Alfredo Despaigne Playing in Mexico
mlbtraderumors.com reports that under a deal with the Cuban government, outfielder Alfredo Despaigne will be playing for some period of time with the Campeche Pirates of the Mexican League (Despaigne is 1 for 4 with a strikeout after one game in Mexico).
For those of you who have never heard of Despaigne, which is probably a majority of you, Despaigne is likely the best reasonably young hitter in the world not playing in the major leagues. The major league player he is most comparable to is fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedis — both are 27 this year (Despaigne is eight months younger) and the two traded off Cuba’s home run record during the years both played in the Serie Nacional (Despaigne set the record, Cespedis broke it, along with another great young Cuban hitter Jose Dariel Abreu, and then Despaigne set it again).
The main difference between Despaigne and Cespedis in Cuba was that Despaigne hit for higher batting averages.
It’s pretty amazing that Cuba would let Despaigne play in Mexico, since it obviously makes Despaigne’s ability to defect that much easier. Apparently, the Cuban government believes that Despaigne will not defect, since he certainly has had many opportunities to do so in the past while playing abroad on the Cuban national team. In fact, one almost wonders if the Cuban government does not at some level want Despaigne to defect, so that he may one day send large numbers of U.S. greenbacks to his family in Cuba, as many, many Cuban emigres to the U.S. now do.
On a purely selfish level, I am eagerly awaiting the death of the Castro brothers, simply so that the best Cuban baseball players can one day join MLB like the rest of the best players from the Americas and the world. Cespedis, Despaigne and Yasil Puig are merely the tip of the iceberg. Cuba is loaded with major league caliber players.
Alexie Bell is another great hitter, although at age 29 this year, he’s getting a little old. Frederick Cepeda is another major league caliber hitter, although he’s now 33. Jose Dariel Abreu, mentioned above, is 26 this year. That doesn’t even take into account the pitchers.
Before the revolution, Cuba was well ahead of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela in terms of the major league caliber players it produced. While that has certainly changed with respect to Venezuela, a much more populous country, I have no doubt that Cuba would produce as many major leaguers today as the Dominican Republic does if its players were free to come to the U.S.
Communism as an economic system simply doesn’t work. Let the best of Cuba’s players come to the U.S. to play and tax their incomes back in Cuba to pay for the country’s exceptional (for a Latin American country at least) education and health care systems.