scandal involving Nicaragua’s Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional. Nicaragua has sought entry to the CWS for many years now. In fact, they have made somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 in payments to the CBPC in a process that was supposed to gain their entry. However, year after year the LBPN champion has been denied entry. During that time Nicaraguan representatives cut their teeth in the SLA and were dominant in the process. Nicaragua has reached a level where they are ready for the hardened competition of a CWS birth. The CBPC, and its Commissioner, don’t want to give them that chance. Rather they are attempting to pocket all the payments Nicaragua made while dangling entry to a country without a baseball league and a country with a baseball league that isn’t yet ready for the bright lights of the CWS.

Even in unaffiliated ball, it all comes down to money and a mix of shadiness. Serie del Caribe remains one of the crown jewels of baseball, but with the loss of Cuba, it’s a little rougher around the edges. Meanwhile, the possibility of Curaçao and Argentina gaining entry while Nicaragua is denied access cheapens the whole thing. Puello’s actions are petty and they have the potential to delegitimize the entire series while throwing baseball throughout Latin Ameria into turmoil. The baseball world should be rebelling against the idea of a lesser CWS and no SLA, but for the most part, baseball remains silent. No matter the level; money and influence rule the day while fair play and gradual growth aren’t welcomed.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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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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