Next year marks the inaugural World Baseball Classic, an event that organizers hope might some day grow into the counterpart of soccer’s World Cup. It will be an 18-day tournament in March featuring 16 teams from North and Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. The games will be played in Tokyo, Puerto Rico, Florida (Walt Disney World), Arizona and California.
It could not have happened without the cooperation of Major League Baseball. As a result, many of the biggest MLB names, such as Bobby Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., will participate.
However, the most pre-eminent name in the annals of international baseball – Cuba — will be absent. That’s because the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control denied MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association the permits required for a Cuban team to travel here to participate. It’s a function of the Bush Administration’s ever-tightening trade and travel sanctions on Havana.
It’s also a function of lobbying by the usual one-trick pony South Florida politicians, such as Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who want all Cuban screws tightened until Fidel Castro finally does the right thing and dies. For now, however, the Administration will remain tethered to a counterproductive Cold War policy that is as much at variance with sensible trade polices as it is with basic, humane practices.
An interesting aside to the World Baseball Classic is its possible impact on future Olympic bids by U.S. cities.
“This will impact IOC (International Olympic Committee) members negatively,” points out Peter Ueberroth, the U.S. Olympic Committee chairman. “This may be the only example of a country prohibiting competition on an international scale.”
In baseball parlance, it’s called a Bush League move. It’s also another low for a country that ought to be above this sort of vindictive, arrogant action that helps no one. Especially – and ironically – the U.S., which can ill afford any more geo-political black eyes.