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Francisco Cervelli leads ballplayers in joining Venezuelan protests

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Venezuela has nearly ground to a halt over the past several weeks as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have taken to the streets to demand his removal from power. They have good reason to protest too, as Maduro and his party have mounted a virtual coup, working to bypass the results of elections which gave his opponents a legislative majority and to fend off a referendum aimed at ousting Maduro himself from office.

All of this comes as the country finds itself in an economic crisis which has led to severe food and medicine shortages. Violent crime has spiraled out of control and blackouts have become a daily occurrence. The protests themselves have turned violent as well, with hundreds injured and thousands have been arrested. Maduro stands defiant, employing the military to hold on to power and crack down on his opponents.

While most of us don’t tend to think all that much about what happens in Venezuela, there are over 70 major league baseball players from the country and many more minor leaguers. They all have family and friends down there, many of them suffering and in danger. Yet they still have to find a way to go about their business every day, playing a game, while their country burns.

Many of them are not simply trying to put it out of their mind. As Stephen Nesbitt of the Post-Gazette reports, many are lending their support and joining in protests of Maduro and the deteriorating situation in Venezuela from afar. Leading the charge: Pittsburgh Pirate and Venezuela native Francisco Cervelli:

Before the Pirates played the Milwaukee Brewers on May 5, Cervelli spoke with Hernan Perez during batting practice. They started to hatch a plan. They got together after the game and began contacting some of the 70 other Venezuelans currently on active rosters. They called. They texted. They asked players to send videos voicing their support of the protesters.

Three days later, Cervelli posted a video on his Instagram page, which has more than 181,000 followers, that featured messages from 13 players from three teams. The caption, translated, read, “THAT’S ENOUGH! THE CRIES OF MILLIONS OF VOICES FOR VENEZUELA.”

Nesbitt talks to Cervelli and shares his words and those of other Venezuelan players who are not content to remain quiet and stick to baseball while their homeland is in crisis.

The article is definitely worth your time and their efforts are definitely worth our admiration.

Jeff Wilpon reminds Mets fans that insuring David Wright “is not cheap”

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It’s can’t be easy being a Mets fan. Your team plays in the biggest city in America and should, theoretically, have big payrolls and always be in contention. They aren’t, however, partially because of horrendous luck and ill-timed injuries, partially because of poor baseball decisions and partially because the team’s ownership got taken down by a Ponzi scheme that, one would think anyway, sophisticated businessmen would recognize as a Ponzi scheme. We’ll leave that go, though.

What Mets fans are left with are (a) occasional windows of contention, such as we saw in 2014-16; (b) times of frustrating austerity on the part of ownership when, one would hope anyway, some money would be spent; (c) an inordinate focus on tabloidy and scandalous nonsense which just always seems to surround the club; and (c) a lot of disappointment.

You can file this latest bit under any of or many of the above categories, but it is uniquely Mets.

Team president Jeff Wilpon spoke to the press this afternoon about team payroll. In talking about payroll, David Wright‘s salary was included despite the fact that he may never play again and despite the fact that insurance is picking up most of the tab. Wilpon’s comment:

I’m guessing every team has a line item, someplace, about the costs of insurance. They’re businesses after all, and all businesses have to deal with that. They do not talk about it as a barrier to spending more money on players to the press, however, as they likely know that fans want to be told a story of hope and baseball-driven decisions heading into a new season and do not want to hear about all of the reasons the club will not spend any money despite sitting in a huge market.

This doesn’t change a thing about what the Mets were going to do or not do, but it does have the added bonus of making Mets fans roll their eyes and ask themselves what they did to deserve these owners. And that, more than almost anything, is the essence of Mets fandom these days.