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Trump Administration rejects MLB’s posting deal with Cuban Baseball Federation

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The Trump Administration has put a stop to MLB and the MLBPA’s efforts to create  a posting system which would allow Cuban baseball players to come to the United States without having to defect from their home county and without having to worry about the dangerous defection process which often includes exploitation at the hands of human traffickers. It did so by reversing an Obama era Treasury Department ruling granting Major League Baseball an exception to the Cuban Embargo. Jeff Passan of ESPN reports the decision which came down on Friday.

To review: back in December Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) announced an agreement on a posting system that would allow players to join the league without having to defect. The deal was to allow Cuban ballplayers of a certain age and experience level to play in the United States and return to their home country freely, just as players from other countries can. In exchange, a portion of their bonuses were go to the FCB, just as posting fees for players from Asia go to their Asian teams.

It was hoped that the system would curtail the often dangerous process by which players obtain residency in countries like Mexico, where human traffickers and other unsavory types can threaten them and take advantage of them. Less nobly, the age restrictions would keep Cuban players in their teens and early 20s out of the United States, thereby eliminating a class of expensive free agents. It was a deal of tradeoffs, obviously, with some of MLB’s financial interests being served, the interests of preventing exploitation of players being served and, of course, providing a means of the Cuban Baseball Federation to receive compensation for lost players.

While normally any deals between United States businesses and citizens with Cuba or Cuban entities are forbidden due to the decades long Embargo, Major League Baseball obtained the right to negotiate and enter into such a deal from the Obama Administration Treasury Department. As we noted soon after the deal was agreed upon, Republicans in Congress, particularly Senator Marco Rubio, began to take issue with it and pressured Trump to reverse the previous Treasury ruling. The rationale: paying money to the FCB is no different than paying money to the Cuban government and that, they argue, is against U.S. interests.

So the deal is dead and the status quo remains: Cuban players who wish to play in the United States have to make a dangerous defection, leave their families, risk persecution and jail if they are unsuccessful, risk life, limb and possibly a great deal of money due to reliance on human traffickers, who are often associated with organized crime and drug cartels. If players do make that perilous journey and establish residency in a third country, they can become unrestricted free agents. If they land in the United States, they will be subject to the draft. If they are intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard before reaching land they are, per U.S. policy, returned to Cuba.

Given how outmoded and manifestly ineffective the Embargo has been over the past half century plus, it’s hard to say how this ruling serves anyone’s interest other than politicians who want to appear tough on Cuba for their own political interests.

Dodgers upset with Héctor Neris after Thursday’s game

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July hasn’t treated Phillies closer Héctor Neris well. Entering Thursday, he had allowed runs in three of his last four appearances, blowing two saves in the process. His struggles continued as he allowed a two-out solo home run to Alex Verdugo in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon, closing the deficit to 7-6. Thankfully for the Phillies, he was able to get the final out, getting Justin Turner to fly out to right field. An excited Neris looked into the Dodgers’ dugout and yelled an expletive.

The four-game series between the Dodgers and Phillies had quite some drama. After Matt Beaty hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, Neris threw a pitch at the next batter, David Freese, seemingly in frustration. Neris was suspended three games. He appealed his punishment, which is why he’s been allowed to pitch. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s game, Max Muncy and Beaty stepped on first baseman Rhys Hoskins‘ ankle on consecutive plays. That, along with his own struggles, explains why Neris might’ve been amped up after closing out the ballgame.

The Dodgers were, understandably, not happy about Neris yelling at them. Several players shouted back, including Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin. An unamused Muncy glared at Neris. Martin suggested to Neris that they meet in the hallway.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the game, “I think we played this series the right way, played it straight. To look in our dugout and to taunt in any way, I think it’s unacceptable. Look in your own dugout.”

Muncy said, “He’s blown about eight saves against us over the last two years. I guess he was finally excited he got one. Whatever.”

Neris attributed his outburst to emotions, saying, “It’s a great win for my team and just I let my emotion get out.”

In baseball, everyone is pro-showing-emotion when it’s himself and his teammates, and against when it’s players on the other team. Muncy got into a back-and-forth with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after flipping his bat and watching his long home run at Oracle Park last month. Bumgarner jawed at him and Muncy said, “I just told him if he doesn’t want me to watch the ball, go get it out of the ocean.”

Neris, however, is the last guy on the Phillies who should be antagonizing the Dodgers after his terrible decision to throw at Freese, not to mention his overall poor performance against them. The Phillies were pigs in mud who wanted to wrestle and the Dodgers jumped in with them for some reason. Thankfully, the two teams are done playing each other for the rest of the regular season.