Sunday, October 16, 2005

Congrats to Jose Contreras

The first time I heard the name Jose Contreras, was during a pair of exhibition baseball games between the Cuban National Team and the Baltimore Orioles. I remember being pissed that this sham was even allowed to happen. What really disgusted me was seeing the Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, and Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig sitting there schmoozing with castro. The Oriole players didn't want to play these games (one in Havana and one in Baltimore) on their days off. I can understand. The baseball season is a grueling 6-month marathon in which you get one day off a week, if you’re lucky, and spend most of the time traveling. I remember sitting there watching Albert Belle with the bat resting comfortably on his shoulder as he watched every pitch go by. I really wanted the Orioles to kick the crap out of the Cuban team. Of course they tanked both games giving fidel a nice propaganda victory.

Anyway Contreras was a tall and lanky relief pitcher for the Cuban team. At the time he was in his mid 20's and many regarded him as a legitimate major league prospect if he were to defect. And defect he did in October of 2002.

The New York Yankees signed him and 1 year later he was pitching for the Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees were facing my beloved Florida Marlins. David Wells started for the Yanks in game 5. But when Juan Pierre bunted in the first inning, "Boomer" Wells hurt his back trying to field it. Contreras came out of the bullpen for the Yanks in the second inning to take over for the hurt Wells and again I found myself rooting against Contreras, this time in person. He didn't fare well, giving up 4 earned runs in 3 innings and the Marlins went on to win the game 6-4. Of course the Marlins won game 6 and World Series in the Bronx a couple of days later.

In 2004 Conteras was traded from the Yankees by their owner, the impatient George Steinbrenner. The Yankees sent Contreras to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Esteban Loiza, a journeyman pitcher who had just come off a career year. Also in 2004 Contreras was reunited with his wife and two daughters. Despite the fact they had been twice been issued visas by the Nicaraguan government, castro's regime had denied Contreras family exit permits. They eventually made it to the U.S. by coming over in a boat; they were detained on Big Pine Key.

Tonight Jose Contreras pitched a 9 inning complete game in Chicago's 6-3 pennant clinching victory. Though I like the Angels and was rooting for them, I was personally rooting for Jose Contreras, who is currently listed at a robust 245 lbs to go along with his 6'4" frame. The White Sox are going to the World Series while Steinbrenner's Yankees and their $200+ million payroll are watching on TV. Meanwhile Loiza only lasted one season with Yankees and went 12-10 (3.77 ERA) with the Washington Nationals this year.

Felicidades Jose!

1 comment:

leftside said...

Do you know that Jose Contreras has a special clause in his contract that allows him to play of the Cuban National team whenever it plays outside of Cuba? Sounds awfully close to a case of post 1959 Cuban national pride, which is not allowed by true Cuban patriots like yourself is it?

And as you highlight that Cuba denied visas to Jose's family, might you take the time to actually think about why Cuba does this? Cuba does not want to turn into the Dominican Republic that's why. Just as Japan mandates players play for their home country for a certain amount of years, Cuba does too. You'll notice a number of Cuban stars playing in the Japanese league now. If they were allow "freedom" to those who the people invested so much resources into developing, the national pastime would dissolve. There would be scouts plucking kids out of elementary school, providing them no education and leaving them to fend for themselves after they didn't make the cut. There would be a baseball crazed nation left to watch 2nd rate players. I know that is good for MLB but it is certainly not what the Cuban people want. Rewarding defectors is simply not good policy.