The Impact of Normalized U.S.-Cuban Relations on Major League Baseball

Following yesterday’s historic announcement by President Obama that the United States will re-establish full relations with Cuba, many baseball fans have been speculating what impact this news is likely to have on Major League Baseball. Cuba, of course, is a baseball hotbed, producing a number of impact MLB players in recent years (Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes).

In the long-term, normalized relations with Cuba could potentially result in a significant influx of Cuban talent into U.S. professional baseball, while also opening up other lucrative business opportunities for MLB. In the short-term, however, yesterday’s announcement will likely have little immediate impact on professional baseball in the United States, and if anything, might even temporarily decrease the flow of players defecting to the U.S. from Cuba.

MLB has been preparing for some time for the day U.S. relations with Cuba would become normalized. Shortly after President Obama announced the policy change, MLB released an official statement responding to the news:

“Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations. While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”

Indeed, the specific details of President Obama’s announced policy change are still somewhat vague. According to the New York Times, the two countries will initially discuss the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, including the re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana. In addition, the U.S. will reportedly begin to work with the Cuban government “on issues like counternarcotics, environmental protection and human trafficking.”

And while President Obama’s announcement may eventually pave the way towards the elimination of emigration restrictions between the two countries, or the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, such policy changes appear to be months — if not years — away. So while yesterday’s thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba is historic, it will likely have little immediate impact on baseball.

To the extent yesterday’s announcement has any immediate impact on MLB, it could actually decrease the rate at which Cuban players defect to the United States in the short-term future. As has been well-documented in recent months, Cuban players currently must endure harrowing ordeals in order to defect to the U.S., often relying on human traffickers to smuggle them off of the island.

While one would hope improved relations between the two countries would eventually allow Cuban players intent on defecting to do so more safely, this will take some time. So depending on the exact nature of the initial coordination between the U.S. and Cuba, any efforts to reduce human trafficking between the countries could potentially make it more difficult for Cuban players to defect.

Moreover, even if the U.S. and Cuba eventually pave the way for players to move more freely between the countries — until MLB changes its existing draft-eligibility rules — few Cuban players will emigrate straight to the United States. As Wendy Thurm explained earlier this year, currently, any Cuban player who directly seeks asylum in the United States (such as Jose Fernandez) is considered draft-eligible, while those that first establish residency elsewhere — in the Dominican Republic, for instance — are permitted to sign as international free agents for significantly more money.

So if yesterday’s announcement does eventually lead to normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba, MLB will likely need to adjust the way it treats Cuban prospects in order to deal with the increased flow of Cuban talent entering the game on a more rational basis. This could play out in several ways.

First, it’s possible once relations are normalized, MLB teams would simply be allowed to sign players directly out of Cuba, as they currently do for prospects living in the Dominican Republic or in Venezuela.  In that case, teams would be able to sign Cuban players to professional contracts once they reach 16 years of age.  Should that happen, one would expect some MLB teams would eventually establish their own baseball academies in Cuba — similar to those run in the D.R. and Venezuela — in order to better scout and develop these prospects.

Alternatively, opening up another significant pool of international talent could increase the pressure on MLB to establish an international draft, subjecting unsigned Cuban players (as well as those in the D.R. and Venezuela) to the Rule 4 draft each June. While such a plan has been discussed in the past, it’s currently tabled until MLB’s current collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated with the players union in 2016.

A third possibility — and perhaps the most likely — is the Cuban government would continue to place some restrictions on its players’ ability to leave the country, as a way to ensure its own league (the Serie Nacional) remains viable.  For instance, although the Cuban government passed a law last year permitting its players to sign contracts with foreign teams, to take advantage of the law players must agree to continue to “fulfill their commitments at home.”  These commitments include paying Cuban taxes on any income earned abroad, and — more importantly — continuing to play in the Serie Nacional each year from November through mid-April. This requirement would obviously make it difficult for a Cuban player to sign with a U.S. team, as the commitment to play in the Serie Nacional would force the player to miss both spring training and the start of MLB’s regular season.

So if relations between the United States and Cuba do eventually normalize, the most likely outcome is probably that MLB would negotiate some form of cooperation agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation — similar to the one MLB has signed with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) — governing when Cuban players will be allowed to play in the United States. As with the MLB-NPB pact, such an agreement could establish a posting system requiring MLB teams to pay significant sums of money to the Cuban Federation to sign Cuban players.

While the likely expansion of MLB’s talent pool is the most obvious potential impact of normalized relations with Cuba, the policy change could eventually create lucrative new business opportunities for MLB as well. For instance, the elimination of the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba would give MLB access to a new, baseball-crazed market. And while Cuba’s current per capita income – roughly $20 per month – may limit the profits that MLB is able to generate in the nation in the short-term, if increased business relations with the U.S. spur economic development in the country, then this new market could prove more lucrative in the future.

In fact, as the Cuban economy develops, it isn’t inconceivable that MLB could someday consider placing a team in Havana (whether via relocation or expansion). Although the city’s current population of just over 2.1 million people would rank among the smallest in the majors (ahead of only the Milwaukee, Kansas City and Cleveland metropolitan areas – admittedly, not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison), the nation’s total population of over 11 million could be large enough to one day support a MLB team.

Given these possibilities, it’s not surprising MLB will continue to monitor the developments in Cuba closely. In the short-term, though, baseball fans are unlikely to see any immediate impact from yesterday’s announcement.



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Nathaniel Grow is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business. He is the author of Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption, as well as a number of sports-related law review articles. You can follow him on Twitter @NathanielGrow. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not express the views or opinions of the University of Georgia.


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Johnston
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Havana Marlins! Loria vs Communism would be epic.

Eugene in Oregon
Guest
Eugene in Oregon
1 year 5 months ago

What you have to remember is that there’s no single ’embargo’ on Cuba. It’s a mix of executive action (including interpretation and application of long-standing laws) and congressional legislation (e.g., Helms-Burton). Diplomatic relations are easy enough for the executive branch to reestablish, as is undoing previous presidents’ executive orders. But removing elements of the law — particularly with a GOP-controlled congress — will be much more diifficult. I don’t know which elements of the embargo cover baseball players (probably more than one piece of it), but no one should expect the floodgates to open immediately — which is a shame.

John Thacker
Guest
John Thacker
1 year 5 months ago

And, as the piece notes, you have to remember that a lot of the restrictions are imposed by Cuba itself. Even if the US removed all restrictions (as I support), the floodgates wouldn’t open because Cuba’s government wouldn’t want their players to leave without getting a enormous part of the cut (as they do on a smaller basis with the hotel workers there.)

jfree
Member
jfree
1 year 5 months ago

The big question is how will MLB be able to corrupt the Cuban government so that Cuba also allows the anti-trust exemption and the Cuban League becomes a nice obedient puppet for MLB.

I’d recommend a two-stage effort. First, sign all the Castro grandchildren to MLB contracts so that Fidel wants to see them play.

If that doesn’t work, get the grandchildren of Lansky/Traficante to make them an offer they can’t refuse

Free_AEC
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

The Cuban government is unlikely to be corrupted. This is just another method of attack as we have seen in Venezuela of late and historically all over Central and South America.

As things move forward the Empire of Torture and child rape located in the Pentagon will use its propaganda branch at the State Department to hammer at Cuba for “Human Rights Violations” while sending more weapons and money to Israel so Israel can murder more children.

The US was not alone in running an embargo on Cuba, Israel was the second.

Most Of Us Reading This
Guest
Most Of Us Reading This
1 year 5 months ago

uh, okay.

octelium
Guest
octelium
1 year 5 months ago

A little over dramatic, but… unfortunately yeah :(

Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 5 months ago

How’s the weather in Moscow? Cold, I’m sure.

jose
Guest
jose
1 year 5 months ago

I’m seriously worried about the thought of a posting system. It would effectively finance the dictatorship.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 5 months ago

Agreed. I’ve been excited about the possibilities for a free Cuba, as I believe a minor league team would be established in short order and agree with Mr. Grow about a major league franchise being a realistic possibility over the long run, but subsidizing the current regime is another issue entirely.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

I’ve seen this brought up a lot recently.

It strikes me as deriving from a peculiarly American concept of international relations: that if we succeed in grabbing them by the capitalist testicles, the heart, communist or whatever, inevitably will follow.

Look, since 1961 Cuba has had international relations with LOTS of countries not-named-U.S.A. and way more than 90 miles distant from its shores. AOT, over the last generation plus, Cuba has had increasingly large and complex international banking, financing and tourism relations with Canada — ever since 1994: that is, almost immediately after 1) Bill Clinton was sworn into office as president here in Jan 1993, and 2) the first Liberal party government in a decade was sworn into office in Canada in Nov 1993.

Our ‘pattern’ of foreign relations seems fairly set in stone:

A) the administration then in charge, whether Democratic or Republican, figures the way to get closer ties to our new BFF country is with billions and billions in infrastructure investment promised by the administration and cajoled out of Congress; OR
B) the administration then in charge decides NOT to do that, so the Congress, whether Republican or Democratic, figures the way for their own party to get closer to ties to our new BFF country is with billions and billions in investment in whatever that’s voted by Congress and forced onto the administration to distribute.

This won’t come about because Cuba is begging for financial assistance from us. It’ll happen because one American major political party or its rival, OR first one party THEN its rival, will convince itself that for purely electoral reasons, giving shipping containers full of U.S. dollars to Cuba will ‘solidify’ relations with our new BFF country.

The American approach to trade relations is capture by capitalism. It’s how we did the Louisiana Purchase, how we got Alaska, and how Wall Street captured Congress. And you, or me, or the rest of us here, or most Americans, not liking it, don’t amount to Jack Squat.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 5 months ago

Except that the United States doesn’t have the option to buy Cuba. I’m guessing that screed made sense in your own head, but it didn’t in mine. Rather than getting into a tedious and pointless debate about nebulous concepts like capitalism and foreign policy, the rather specific question was how a posting system or other funneling of baseball dollars might be used to bolster a repressive government.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

jdb, Cuba ain’t anything like North Korea as a “repressive government”. It’s a government over scarcity, which, apart from how annoying that scarcity is, the Cuban people don’t actually feel repressed about. They TALK about, openly, with tourists and visitors from other countries.

So many Americans have created and tried to exploit this ridiculous mythological appearance of a Cuba that, if it did exist at some point in time, hasn’t been like that for over a generation. People get old and die; almost everyone alive during the Revolution is now dead; except for a tiny miniscule percentage of oldsters, most of whom are retired, Cubans of today never lived under Batista and have no basis for idealizing communism. Cuban today is run by bureaucrats educated in mostly in South America, Europe and Canada, most of whom don’t even retain a child’s memory of the Revolution or the Bay of Pigs or the Missile Crisis. Cubans are trained to be fearful of the U.S., but that’s hardly unrealistic for any country on this planet that’s not the U.S., and Cubans generally think Americans are nuts to be frightened of them and nuts generally but how are they wrong in that?

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 5 months ago

I will never understand the inclination some people have to defend dictators. “Saddam wasn’t that bad.” “Pinochet was misunderstood.” “Pol Pot was in a difficult situation.” Ugh. Castro is a monster. You don’t have to agree with the embargo or pretend that the United States has been blameless, but please do not insult anyone’s intelligence by downplaying the horrors that Cubans have been living through for decades. I don’t know if you’re a plant, a Canadian tourist who thinks he knows Cuba because he stayed at a Havana Inn Express last night, or are just delusional, but somehow I don’t believe that thousands risk their lives fleeing on rafts every year because they want to eat McDonalds and watch re-runs of Breaking Bad.

Simon
Guest
Simon
1 year 5 months ago

Thousands risk their lives trying to get from just about every country in the Caribbean and central America into the US. Are they all repressed, or could much of it be financial, even in the case of Cuba?

Obviously, the Cuban government is repressive to an extent, but it makes no sense to boycott it while doing business with other dictatorships which are often much worse. Additionally, the plan of not giving them money to destabilise the regime appears to have been deeply unsuccessful.

Reality
Guest
Reality
1 year 5 months ago

The Castro regime has done many revolting things, particularly in the aftermath of the Revolution, but lumping him in with Pol Pot is ridiculous

Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 5 months ago

Castro to Pol Pot is a fair comparison, Pol Pot just killed more. Brutal murder for political reasons is brutal murder for political reasons.

Psy Jung
Guest
Psy Jung
1 year 5 months ago

Every political regime exists on the same spectrum of violence so the differences in magnitude are important. The U.S. for example has a recent history of brutal murder for political reasons, and yet equating George Bush with Hitler is total absurdity. There’s a huge gap between genocide and repression.

Johnston
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

You’re right. It would be just like blood diamonds: people enslaved and murdered and it all being financed by our discretionary spending.

You have just convinced me that this is a terrible idea.

hookstrapped
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

You’re assuming that the current government would remain in place as it is. The opening of diplomatic and economic relations would much more likely significantly alter the civil rights and economic well-being of Cuban citizens, accelerate reforms, and reduce the relative power of the government over people’s lives. That’s the context in which a posting system would operate and which a posting system would play a small contributing part.

John Thacker
Guest
John Thacker
1 year 5 months ago

I think so over the long run, but I imagine lots of people would criticize over the short run. They certainly did over our dealings with more dictatorial pre late 80s South Korea, Taiwan or the Philippines, or Reagan’s “constructive engagement” with apartheid South Africa. (Noting of course that many people might take the opposite position with respect to engaging with one country versus another.)

John Thacker
Guest
John Thacker
1 year 5 months ago

It is, for example, difficult to say that engaging with Vietnam has led to substantial improvements in their human rights record in 20 years, though I still support the decision. I just don’t wish to oversell it.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 5 months ago

Agreed. The track record of emancipation through engagement is pretty abysmal. Of course, emancipation through isolation is pretty abysmal as well. You’re damned either way, but personally I prefer not being “friends” with the repressors.

John Thacker
Guest
John Thacker
1 year 5 months ago

Well, while I said that in the short run you can’t necessarily expect much, over the long run South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Africa turned out all right. In all those cases US pressure (not just unwavering support, but a mixture of pressure and support) probably helped. But it took decades, and perhaps some totalitarian regimes are immune to changes in the way that “merely” autocratic ones are not.

Johnston
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

You are damned either way, but if you’re not actively economically engaging with them, then you’re not supporting oppression and murder.

hookstrapped
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

I’m sure the Cuban government considered this but maybe concluded that their engagement with the US might result in moving the US from its top position in the world of imprisoning its citizens where rape and other forms of physical and psychological violence, like solitary confinement, are endemic.

Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 5 months ago

Another anti-American checks in. Can I persuade you to move to Cuba, where you will obviously be much happier ideologically? Like maybe later today?

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

Nah: that ship sailed a long time ago.

The “dictatorship” as you call it, or more accurately the First Secretary of the Cubano Communist Party elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power (essentially, a mix of elected and selected Cuban Communist Party members), which office is NOT filled by either Castro brother (Raoul Castro is the separately elected “President of Cuba”, a largely ceremonial position akin to the monarchs of England and Japan), isn’t nearly fully in control of Cuban daily life.

50 years plus of millions of Cubans ‘working’ the system, whatever we call it, whatever it calls itself, whatever it actually is according to academics, can’t help but result in a ‘mixed’ economy combining some highly inefficient central planning, conditioned by largely amorphous bilateral international agreements (these days, primarily with Canada and Venezuela, both of whom have a lot of money invested in Cuba already), conditioned by barter and other ‘underground’ economies at the street and people level, affecting how scarce goods get distributed within the island.

I also VERY strongly doubt that the idea that Nathanial Grow mentions here — it was previously raised by Dave Cameron in an online ‘chat’ yesterday’ — envisioning the erection of some accommodation like the one with the Japan leagues – is ‘most likely’. That way of thinking just reflects confusion between the thousands-of-years-in-the-making cultural insularity instincts of Japan, which INTERNALLY is very much a capitalist economy, and the dynamics of a nominally “communist” governmental system, as well as failing to acknowledge the differences between an island of over 100 million Asians living more than 10,000 miles away on the other side of the globe, and an island of 10 plus million Hispanics and Afro-Cubanos living 90 miles from Florida and amidst an archipelago of island states already socialized to the realities of the nearby U.S. of A.

FWIW I’ve been to Cuba. Cubans aren’t now, like Japan has been historically, concerned with being culturally overwhelmed. They want stuff, the stuff the rest of the world has. They see it, all the time: they have satellite TVs, they watch US and Latin American TV, they host tourists from just about everywhere on the planet EXCEPT the U.S. (and even the U.S. to some extent; I’m far from alone in having visited Cuba, thousands of Americans have: Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson claims to have visited Cuba 14 times), they see right in their own cities retail outlets of foreign capitalist societies, particularly Canadian commercial banks (even Tim Horton’s Donuts!). Maybe the pathetically cowed Cuban beisbol authority will TRY to act like it has central command authority and control, but that’d be a fraud and it’ll fall apart pretty danged soon. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Cuban national beisbol authority managed to bilk the coming reality for millions before someone looks behind the curtain and it all falls apart; but it won’t work for long, it’s just not sustainable in a context where a given player will not be able to island-hop pretty much without limitation.

Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 5 months ago

A Communist Cuba fan! Who would have expected it. Voted for Obama, right?

Psy Jung
Guest
Psy Jung
1 year 5 months ago

Read again: he’s only saying the economic reality of Cuba exists largely on the margins outside of the central communist government.

Powder Blues
Guest
Powder Blues
1 year 5 months ago

Is Wendy gone?

Dayn Perry's Throbbing Member
Guest
Dayn Perry's Throbbing Member
1 year 5 months ago

Apperently she is. It was mentioned on the latest podcast. It’s a shame because I don’t know of anyone on any site that writes about the business/legal side of baseball as well as her.

Some Of Us Reading This
Guest
Some Of Us Reading This
1 year 5 months ago

That. Is something of a tragedy.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

“Indeed, the specific details of President Obama’s announced policy change are still somewhat vague.”

This can be taken as meaning that since every single consequence of this for MLB is [cue eerie music] in the future, until things actually happen, how such things will prove out to go can seem somewhat opaque.

It certainly cannot be taken as fair or informed comment on the level of detail in the terms of the bi-lateral executive agreement as released by the State Department yesterday. That’s the MOST detail we’ve ever seen in any bilateral treaty short of the reach of GATT or of a regional free trade agreement such as NAFTA.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
1 year 5 months ago

2.1 million people in Havana is most certainly not a small city by MLB standards. It would be the 5th largest city in the United States (behind only NYC, CHC, Hou, and LA)

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

Also, that’s just central Havana. It’s difficult to describe what’s just beyond and outside of central Havana as strictly ‘Metro Havana’, but the fact is there’s motor transport – free by Cuban law to everyone – into the heart of downtown Havana from every town, village, hamlet and settlement that’s been justified a road from anywhere on the island – and road building is, indeed infrastructure repair is, pretty much a regular feature of Cuban daily like — unlike here, where we just let stuff crumble and collapse. All roads in Cuba lead to Havana.

That Guy
Guest
That Guy
1 year 5 months ago

2.1M is the fifth biggest MLB city? Stop.

Just off the top of my head, you didn’t include Seattle, SF, SD, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, and of course Miami, itself. I won’t guess that the declared populations of those cities top 2.1M (I know for a fact that none do) but given the extensive suburbs for each of those cities, I would be shocked if the numbers end up adding to Havana being the “5th Biggest MLB City”, let alone the obvious dollar/capita issue that would be the real question.

a eskpert
Guest
a eskpert
1 year 5 months ago

American cities aren’t very big because the populations are so dispersed into suburbs. New York Metro has a population of something like 24 million, but New York itself has a population of 9 million or something like that.

Trillion Dollar Bill
Guest
Trillion Dollar Bill
1 year 5 months ago

And while Cuba’s current per capita income – roughly $20 per month

Maybe it’s supposed to be $20/day? Estimates vary, but Cuba’s GDP per capita seems to range from $6500 (nominal) to as high as $18,000 per year.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 5 months ago

Well if Haiti’s GDP is $40-$100 per month, I doubt that Cuba could have gotten to be that bad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti#Government_and_politics

Johnston
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

“The average wage for a Cuban is indeed 12-25 dollars monthly, and yes, that does sound ridiculous.” – http://www.tripadvisor.ca

Cuba is what Haiti would look like if it was oppressed by Communists: just as impoverished, but instead of gangs and crime, totalitarianism maintained at gunpoint.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.
1 year 5 months ago

The official average monthly income is roughly $22 a month in Cuba. Some jobs get paid more (doctors get more than $60 a month) and some less. The black market is not included nor any “rewards” from the government.

Do keep in mind that Cuba is a totalitarian communist police state. With that in mind any statistics coming from official channels are deeply suspect and any numbers from outside are best guess estimates which can be wildly wrong. Also keep in mind that being a communist country with a corrupt government, most of the economic output is going to the government to use as it sees fit. Even if the per capita is $18K, the government takes almost all of it. (In my opinion, if the per capita was really $18K, you would think the country would be a rather nice place rather than the horrible mess it is.)

As to those that have talked to the locals, I have read many accounts of people visiting Cuba. The secret police are pretty much everywhere. If you talk to anyone, it is either going to be a member of the secret police or someone who fears that the secret police is listening. The secret police will throw you in jail whenever they see fit. Getting a true measure of the place can be difficult.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

Okay then: I was there for 2 weeks. Everyone looked remarkably healthy – medical care and medicine itself is 100% state-provided free. And notably bit healthier, larger, better fed overall, and fit without being fat, than in any other Caribbean, Central American, or Latin American country I’ve been to, particularly Mexico; healthier, indeed, than many populations I seen in some U.S. states, urban and rural. The school system is free, even into university. People have to qualify for college, but anyone in the population who shows interest in adult education gets it, free.

This is more that a decade back, but there was a minimum monthly food allocation sufficient for any normal person not a glutton, subsidized by the government. A month’s food provisions from the state-regulated open farmers’ market cost an amount equal to $25 U.S. That alone renders unreliable the ‘information’ about a monthly average income of $22.

Moreover, tho housing is allocated by the government, the people I spoke with – and everyone loves to talk there, it’s entertainment – paid between $15 and $30 per month ‘rent’. So, that took the minimum income just to survive up to somewhere around $40. We went to dinner with a couple we met; the woman was employed in media, the man was an art teacher; they told us that their pooled income typically averaged $250, and they weren’t in any sense out of the ordinary.

And that mythological $22 per month somehow also doesn’t account for clothing costs, yet everyone was appropriately clothed and certainly not wearing anything like rags. There were Cubans in restaurants and bars and stores. At night the music from the bars kept up into the wee hours; more than once I was up at 5 a.m. having been awakened not just by the dawn but by night music still wafting up from the streets.

We were under no restrictions as to where we went, not just in Havana but outside. Travel was free, if one chose to go on the frequent buses going into and out of Havana, all of which are required by law to stop for travelers standing by the road looking for a ride; taxis cost, but not much. We saw some uniformed police, always in pairs, but they weren’t a big presence, no one paid them particular mind and we never saw a single incident involving them exercising their authoritah. If we were followed by any ‘secret police’ it sure wasn’t intrusive; it wasn’t even noticeable. We went to into Old Havana on our own, and traveled by public bus to a town and two villages east of Havana, and were never stopped by anyone. Whenever we asked for directions, the locals were happy to indulge my fractured Spanish and were unfailingly helpful and friendly.

The infrastructure was almost all quite old (There were some renovation projects; for example, when we were there, they were just re-opening the old Havana Opera house after several years of work on it.). A lot of times elevators didn’t work, and apparently hadn’t worked for years. But the streets were utterly devoid of any sort of garbage or trash.

I’m not pro-communist; centrally planned economies just don’t work, at least certainly not in a world full of capitalist and mixed economies. But I am pro-bringing Cuba into the world of nations. Communism, such as it is Cuban style, that is, in remnants, has been dying out there for a long time, and opening Cuba up to relations with the U.S. and Americans will end even those remnants. To imagine for a moment that the Cuban regime doesn’t already understand that is naive in the extreme.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.
1 year 5 months ago

If you want to guess what the impact of the relaxing of tensions with Cuba will be for baseball, I suggest you think about it this way:

What serves the Cuban government’s goals?

The Cuban government only cares about staying in power. Other communist countries have liberalized their economies to good effect but not Cuba. They don’t care if the country is poor or not. If Cuba thinks keeping the national team intact is more important than money, then nothing much is going to change.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

Pure. Ignorant. Myth. I’m afraid.

Tell you what: if you regularly travel to Central or South America, or to places like D.R. or elsewhere in the Caribbean, when it becomes available, book a holiday in Cuba. Then talk.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.
1 year 5 months ago

Hmm. Sir, you do baffle. Of which pure ignorance must I be corrected?

Is Cuba is a communist state? They admit as much. Is it not a totalitarian state? If you do not believe me, do please argue with the Human Rights Watch. Has Cuba liberalized its economy, like say China or Vietnam, and I missed it? Not really. A little bit I suppose. According to Wikipedia, the government only employs 78% of the workers down from 92% in 1981, though private workers are paid through the state and not their employer. I suppose they may push forward with liberalization now, given that their prior benefactors of the Soviet Union and Venezuela are now broke. The fact that dictatorships look out for themselves? It is exceeding rare for such a beast to not do as such a thing and Cuba is no exception.

And so I review everything and everything appears to be in order. The Cuban government will do whatever it thinks best for the future of the Cuban government, no more, no less. Which when you come to think of it is pretty darn obvious in a totalitarian state, the government being the supreme source of power rather than the people or anything else for that matter.

But, yes, I’m sure that if I got to Cuba as a tourist for a week that will dispense of such things.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

“I’m sure that if I got to Cuba as a tourist for a week that will dispense of such things”

You seem to have intended sarcasm, but you missed, ending with the one true thing in your post.

(BTW, maybe it’s just me, but if go only for a week, you’ll find you’ve cheated yourself.)

Over at Bloggingheads.tv, there’s a discussion between the host and a Columbia University prof who specializes in former Soviet Russian satellites, who you will note from things he says is not a Democrat (and also who I know independently was a lot busier in his consulting work when there were Bush’s in the White House). Near the beginning, Prof Sestanovich mentions mostly in passing the Cuban situation, and specifically notes that our government has had a soft ambassadorial even ‘quasi-embassy’ relationship with Cuba going back to at least as early as the Clinton administration. (I’m guessing thru the Canadian embassy, since we’ve got lots of history with Canada over this sort of thing: remember the U.S. embassy in Tehran when the then-new Islamic State took all those hostages, and the exceptional and personally hazardous efforts by the Canadian embassy there that resulted in many our embassy’s people not falling into the Ayatollah’s hands; but that’s just a guess.), and it’s the professor’s view that the transition, in the early stages, is going to be easy and smooth at the diplomatic level at least. He also suggests the Cuban people are ready for, in the sense of want, ‘Americanization’, and that the regime in Cuba is completely aware of this and recognizes that things are quickly about to get beyond the regime’s control – and the regime’s okay with that.

Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.
1 year 5 months ago

So, essentially, you completely agree with my statement (the Cuban government will do exactly what it thinks will best serve its continued survival, regardless of what impact this will have on anything else), yet I remain ignorant. Alas, what will I ever do? There appears to be no escape from this paradox!

It is also rather amazing that the claim that Cuba is communist is false (presumably, since it is among the “not true” parts), despite the fact that Cuba itself says it is communist and acts accordingly! Apparently tourists understand Cuba better than the Cubans themselves! Fidel will be so disappointed!

Sir, you are a hoot. This is prime trolling. I applaud you.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

And you, sir, are something quite a bit less than the most formidable opponent I would have expected on this issue.

Betting on my take over yours is like what Charlie Pierce often gets to post about right wing misconceptions of reality: The barrel she is so small, the fish they are so plentiful.

Separate but Equal
Guest
Separate but Equal
1 year 5 months ago

Every U.S. MLB city save L.A., NY and Chi has less population than Havana.

Not sure where you’re getting these figures from.

Separate but Equal
Guest
Separate but Equal
1 year 5 months ago
Paul G.
Guest
Paul G.
1 year 5 months ago

You need to look at the metropolitan areas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metropolitan_areas_of_the_United_States

For example, New York City has a population of over 8 million, but a metro area of over 23 million stretching out into New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. If you compare Havana’s 2.1 million to US metro areas, it would rank 33 between Cincinnati and Milwaukee. Actually by metro area Milwaukee would be the only one smaller than Havana and not by much. I’m not sure where the author is getting KC (2.3 million) or Cleveland (3.4 million, which includes Canton and Akron). There are different ways of measuring these things.

Wikipedia does not list a metro area for Havana. The city may include the entire metro area, which would make sense for a highly centrally planned state. Havana is 281 square miles in size which is tiny compared to some metro areas. (NYC’s metro is over 13,000 sq. miles!)

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

No, those 2 million folks are indeed living in that tiny space.

The population of Cuba is concentrated around two cities, Havana in the extreme WN of the island, Santiago de Cuba to the south and quite a bit east, tho not to the extreme east. The two cities are about 500 driving miles apart, which takes longer than the 10 or so hours that distance suggests due to the way Cuba’s road transport works (lots and lots of stops). Well over half the Cuban population lives within 2 hours (well, 2 hours American-style travel time) of Cuba. I’ve posted already, above, that such a thing as a “metro” Havana doesn’t really fit with our conception of “metro”, but IF IT DID, “metro” Havana would constitute at least 4 million people.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

oop, keyboard-o: I meant ‘within two hours … of those two cities’.

Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 5 months ago

Obama sure comes up with a ton of really stupid ideas, doesn’t he?

hookstrapped
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Because the embargo and isolation has served the Cuban people so well.

Johnston
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Their problem is called “Communism.”

Brian Cartwright
Guest
Brian Cartwright
1 year 5 months ago

because communism has served the Cuban people so well.

Embargos are a tricky thing. They are intended to squeeze a government out of power, either by lack of funds, or a popular revolt. People seem to like them when directed at regimes they don’t like (white ruled South Africa) and dismiss them as harmful in other cases.

I’d like to see Cuba prosper, and I’m convinced that means getting rid of the current government, but I’m not sure of the best way to accomplish that – maybe by shunning, maybe by embracing. Hong Kong is an example where I believe their freedom can be like a virus that can spread to the rest of China.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

You maybe should see someone about that stomach problem; your dyspepsia seems to be affecting your judgment.

Radermecher
Member
Radermecher
1 year 5 months ago

Havana Sugarkings reborn,when can we get cigars.

Brian Cartwright
Guest
Brian Cartwright
1 year 5 months ago

AFAIK Cuban athletes are currently employees of the Inder, the state sports ministry. Much like the first few years that Russian players were allowed play in foreign leagues, the contract was between the hockey club and the government, with the government giving some share of that to the player.

Yulieski Gourriel played this past summer for Yokohama, and the team has offered him a 2015 contract worth $3m(US), but he tweeted this week that he is waiting to hear if the contract is accepted, and he will tell his fans as soon as he knows. I tweeted back to ask him how much the government will allow him to keep, but he hasn’t answered yet (because, honestly, a player making $3m and living in Cuba will live like a king, and that’s not very compatible with Marxism)

Jimmer
Guest
Jimmer
1 year 5 months ago

Children, talking here about your fantasy baseball games is fine, however leave politics to the adults. You embarrass yourselves.

Avattoir
Guest
Avattoir
1 year 5 months ago

Talk about embarrassment: you don’t even bother identifying who you’re referring to.

FWIW, yeah, this is sports, akin to the funny pages of old timey daily newspapers, but the discussion here is a waaaa-HAAAAAY more elevated that on any number of yer so-called ‘adult politics’ websites. Have you seen a Fox News website thread recently, or ever? Or POLITICO? Even on so-called ‘moderate’ sites like Buzzfeed and Mediaite? Have you ever read those craptastic posts featured on rightwing blogs?

Also, I’m VERY leery about this ‘leave politics to the adults’ meme for a whole bunch of argument-ending reasons, including:
1. the meme seems by far more often posted and asserted by and on behalf of those suffering from a debilitating Dunning-Kruger Effect syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect);
2. it’s almost invariably introduced by folks with badly warped political instincts and standards; and
3. informed or ignorant, educated or deprived, smart or stupid, politics affects all, so everyone’s entitled to their opinion (tho of course not their facts, nor an unlimited soapbox or one determined by wallet size).

John Thacker
Guest
John Thacker
1 year 5 months ago

Yes, all those are terrible. Though so are the comment threads on left wing sites like ThinkProgress or the Nation, or on libertarian sites. Pretty much all sites. (And the article *by* the Nation about the Cuba news exceeds the most idiotic rightwing reaction in its own flaming idiocy.)

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