Why do Cuban baseball players really defect?
July 13, 2007 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Michael Moore's movie had me thinking about why Cubans defect to the the US to play baseball. The sportscasters always told stories about Cuban oppression, from what I can recall. I was wondering if there are different reasons though. I'm thinking money is the biggest reason. Have any journalists or writers covered this in depth?
posted by jkafka to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, really. My unprofessional opinion would be that they choose to stay in the States because of, in no particular order: money, freedom, education, opportunity, space, products, security, etc. My other unprofessional opinion would be that any Cuban (especially a professional with translatable skills) who steps foot in the United States would rather stay than return to Cuba.
posted by billysumday at 1:06 PM on July 13, 2007


Wait, you think that life is just rosy in Cuba after watching "Sicko?"
posted by caddis at 1:07 PM on July 13, 2007


Here's an article. I searched Google, it was pretty hard.
posted by billysumday at 1:08 PM on July 13, 2007


Cuba is a totalitarian state. People like to leave totalitarian states when they can, especially if a lot of money is in the offing.
posted by OmieWise at 1:09 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


They come to America for the freedom I would think. Playing baseball happens to be their particular talent, with which they can make a living. It just so happens that with their talent they can make a very, very good living.
posted by vito90 at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2007


Cuba is a totalitarian state. People like to leave totalitarian states when they can, especially if a lot of money is in the offing

I'd have to second Omie here. As far as the baseball thing..IIRC, Fidel is a big baseball fan (and in his youth was a good enough player to have been scouted for the majors), so maybe he has a soft spot for ballplayers. I'm only half-kidding.
posted by jonmc at 1:24 PM on July 13, 2007


Also, I'd imagine, they come here for the same reason that Dominican and Ecuadoran and Venezuelan and, increasingly, Japanese players come here: this is where it's at in baseball, certainly when it comes to money and prestige. Nobody else besides the Cubans defects because they don't have to.

yo, why's it so hard to just answer the question?
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2007


an entire website about Cuban baseball players
Cuban ball.

If you click around, especially the major league section you'll see a lot about Cuban baseball players who've come over to America.

American sports players are often so ludicrously highly paid that people will come over here to play from all sorts of countries. Coming to America to play baseball doesn't necessarily reflect badly on Cuba (though i'll admit Moore's representation of Cuba is overly rosy).

In a word: money.
posted by vegetableagony at 1:42 PM on July 13, 2007


Same reason Beckham's just defected from Spain to LA?
posted by merocet at 3:18 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Former sportswriter here.

Saying it's for "the money" doesn't quite speak to the enormous, gigantic gulf meant when we say "the money." If you're not really familiar with Just. How. Much. professional athletes in the big four sports make, it's a little astonishing.

* The greatest baseball players in Cuba barely make more per year than a major-league baseball player makes annually in their daily food-and-entertainment per diem allowances.

* The greatest baseball players in Cuba make less than a major-league baseball player makes in their annual contracts with baseball card manufacturers (received via the players' union).

* The greatest baseball players in Cuba make less than a major-league baseball player makes in their annual equipment contracts with Nike, Mizuno, Spalding, New Era, etc. (if they don't get it via personal contracts, it's received via the players' union).

* Cuban ballplayers and their families get free health care, courtesy of the government. MLB players and their families get free health care for life courtesy of the players' union.

* They come to the U.S. so they can buy a car that's less than 50 years old. True. But most ballplayers get free cars, or enormously discounted leased cars, courtesy of local dealerships.

* Other freebies or mind-boggling discounts commonly enjoyed by ballplayers include: legal services (of all kinds ... want to divorce your wife? the team can handle it), day care, travel, clothing, personal assistants, food, etc, etc.

Trust me, you -- average Joe -- doesn't quite grok the lengths to which a team will protect and serve its investment. I recall one team PR person telling me they had really wished a player, that had been popped for a DUI the night before, had called the team first before calling his own lawyer. He was pretty sure the team could've hushed the entire thing up and I would've never heard about it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:33 PM on July 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


By the way, the whole Castro/baseball connection is largely a myth.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:00 PM on July 13, 2007


Cubans defect for the same reason as Mexicans "defect"; economics. To the people who think oppression is the primary reason, it has a small part but the chance to get rich will make anyone come to America for any perceived reason. Not to mention the half-assed American policy of granting asylum and almost automatic citizenship to and Cuban that reaches the mainland US.
posted by JJ86 at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2007


A website about Cuban baseball (not sure how relevant it will be, but what the heck):

Stealing Home
posted by maxwelton at 11:14 PM on July 13, 2007


I recall reading an interview with Omar Linares years ago where he talked about why he would not defect to the U.S., out of patriotism, etc.

Now I go back to check and I see he spent the last years of his career playing in Japan.

I don't think there's one pat answer that would cover all the people involved at all the stages of their playing career.
posted by gimonca at 8:30 AM on July 14, 2007


[a few comments removed - this is not the "tell me why you don't like Cuba" thread]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:47 AM on July 14, 2007


Real Sports - the Bryant Gumbel show on HBO, did whole a segment on this a couple years ago. It was kind of fascinating. I believe Frank Deford did the coverage. You ought to check it out - might help answer some of your questions.
posted by TeamBilly at 9:43 AM on July 14, 2007


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