After the fiasco of a game and security nightmare the World Baseball Classic semifinal between Cuba and the United States turned out to be, many would think twice about inviting the Cuban Winter League (Liga Élite) Champion to next February’s Serie del Caribe held in loanDepot Park. I would say they would be erred to not invite the Cuban team to the Magic City for the tournament.
Though that game in March of this year was marred with political protest and an ugly incident in which Cuban reliever Frank Abel Álvarez hurled a ball into the crowd, the game was played in front of a packed house and no team is the cash cow to the Caribbean Confederation of Profesional Baseball that Cuba would be based on how polarizing that country can be, especially in a city filled with exiles from that island.
Obviously better security protocols would need to be in place and free speech would need to be respected a lot more for this game, two mistakes hopefully the Marlins’ brass learned will not repeat in any subsequent games . Also neither of the other nations in the invitee pool (Colombia, Panamá, Curaçao and Nicaragua) have the star power of a Cuban team that would look very similar to its WBC squad.
Cuba ( The Cash Cow)
Cuba which is a founding member of the Caribbean World Series (Serie del Caribe) along with Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Panamá and a darling of a team that has always drawn fans to the tournament, because of the lore of island’s baseball talent. The Cuban Professional Baseball League won seven of the first 12 tournaments from 1949 to 1960, including the inaugural tournament that was held in Havana’s Gran Estadio. Cuban dictator Fidel Castro abolished professional baseball on the island and withdrew the Cuban contingent from the tournament in 1961 causing the extinction of the tournament until 1970 when it was resuscitated.
Pinar del Río (Cuba) campeón de la serie del Caribe 2015! pic.twitter.com/VDKXlpb6mV— Emmanuel López (@EmmanuelLopez47) February 9, 2015
The communist island returned to the tournament in 2014 after a more than 50 year absence and drew big crowds in the Margarita Islands in Venezuela. In 2015 Cuba’s champion Pinar del Río crowned itself champion of the series in Puerto Rico, the champonoship game between Cuba (Pinar del Río) and Mexico (Culiacán) was the most watched game in the history of the tournament. It was also ESPN Deportes most watched baseball game ever and the most-watched Caribbean Series telecast ever among Hispanic with 277,000 viewers – surpassing the 2013 WBC Final Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic (236,000 viewers). The game which took place on Feb. 8, 2015 delivered a 1.0 Hispanic Household rating.
ESPN Deportes’ live telecast of all 13 games and Opening Ceremony averaged a 0.4 Hispanic household rating and 91,000 Hispanic viewers , becoming the second most-watched Caribbean Series ever – behind the 2014 event both of which included Cuba as the main draw. Having a stadium filled to the max would definitely be an economic jolt for business around the stadium and to Miami -Dade County because of the influx after tourist it would also bring to the city.
Turning the tables on the regimen
What better way for the exile community to make money of the totalitarian regimen than to exploit its participation in the tournament for its own financial gain. This would essentially be a back handed smack to the face of that oppressive government 90 miles away, by using capitalism as the main weapon to deliver this blow.
By allowing people to express themselves freely in pacific protest in the stadium, something that was semi-quashed during the game last month would shed some light to the events going on in Cuba and would force Cuban State television to either broadcast the happenings or cut its broadcast.
Inviting Cuba in my opinion would be a win-win situation for the exile community financially and politically. Inviting any one of the other nations in the invitee pool would be an utter fiscal and public relations failure for the organizing committee and would probably spell the end of tournament’s return to Miami ( the 1990 & 1991 editions were commercial failures).