The World Baseball Classic is now officially under way, and in honor of this nascent tradition and tournament we here at UmpBump are counting down a series of posts highlighting the All-Time teams from several countries. Next up is Cuba.

Like many of the other Caribbean countries, Cuba has a rich and storied baseball tradition. So much so that despite the political and military rift between this island nation and the U.S., the Baltimore Orioles and a team featuring Cuban all-stars played a two-game series in 1999.

Moreover, despite the Castro regime that prohibits Cuban ballplayers to freely travel to the U.S. to play professional baseball, there have been more than 150 peloteros cubanos who have graced the infields and outfields of the major leagues.

minnieAnother controversial tidbit that must be mentioned is the fact that two of the greatest Cuban hitters of all time, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco, have both been implicated in baseball’s struggle with performance enhancing drugs.

So if we were to compile the All-Time Cuban lineup excluding those two, we’d get something like this:

C Joe Azcue
1B Tony Perez
2B Cookie Rojas / Tony Taylor
SS Leo Cardenas / Bert Campaneris
3B Bobby Estalella
LF Minnie Minoso
CF Jose Cardenal
RF Tony Oliva

2B Tito Fuentes
SS Zoilo Versalles

Although there have been many outstanding Cuban outfielders, shortstops, and first basemen, the task becomes considerably more difficult when looking for standouts at second base or at the hot corner.

Fortunately, both Cookie Rojas and Tony Taylor were both natural second basemen and amassed more than 500 career RBI each. In the outfield, Minnie Minoso, one of the greatest Cuban hitters, played most of his career in left field. Although Tony Oliva played mostly center, he spent some time in right, so that allows Jose Cardenal to patrol the middle outfield.

Joe Azcue wasn’t the greatest catcher, but he was one of the few Cuban catchers to play in the majors and have a relatively productive career.

As far as the rotation, we have:

Luis Tiant
Dolf Luque
Mike Cuellar
Camilo Pascual
Livan Hernandez

I’d be curious to know how many more games pitchers like Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras would have won had they pitched during their prime in the bigs. Livan Hernandez made the list based on the number of career wins, with the other four pitchers being the winningest Cuban starters that have played on American soil.

In the bullpen, the team would have:

CL Danys Baez
RP Diego Segui
RP Mike Fornieles

From the list its not hard to realize that many of those Cuban greats played a few generations ago, and so, I bet this team would look a lot different had the Castro regime and the U.S. embargo not prevented more Cuban ballplayers to freely play in the bigs.

Did we leave anyone out? Let us know in the comments!

2 Responses to “Umpbump presents: The All-Time Cuban Team”

  1. José Méndez was considered one of the greatest players in the early Negro leagues and is also considered one of the great Cuban pitchers. Add to it he’s in the HOF. I’d say he deserves the spot over Hernandez.

  2. Always enjoy reading these all-time teams. Thanks for posting this.

    Hall of Famer Martin Dihigo played everywhere, even pitcher. He could go to third but he definitely should be in the lineup.

    Connie Marrero would be a fine addition to the bullpen. He didn’t get to the big leagues until he was almost 40 but managed to make an All-Star team. He’s still alive, too, 97 years old.

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