Bjarkman: Cuba falls short of World Baseball Classic finals

From SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman at on March 13, 2013:

For many it was the most devastating among a slew of painful eleventh-hour losses for recent editions of the once dominant but now somewhat tarnished Cuban national team. There have been many such defeats in recent years – the 2008 Olympic finals (versus Korea) in Beijing; the 2009 World Cup finale (USA) in Nettuno; the 2010 Pre-Mundial championship setback (with the Dominicans) in San Juan; and the final-edition 2011 World Cup gold medal loss (Netherlands) in Panama.

These defeats reflect little more than the new world order of international baseball where talented but no longer untouchable Cuban teams are now forced play against some of the best young stars (and even seasoned veterans) drawn from North American professional ball clubs; the near misses do not (despite all the ceaseless wailings in the Cuban press) signal any major failings of the Cuban baseball system itself, or any catastrophic drop-off in the level of Cuban talent.

This year’s Cuban Classic team showcased more top-level young prospects than any island squad of the past decade. True there was a visible shortage of normally strong Cuban pitching in the end, but the final reality is that we no longer live in 1970s or ‘80s world in which each opponent quakes and crumbles in the presence of the once unrivaled Cuban arsenal.

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Originally published: March 13, 2013. Last Updated: March 13, 2013.