Cuba

Don’t expect the Majors to benefit from Cuba’s liberalized rules for athletes

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Last week waves were made when Cuba announced that it would allow athletes to compete in foreign professional leagues. Many of our first reactions were along the lines of “Awesome! Now ballplayers won’t have to risk their lives and families to play here! They can come and go! It’s the best of both worlds!”

Except it’s not. At least not for them playing in the United States. Because, as The Economist reminds us today, the rules Cuba announced — allowing athletes to play in foreign leagues as long as they pay taxes to Cuba — would lead to a violation of the United States’ embargo on Cuba if the players were on U.S. teams:

The United States’ trade embargo bans any transaction that would fund the Castros’ government. As a result, the requirement that Cuban athletes playing abroad pay local taxes on their income would prevent MLB clubs from signing players who plan to comply. Only outright defectors would be cleared to suit up.

They could play in Japan. Or in Mexico’s summer league. But not in the U.S. At least not unless they defected like they currently do. Any player wanting to walk the straight and narrow under Cuban law, maintaining his home there and place on the Cuban national team, would be better served avoiding the U.S. majors.

Maybe the top of the top — the guys who could command deals only U.S. teams could afford — will still come here. But it will be via defection, same as it is now. And the idea that more borderline, Triple-A types would come here is hard to see given that they’d have a much easier time of it in Japan or Mexico or someplace else.

Which, while not a top-5 reason to support the repeal of the embargo on Cuba, is yet another reason why it’s pretty stupid in this day and age.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

It’s not known yet what kind of contract the two sides are negotiating. It could be a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a non-guaranteed major league contract, or a guaranteed major league contract.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.