Today's disappointing news that the U.S. Treasury Department has denied permission for Cuba to participate in the 2006 World Baseball Classic is yet another example of how this idiotic embargo continues to deprive everyone from a meaningful cultural exchange. (Three True Outcomes has an excellent response.)
I'm looking forward to the World Baseball Classic and hope to take in some of the games as the semifinals are set to be played at Angel Stadium and I'd really like to see the final round played down at Petco Park in San Diego. There is going to be some high caliber major league talent on these teams and this looks to be an opportunity to see the game played at a high level just ahead of the '06 regular season. Cuba has a great baseball tradition and it seems wrong not to allow these players to participate because of some antiquated embargo.
With the International Olympic committee contemplating the elimination of baseball from the Summer Olympic games on the grounds that it lacks international presence the MLB needs to make a case that this actually is a worldwide sport. Major League players will be representing their home nations, driving home the point that these players already come from all over the world to play this game. Professional baseball leagues can be found in Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, China and all over the world and this event is a great opportunity for players from these leagues to compete and develop with the best. And this could be an important step toward expanding the Major Leagues so that the "World Series" actually does represent the world one day. I would love to see expansion teams in all the Latin American and Asian nations that already supply so much talent. And none of this has anything to do with the political motivations for blocking Cuba from the World Baseball Classic.
The politics of including Cuba in the World Classic had already raised its ugly head when Fidel Castro stated that he would not allow Cuban players who had defected to represent Cuba in the games. This means no Jose Contreras, Livan Hernandez or Orlando Hernandez (just to name three of my favorite pitchers) and cheats us all out of seeing the best Cubans playing on the same team. But the Treasury Department has carried this political pettiness to a whole new level. And it's the fans that get cheated in the end.
The reasons for continuing the trade embargo with Cuba just don't hold any water. The so-called "threat of communism" has been greatly exaggeratedl and beaten to death and frankly, that old boogey-man just doesn't work anymore. If it were a genuine threat then we would need to suspend trade with China as well. And the argument that Cuba is some sort of "state sponsor of terrorism" is just the current flavor of the communist boogey-man. Is Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart referring to the humanitarian relief provided by Cuban doctors when he refers to such "terrorism?" Because given our own inability to deal with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina we could learn a thing or two from the contributions of these Cuban doctors to help victims of the recent earthquakes in Pakistan, the South-Asian Tsunami of last year or the ongoing struggles with AIDS and civil wars in much of the African continent.
Speaking as someone who values baseball and jazz I see enormous harm in obstructing the flow of ideas from a nation that has so much to contribute to the humanities, performing arts, sciences and sports. The negatives of this embargo are apparent. Does anyone even remember what the "positives" are supposed to be? Because whatever they were does not and should not have anything to do with baseball.