Friday, April 29, 2005


A comment I got on what I wrote about baseball in Cuba:

"Exploitation and indentured servitude rules too. It must be really great to not be able to choose where you work while earning a meager living even though you have a talent that only a small percentage of your peers can boast. I guess "not wanting to play for a different [team]" means not wanting to risk your life by jumping on a raft in hopes of playing baseball here.
Who do you think gets the revenue from the baseball games played in Cuba? Shouldn't the lion's share go to the players? Every time I hear an argument about how MLB players are overpaid no one ever suggests a desired alternative. Terrible job."

Well, I was just talking about the baseball itself, although if we got into politics, I'm sure we'd disagree on that, too.

What's so bad about sitting in the tropics, watching baseball being played by non-millionaires who actually care as much about their team as the fans do? That's exactly what I think baseball should be.

It's kind of like Little League, only with adults.

I think, in general, that "being recognized" should not be synonymous with "being given cash." Especially when it involves a game. A game is supposed to be fun, and any time money is involved, it takes away the fun (as well as a lot of other important things, like integrity.) It's like people are always saying, "I'd play for free." Would you? I don't think you would. I'd play for free, AND I'd get a real job so I could have enough money to eat.

This is interesting, because exactly what I'm talking about is the reason why you see some Cubans risking their lives to come to the U.S. They're given the impression that the streets are paved with proverbial gold, when in reality, they may end up worse off here than there, because the "gold" is all owned by a little tiny percentage of rich white DICKS, who aren't about to give any of it up, especially to people who don't look like them.

But back to what I was saying, I agree that talent should be recognized. But when the recognition comes in the form of money that just goes in to that person's bank account, what good does that do?

Look, when I was a kid, of course I dreamed of going into one of those glass rooms, like on game shows, where dollar bills fly around and you try to grab as many as you can in a certain time frame. But I've come to realize that helping other people is way more important than just going through life with your sole objective being "to get money."

If I had a million dollars, could I go outside and play Wiffle Ball and have any more fun than I would if I were poor? No. Sure, I could buy a big grass lot and put a gate around it and play all the time, but again, I can do that now, only I don't need a gate, and I wouldn't want to keep others from enjoying that grass. (I know, that song "Signs"...) Hell, I could buy people and have them throw me meatballs all day. I could bat ALL the time! I could buy all the best players in the neighborhood and my team would always have a chance at winning while some teams in the Jere Millionaire League would never have a chance! Does this sound familiar?

To me, it's all about the fun. I even go to the casino every once in a while. I never come home in a limo, but that's not the point. It's just fun. In fact, I'd still love to go into one of those glass rooms, only now I wouldn't care if it was Monopoly money flying around! It just seems like a cool game! I gotta get me one of those. (I wonder if the fan device is included.)

You may ask why I care about Major League Baseball, then. Well, of all the traditions that Americans pass down from one generation to the next, the whole Red Sox thing is the last one I care about. It's true what they say about baseball being a link to your youth. You grow up, and your ideals change, and the game changes, but they're still the Boston Red Sox. And it's never going to get any easier to root for millionaries, but this has to hit a wall at some point. Until then, we can hope that baseball gets back to what it should be, while also enjoying the beauty and innocence of minor league ball, Little League games, stickball, nerf ball, dice-rolling leagues, and Atari "Home Run" baseball.

Here's what I'm talking about: "Baseball is virtually the only aspect of U.S. culture embraced by the Cuban Revolution, an enterprise based largely on resisting American imperialism." That's from this site, (A really good piece on baseball in Cuba.) That's kind of like me. I don't do all the typical "American" activities. I gave up meat. I never got into drinking or smoking. I'm not fond of capitalism. I don't wave the flag in blind support of the government. I never liked Dave Matthews. But there's something about baseball. It's a game I support despite the fact that it uses animal skins for the gloves and balls, for god's sake! Oh, and I don't believe in that dude either.

Here's another great paragraph from the same article (emphasis mine.)

"On a sunny Havana street, a few yards away from the crashing waves of the Caribbean, a dozen youngsters (picture, right) play a stickball game called cuatras esquinas (four corners). The ball is a rock wrapped in white medical tape, about half the size of a regulation baseball. The bat is a tree branch; there are no gloves. There’s also no baserunning – either you hit the ball over everyone’s head, or you’re out. If a car speeds by, play stops while the fielders scurry for the safety of the sidewalk. Such pickup games can be found on virtually every street corner in the island. This is where boys hone their batting skills in hope that they will eventually be chosen for one of the prestigious baseball academies, then maybe the National Series, and perhaps eventually, the Olympics. Most of them know they will never make it that far, but it doesn’t bother them. They are busy enjoying themselves, catching and running and hitting, with the sea breeze blowing through their hair and the afternoon sun warming their shoulders. What could be better?"

There are good and bad things about Cuba, just like here in the U.S. We could argue about that stuff all day. But if we're talking strictly baseball, well, I think they're the ones doing it right.

(You also asked where I think the revenue from games is going...what revenue? Up until recently, the games were free to get into, and now seats cost between four and twelve cents each. And there's no advertising.)

Per Calvin: "Exploitation and indentured servitude rules too. It must be really great to not be able to choose where you work while earning a meager living even though you have a talent that only a small percentage of your peers can boast."

I'm going to expand this argument beyond baseball players because the disparity in how this sport is organized in the US compared to Cuba is vast. We can all acknowledge that salaries of MLB players are obscene.

I would contend that workers in a capitalist system are exploited. At least current Cuban leadership would not permit US companies to ransack its population to work in sweatshops. For non-baseball playing Cubans, is Calvin suggesting this would be a better alternative to the "meager living" currently available in Cuba? Also, how much of the economic hardship in Cuba is due to the trade embargo?

Despite not being a capitalist society, Cuba has lower infant mortality rates than the US. The US ranks 30. "Only" these countries other than Cuba are doing better than the US: Australia, Austria, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. According to 2002 figures, public expenditures for health care in Cuba are 8.4% of the GDP compared to 6.2% for the US. There are 5.3 doctors per 1,000 Cubans versus 2.7 per 1,000 Americans.

I guess it depends on what one considers more important, what one defines as a fulfilling living: personal wealth or the improvement of the general population.
Good call, Empy. I was also looking into stats like those; I think the site I looked at was called Globalis or something. I also read that there's a doctor present at every birth in Cuba. And Cubans have become very healthy, as 90% of their food is local and organic. Something like that.

Then I'll read things like, "You have to go to Cuba to see the travesties going on there." But if you look outside your window, you'll see 1 in 5 kids below the poverty line right here in the U.S.

Again, in reference to strictly baseball, though, there's no comparison. Cuba wins hands down.
Sorry I'm late for the party. Two things... I've been a fan of this blog since I started reading it last year, so please don't think of me as a troll. Also, I'm glad my post was read and prompted a reaction. I romanticize baseball as much as anyone so understand where (the definately immoral) Eric Enders is coming from. I still think about having a "Glory of their Times" moment in my backyard where a scout might catch me pitching to imaginary batters and offer my a contract. I appreciate that baseball is a great game and the players are lucky to be good enough to do it for money. But those things are all big fat red herrings.

Cuban baseball players are exploited Exploitation existed in MLB until the reserve clause was lifted in 1975. Free agency then allowed player to control their own destiny after 6 years of professional service. We'd all play pro baseball for meal money because we are not talented and otherwise would not get the chance, but professional baseball players are playing for a living, and for many it's the only job skill they have. They may love their job, but they still want the best for themselves from their employer, just like every other worker in the world. After reading the link (if i didn't mess it up) imagine how you'd feel if you left your job for greener pastures but had to play 80 cents on the dollar back to your old boss. I believe the effects of communism on baseball in Cuba have been negative. The responses I received to that discussed communism's postive effects on health care and social systems. All those things may be valid, but they have nothing to do with baseball.

ps. you're all commies. :)
Uno mas...

Baseball salaries are not obscene. What is your desired alterative to paying players their market value?
Uno mas otra vez

The embargo is a stupid policy, but it has nothing to do with the Cuban government treating its baseball players like their own private resource.

This is the link. I suck at html.

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