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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.

Brewers’ Burnes goes on IL with strained left oblique

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes was placed on the injured list Friday with a strained left oblique, likely ending the right-hander’s breakthrough season.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that if Milwaukee advances to the playoffs, Burnes would be unavailable for the first round and would be doubtful for the second round. The Brewers (27-29) are outside of playoff position but haven’t been eliminated from contention yet heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

“Take the next couple of days off and then start slowly working back into it, and we’ll see how quickly we can get things ramped up depending on how I’m recovering,” Burnes said.

Burnes is 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings, a dramatic improvement from a 2019 campaign in which he went 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA.

He suffered his first loss of the season Thursday by allowing three runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings as the Brewers fell 4-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The injury, which was described Thursday night as lower back discomfort, appeared to bother Burnes throughout the fourth inning.

Burnes was placed on the injured list after undergoing an MRI.

“It didn’t end the way you necessarily wanted it to,” Counsell said. “He had a great season. We’ve talked about it many times – he should be happy with what he accomplished. One, you’ve got to heal up and see what happens. But regardless of what happens, he should be really pleased with what he’s been able to accomplish in the regular season.”

Burnes said the issue started bothering him during his previous start and cropped up periodically throughout the week, but that he felt fine before Thursday’s game.

“Everyone asked me beforehand, `Are you good to go?”‘ Burnes said. “(I replied), `I’m good to go.’ It was one of those things where there was just a little bit of tightness, but I thought it would be just fine. Everyone’s asking me after, `Do you still think you should have gone last night?’ Absolutely. It’s one of those things, I think I can go out there and get outs. For the most part, I was able to, up until the very end there. It’s one of those things. Absolutely no regrets about going out there last night.”