We used to say “defects” from Cuba in these sorts of stories. I’m not sure if that terminology is still accurate given the changes in the political landscape and the new approach to players playing overseas on the part of the Cuban government. But suffice it to say, a player from Cuba has left Cuba and is planning on playing here.
The player: Luis Robert, who Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports has left his native country. Robert is 19 and is currently a center fielder with a lot of speed and raw power. Badler says he could end up a corner guy. Either way, he’s one of the top five players in Cuba by Badler’s estimate. He’ll certainly draw a lot of interest once Major League Baseball formally declares him a free agent.
The interest could vary, however, depending on the date on which Robert is cleared by MLB. The new collective bargaining agreement’s hard bonus cap on international free agents goes into effect on June 15. If he is cleared before then, anyone can sign him, including teams which have already hit the cap to which they’ll be subject for the 2016-17 signing period. If he’s cleared after then, teams which have hit the cap — the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres and Reds — will not be able to sign him.
Call me cynical, but I would bet the mortgage on MLB clearing him after June 15.
As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.
The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.
Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.
Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.