A few weeks ago, I put up a post about a story in the London Times regarding the potential demise of Venezuelan baseball. Even though the story came and went, staying out of the U.S. MSM, the blogosphere picked it up (alright, I picked it up from the blogosphere).
What I believed then – and I still do – was the story’s untruthfulness to its sourcing; meaning, there was a heavy political slant that, in my opinion, was irrelevant.
Well, I consider my old post the rant post, while this one is the less incensed update.
While doing research for a related story soon to be published in the magazine I edit, I came across two gold nuggets in a vast decrypt mine.
I say decrypt because the issue is basically speculation on what could happen IF the Venezuelan government decided to do something.
It’s a big IF; and while the government down there is represented my Mr. Hugo Chávez, the issue is not political in nature. At least that’s what I concluded from my research.
The real issue is the possibility that Chávez will institute some kind of system where Venezuelan players are not allowed to sign with Major League clubs at a young age (as young as 16).
Having been through the Dice-K sweepstakes, I think it’s safe to assume we understand how the system Japanese baseball has in place prevents young talent from coming here.
The other “system” is pretty much Cuban law forbidding players (workers) from going (working) abroad. And, of course, we know how that system works.
On to the two golden nuggets.
The second, is a Sporting News “sportingblog” post by Garrett Broshuis, a pitcher with the Giants, echoing the Times’ dire warning of calamity but clearly outlining what the possible outcomes are and what’s really at stake. While opinionated, it was eloquent, besides, it’s a blog, not the London Times.
Though Chavez openly idolizes Cuba’s Fidel Castro, it is doubtful that a ban such as he is suggesting is a real possibility. More likely is a move to a more Japanese-esque system, and its fruition would produce vast consequences, as it would turn the baseball world upside down.
Latin players comprise such a large part of the game that any type of restriction would siphon off a significant source of baseball talent, effecting major changes in the game. It would be the baseball equivalent of Venezuela taking their oil off the market, hitting the baseball world like a two-ton meteorite.
And a few more lines:
For the most talented players, the rule change would hardly matter. They would find their way to the United States and make millions regardless.
But what about the young Latin players, the 18-year-olds learning the game in extended spring training, playing in the desert heat of Arizona. What would be the implications for them?
These are the players who would be most affected.
Teams presently are able to sign Latin players at relatively low prices. Plucked from their home countries at a young age, the first couple of years are tough on these players, as they undergo a cultural transformation and try to pick up our language. At times, they miss their homelands and their families, and are probably ready to drop everything and return. Yet, they are taking the first step to realizing the same dream that I have, of playing in the big leagues. Furthermore, simply by being here they have already achieved one dream, the dream of playing in the United States.
So: if Chávez institutes a rule preventing young Venezuelan players to sign with Major League teams, there is an increased likelihood those teams would then pull their academies and the vast majority of less-talented players would have to seek other routes to the U.S. if they so desired. This was also one of the “conclusions” in the Times piece. But I don’t know where the “politics” or the “canceling of the domestic league” conclusions came from.
Of course, all of it is based on what some baseball insiders, both in and outside Venezuela, speculate. I wasn’t able to come up with a single document where the Venezuelan government outlines its plans.
There’s also a good chance nothing changes, or is allowed to change.