As time passes, many fans lose interest in the National Baseball Series, a show which quality suffers by questionable refereeing and especially for the absences of important players leaving Cuban baseball en masse for various reasons.
The Matanzas Crocodiles, all of a sudden, have lost their centerline. The first players to leave the swamp during the current tournament were the catcher Lazaro Herrera and infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez. Especially the latter was a hard loss because mainly because he was expected to become the regular second baseman of the national team after his performance in the Third World Classic, where he hit for . 524.
José Miguel debuted at the 47th National Series and set a record for rookies in Matanzas teams by totaling 90 hits, breaking thus the record set by Ariel Sánchez (81). His great explosion came in the 49th National Series (NS) where he took the historic mark of hits in Matanzas squads to 132 (excluding the 140 achieved by Wilfredo Sanchez in the season 1968-1969). Meanwhile, Herrera was the regular catcher and hit .288 in thirteen series with 89 homers.
Then it was the turn of Guillermo Heredia, Cuba’s leadoff hitter in the Third World Classic , wiped from the map by Victor Mesa. In the 54th NS he had only one at-bat and during six seasons he hit .291 with an OBP of . 382. His youth could take him to a higher quality baseball.
The most talked departure was that of shortstop Dainer Moreira, who left the Cuban team in San Juan, during the Caribbean Series. In eight and half seasons he totaled 967 hits with only 176 strikeouts in 3075 at bats. His handicap to reach MLB: little patience at home (only 120 walk s in his career) and his age (30). Greatest virtue: speed on bases and excellent contact.
Another team that has suffered t he desertion of its figures has been the champion Pinar del Río. In just a month and a half it has lost seven players with significant responsibilities.
The first to get off the car were the lefty Julio Alfredo Martínez and catcher Lorenzo Quintana but their careers were already analyzed in a previous work.
Then came, in San Juan, the desertion of closer Vladimir Gutierrez. His youth accompanied by excellent speed and the award of Rookie of the Year during the 53rd NS should open the door of MLB to the right-hander. If we add that the company Roc Nations Sports ( sponsor of Rusney Castillo and Yoenis Céspedes) represents him, we can predict he will sign a good contract.
The utility player Osniel Madera, one of the heroes of last season final play off with memorable home run that left him sitting at home, rookie Lazaro Alonso and catcher Joel Rojas also left Cuba. In ten seasons Madera played in five positions with an acceptable defense average of 975 and hit .290. He was a useful baseball player for the green cause but he is already 30.
Rookie Lazaro Alonso showed good stats in the few opportunities he received. In 87 at-bats he hit four homers with 19 RBIs. Besides he had an outstanding OBP (494) and slugging (436). Pending issue: contact. He took 19 strikeouts in few at bats. The condition of batting left and his youth could endorse him as a future MLB player. A similar case was that of Villa Clara’s Dian Toscano who already signed with the Atlanta Braves.
The absence of Luis Alberto Valdés has been incredible, captured in an attempt to illegally leaving after returning from Puerto Rico. The shortstop leaves Cuban baseball at his best when he was hitting .364 in the current series, with amazing OBP (413) and SLU (543). If he manages to get to other soils he could prove his maturity as a player.
Other notable absences have been that of Artemisa´s relief pitcher Yuniesky Garcia who had a balance of 19-9 and 19 saves in two seasons and a half; outfielder Víctor Muñoz, his teammate, established as cleanup hitter of the Hunters and Santiago´s pitcher Orlando Barroso, good baseball player but with fewer skills than those previously analyzed.
The high number of players leaving Cuban baseball hampers the quality of the tournament and reaffirms the crisis engulfing the main sporting event in the country. And for what we see, it is a sad reality that seems endless.