Cuba to allow athletes to sign foreign contracts

38 Comments

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.

Derek Jeter wants to get rid of the Marlins’ home run sculpture

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
1 Comment

Derek Jeter, part-owner of the Marlins, met with Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez on Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park, Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald reports. They discussed potentially removing the home run sculpture from the ballpark, something that has been on Jeter’s to-do list since he took over.

Gimenez said of the sculpture, “I just don’t think they’re all that crazy about it. I’m not a fan. We’re looking at it. … We’ll see if anything can be done.”

According to Hanks, the sculpture is public property because it was purchased as part of the Art in Public Places program, which requires art to be installed for the public in county-owned buildings. Michael Spring, the cultural chief for Miami-Dade who was present with Jeter and Gimenez on Tuesday, had previously said that the sculpture was “not moveable” and was “permanently installed” because it was designed “specifically” for Marlins Park. On Tuesday, Spring said, “Anything is possible. But it is pretty complicated. And I wanted the mayor and the Marlins to understand how complicated it really was. We got a good look at it today, and they saw how big it was. There’s hydraulics, there’s plumbing, there’s electricity.”

With Jeter having traded Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon this offseason, the home run sculpture is arguably one of the last remaining interesting things about the Marlins in 2018. Naturally, he wants to get rid of it.