Bjarkman: Cuban League celebrates surprising new champion

From SABR member Peter C. Bjarkman at Baseball de Cuba on June 7, 2012:

Cuba’s National Series finals provided a few mild surprises, but none bigger than the emergence of Roger Machado at the top of the island’s current list of managerial success stories. Celebrated fan-favorite Industriales not only lost this year’s championship shootout, but was beaten badly, dropping an opening pair of games on home turf, briefly staying alive with a gripping extra-inning victory on the road in Ciego, but ultimately surrendering another two consecutive crucial road games – including both a 10-2 drubbing and a climactic second overtime thriller. If proud Industriales rebounded admirably this season under rookie skipper Lázaro Vargas, this edition of the Blue Lions was clearly not cut from championship cloth.

More surprising perhaps than the early Industriales surrender was the fact that Ciego ace Vlad García ultimately failed in his attempt to join an elite pitching circle he certainly seemed poised to enter. After notching his overall nineteenth win in the rain-delayed opener, Vlad appeared on the verge of an historic 20-win season when he entered the ninth frame of Game 3 cruising along behind a seemingly safe a 3-1 cushion. But it was not to be as the Lions rallied to knot the count (in a knuckle-whitening game that provided their only series win) and therefore sabotage Garcia’s once-promising prospects for a place in the record books. The short five-game series would mean that Machado’s top ace would never return to the hill for a final shot at an elusive victory that might have equaled the 20-win campaigns (post-season games included) earlier posted by both José Ibar (1998) and Carlos Ynes (1999) at the close of the 20th century.

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Originally published: June 7, 2012. Last Updated: June 7, 2012.