Politics & Policy

One Team’s Solidarity with Castro

Any sensible Cuban would think twice before trading life in Cuba for life on the Orioles.

The evening of the day when the Washington Times broke the story about the Baltimore Orioles’ foreign policy concerning Cuba (see Roger Clegg’s article), the Orioles’ bullpen — kerosene in human form — blew yet another save. The Anaheim Angels made mincemeat of three Orioles’ relief pitchers, coming from three runs behind to tie the game in the eighth inning and win it in the bottom of the ninth. But at least Orioles’ fans can take comfort from the fact that none of the team’s pitchers is a defector from Cuba.

Syd Thrift, the Orioles’ director of baseball operations and the architect of the Orioles’ bullpen, was quoted by the Times as saying that such was the “goodwill” between Cuba and the United States created by the Orioles’ visit to Castro’s island in the spring of 1999, it would be downright undiplomatic for the Orioles to sign defecting Cuban baseball players:

“We . . . feel it best to not do anything that could be interpreted as being disrespectful or . . . encouraging players to defect.”

Is he kidding? Cuba is ghastly, but even so, any sensible Cuban would think twice before trading life in Cuba for life on the Orioles’ pitching staff. A remarkable number of defecting Cuban players are pitchers, who might not want to be associated with a pitching staff that, going into the Thursday night in Texas against the Rangers, had an embarrassing and league-worst 5.99 earned run average.

The fourth-place Orioles, with one of major-league baseball’s highest payrolls, have the highest ratio of payroll to achievement. But the Orioles, the only team with a foreign policy (which is: Don’t dis the dictator), know that they will not owe any wins this year to the efforts of pitchers who got here by defecting, as did the best pitcher on baseball’s best team — the Yankees’ Orlando Hernandez. This is how the Orioles see things: Cuba sí, Yankees no.


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