His fastball has long since died. He still has a few curveballs which he throws at us routinely. – Nicholas Burns, U.S. State Department Spokesman
BY PETER C. BJARKMAN*
(August 18, 2016) – Most baseball fans tend to take their idle ballpark pastimes far too seriously. On momentary reflection, even a diehard rooter would have to admit that big-league baseball’s most significant historical figures – say, Mantle, Cobb, Barry Bonds, Walter Johnson, even Babe Ruth himself – are only mere blips on the larger canvas of world events. After all, 95 per cent (perhaps more) of the globe’s population has little or no interest whatsoever in what transpires on North American ballpark diamonds. Babe Ruth may well have been one of the grandest icons of American popular culture, yet little in the nature of world events would have been in the slightest degree altered if the flamboyant Babe had never escaped the rustic grounds of St. Mary’s School for Boys in Baltimore. Continue reading
Everyone has been asking me all week – “what is wrong with Cuban baseball since the Cubans were not able to make the WBC finals?” Well I have a question in response – what is the matter with USA baseball if the MLB-studded American team can not make the WBC finals? I hope everyone noticed that the USA (3-3) had a worse record in this year’s Classic than Cuba (4-2), and the Americans also have a poorer overall record in the composite three WBC tournaments combined than do the 13-7 Cubans. – Peter C. Bjarkman. [We won’t mention the record of Baseball Canada.]
A single picture is often worth 1000-plus words. The true status of Cuban baseball?
Cuba fell short in the World Baseball Classic, writes PETER C. BJARKMAN*, but it is now the only country playing in the Classic with only its home-grown and home-trained national talent. “There are many of us on the outside of Cuba looking in whose love of Cuban baseball is not tied solely to winning… they are the last vestige of a pure baseball – a sport that is still sport and not big business or staged television entertainment, a game played for passion and not merely for dollars.”
(March 12, 2013 from Tokyo, Japan) – FOR MANY it was the most devastating among a slew of painful eleventh-hour losses for recent editions of the once dominant but now somewhat tarnished Cuban national team. There have been many such defeats in recent years – the 2008 Olympic finals (versus Korea) in Beijing; the 2009 World Cup finale (USA) in Nettuno; the 2010 Pre-Mundial championship setback (with the Dominicans) in San Juan; and the final-edition 2011 World Cup gold medal loss (Netherlands) in Panama. These defeats reflect little more than the new world order of international baseball, where talented but no longer untouchable Cuban teams are now forced play against some of the best young stars (and even seasoned veterans) drawn from North American professional ball clubs; the near misses do not (despite all the ceaseless wailings in the Cuban press) signal any major failings of the Cuban baseball system itself, or any catastrophic drop-off in the level of Cuban talent. This year’s Cuban Classic team showcased more top-level young prospects than any island squad of the past decade. True there was a visible shortage of normally strong Cuban pitching in the end, but the final reality is that we no longer live in 1970s or ‘80s world, in which each opponent quakes and crumbles in the presence of the once unrivaled Cuban arsenal. Continue reading
By PETER C. BJARKMAN*
(March 9, 2013 from Tokyo, Japan) – IF TEAM CUBA at least temporarily dispelled one myth in Fukuoka on Wednesday (that they could perhaps never learn to hit funky Japanese pitching), they nonetheless failed miserably on Friday afternoon to dismiss yet another pervasive theme (that their new insurmountable hurdle seems to be the talent-rich forces of the Dutch national team). In Panama in September 2011 a Cuban squad managed by Alfonso Urquiola went down harmlessly twice against the Dutch forces (their only two tournament defeats) and thus squandered an opportunity to reclaim an IBAF world title during the final edition of the now-suspended Baseball World Cup. In a Taiwan tune-up late last month Cuban bats were again effectively blanketed by Dutch pitching. At the 2010 Haarlem Baseball Week a Cuban B squad managed by Germán Mesa suffered through the only “mercy rule” drubbing (10-0) suffered by a top-level Cuban outfit in more than four full decades. In brief, The Netherlands (now featuring a host of young big league prospects like Kalian Sams, Andrelton Simmos and Jonathan Schoop) has recently become just as large a thorn in the Cuban side as have the two-time WBC champion Japanese. Continue reading
By PETER C. BJARKMAN*
(August 25, 2008) – BASEBALL has now regrettably taken its last noble bow in the Olympics, at least for the foreseeable future. We are now left with the World Baseball Classic, where top big leaguer stars have yet to prove they are willing to take the event seriously by entering competition in mid-season form. And there is also the IBAF World Cup every two years, but that is an event few fans outside Cuba, Japan and The Netherlands pay much attention to, or even know anything about. Continue reading
The Globe and Mail’s headline on the Associated Press article on March 20th predictably declared, “WBC final lacks MLB star power.” Rather than just another version of the American All-Star game, the surprising grand finale consummated a new reality as a WORLD baseball classic, torpedoing the unfortunate disinformation of the sports media, writes PETER C. BJARKMAN* (a.k.a. Dr. Baseball) who, for more than a decade, has ranked among the premier students of Latino and Latin American baseball. It marked an entirely unexpected turning point, especially the perception of Cuba whose “unity sent shockwaves throughout the baseball universe.”
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, (21 March 2006) Prensa Latina – MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S first World Baseball Classic did not turn out to be quite what either the moguls of American professional baseball or the rest of the world expected it to be. Continue reading
By JAYSON STARK*, ESPN.com
SAN DIEGO (19 March 2006) – THEY won’t be just two baseball teams colliding on the same field.
That, we’ve seen before. That, in fact, you can see every night at a stadium near you.
The Japan-Cuba championship game is a contrast in styles.
But when Japan meets Cuba on a historic Monday evening in San Diego, what will unfold is something bigger, something grander, something much more fascinating. Continue reading