Cuba

Cuba to allow athletes to sign foreign contracts

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Are the days of ballplayers risking their lives to defect a thing of the past?

The Cuban Government’s anouncemnt thru GRANMA (the official newspaper of Cuba’s Communist Party) says that athletes will be able to sign contracts abroad as long as they “fulfill their obligations at home.” Said obligations were characterized thusly: “It will be taken into account that they are in Cuba for the fundamental competitions of the year.” This suggests that Cuban athletes will still be required to play for the national team and tournaments.

NBC’s Orlando Matos in Havana, who confirmed the news, says this could be considered one of the most radical economic reforms announced by the Cuban government.  Sports were declared strictly “amateur” in the early 60’s.  This reform would allow the athletes, trainers and other sports specialists to keep the money earned from contracts made abroad as long as they pay taxes to the Cuban government.   When it comes to Cuban baseball, athletes will start to get paid, receive bonuses and other monetary awards (all in Cuban pesos) and this indicates the beginnings of a professional Cuban Baseball League.

It is unclear how this affects baseball players coming to play in the United States beyond the issue of taxes, but one can only assume that this move is designed in large part to address them given the primacy of baseball in Cuba and the embarrassment to the government engendered by its biggest star athletes fleeing the country to play. Yasiel Puig has become a sensation. Yoenis Cespedes before that. We wrote the other day about a documentary on Yunel Escobar’s harrowing journey to the U.S. Before that we bore witness to Orlando Hernandez’s famous defection. As of now, teams are scouting Cuban defectors Alexander Guerrero and Jose Dariel Abreu, putting them in line to be the next big Cuban success stories.

The devil will be in the details, of course, and the details insofar as they relate to Cubans in Major League Baseball are not yet known. Nonetheless:  Viva increasing normalcy in a relationship that has been messed up for far too long.

Billy Butler activated from the 7-day concussion disabled list

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 24: Billy Butler #16 of the Oakland Athletics celebrates a solo homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning to regain the lead against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum on July 24, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images)
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The Oakland Athletics have activated DH Billy Butler from the 7-day concussion disabled list.

Butler, you’ll recall, suffered a concussion last weekend in a clubhouse fight with teammate Danny Valencia. The two have since apologized to each other and to the A’s organization for creating what would, if everyone’s being honest, serve as the dramatic peak of the A’s disappointing year.

Speaking of disappointing, Butler is hitting.286/.338/.419 with four homers and 30 RBI in 228 plate appearances this season.

Tim Tebow to work out for 15-20 teams

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 31:  Broadcaster Tim Tebow of the SEC Network speaks on air before the Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that Tim Tebow’s baseball workout, which will take place tomorrow in Los Angeles, will be attended by scouts from “roughly half” of the 30 major league teams. Morosi noted in a later tweet that a lot of the people going to see the workout are people “with influence.” That could mean that people are taking him seriously. It could mean that people want to gawk. The proof will ultimately be in the pudding.

As we’ve noted, Tebow is 29 and he asn’t played competitive baseball since high school. While some people who have watched him work out have said complimentary things about his preparation and approach, an anonymous scout told ESPN.com last week that Tebow’s swing is so long it might “take out the front row.”

Color us skeptical until someone who works for a club, as opposed to people who have been invited to coach him, pitch to him or work out with him, says that Tebow has a chance.