Adios Venezuela

The Astros are closing their Venezuelan training academy:

Twenty years ago, the Astros were the first team to start a baseball academy in Venezuela, and since then, dozens of products from that grassroots undertaking have gone on to enjoy successful and lucrative Major League careers, including outfielder Bobby Abreu and ace left-hander Johan Santana.

But the Astros are preparing to close the Academy, opting instead to shift the players who would normally live and train there and participate in the Venezuelan Summer League to the United States, where the club is adding a Minor League team to play in the Gulf Coast League. Other players will move to the Dominican Republic, where the Astros are upgrading an academy that they hope will eventually include multiple baseball fields and dormitories on the site.

My first thought when I read this was “it has to be the economy.” My second thought was “if it’s not the economy, it’s the fact that it’s not safe for a promising ballplayer or their family in Venezuela these days, so best to get them out of country ASAP.” If the Astros are telling the truth, I was wrong on both counts:

The changes have nothing to do with on-going political unrest in Venezuela, or the flailing economy in this country, according to club officials. This is instead an effort to develop players at an earlier age and accelerate their ascension to the big leagues, using the bulk of their resources on signing players while saving on operating costs.

For years, the Astros have received criticism for being too slow moving their top prospects through the system. Instead of players reaching the big leagues in their early 20s, often, future Astros stars don’t get their first taste of the Majors until ages 25 or 26.

By bringing prospects from Latin America to the States when they’re young — 17, 18 years old — the Astros feel they will have a head start in adjusting to American life and acclimating themselves to the English language.

Which would be a good reason. Still, what was it about the Venezuelan academy that forced the Astros to keep the kids down too long? Lots of teams have foreign academies, and this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Won’t Houston just keep the guys in the Dominican or the GCL too long now?


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dtro
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dtro

I guess the Astros’ Venezuelan Academy isn’t generating much in the way of comments.

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Maybe I should write a post about that.

dtro
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dtro

Is THT on Labradorian or Peruvian time or something? Or am I commenting in the future?

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

You’re the second person to say that today.  It’s working fine for me—comments are marked as 3:45 and 3:46, etc.

Not sure what the deal is.

Doug
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Doug

Maybe they realized that players like Abreau and Santana went to be good players for other teams, so why bother?

Pete Toms
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Pete Toms
I think this is interesting. Maybe too conspiracy theorist and as previously mentioned I am quite stoned today….but….is this part of a broader effort by clubs to lessen the influence of the local baseball establishments in Latin America.  There were a number of pieces last season on the theme of Chavez & MLB.  Increasing violence, threat of privately constructed facilities / academies being nationalized, closing the border to the players….all floated at different times….and now this… Combined with the spate of stories ( Craig and I have discussed this before ) on the crooked “buscone” controlled baseball culture in the… Read more »
Aaron
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Aaron

As an Astros this just again makes me depressed that a) we let go of Santana in the Rule 5 draft and b) we protected Richard Hidalgo and not Bobby Abreu in the expansion draft.I have no other comments

Aaron
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Aaron

In case anyone was curious, I meant Astro’s fan.

James Van Awesome
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James Van Awesome
Hey Craig, Long time reader, first time commenter. I am currently working on an undergraduate thesis about Major League Baseball and Venezuela. In my opinion, the Astros’ operations in Venezuela have been in jeopardy at least since Andres Reiner’s resignation in early 2005. With Andres and Gerry Hunsicker gone, there was no one left to fight for Venezuela. Like with anything there are multiple reasons for the shut down: 1. This is a cost cutting measure above all else. Drayton McLane is a very frugal owner. If, as it appears, the current higher-ups in the Astros organization do not deem… Read more »
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