By Reynaldo Cruz
After having a forgettable seventeen-team tournament last season, the Cuban Baseball National Commission decided to make changes. So they held a nationwide interview, visiting each and every one of the provinces to find out the opinions of journalists and players alike.
The result, which we can say for sure that did not surface in any province, is a Frankenseries. Finally, after a whole two years of
controversy surrounding the seventeen-team field and the presence of an in-season farm team —which had extended for over twenty years— the decision was to eliminate Metropolitanos and change the competition format.
Forty-five games will be played in the first stage, with no zones or pools to qualify, in a round-robin-like first round, all teams will
play three games against every contender. Meaning that from 45 matches at home, fans will only see their heroes 21 or 24 times, depending on how lucky they are… and we can bet who will be benefited from that “luck”.
When game 45 stops, the top eight teams, ignoring pools or zones, will move to the second round and each contender will be reinforced with five players from the eight remaining clubs —who will have no choice but to go home and call it a season— in a draft-like selection system. The top eight will then play another 42 matches (six against each opponent) and four of them will make it to the semifinals and therefore the finals.
What have we gained?
Nothing, honestly. Half the teams will be gone for the rest of the season, and some young prospects will lose seasoning games and the opportunity to develop skills.
Right now, when Cuban baseball is at a major crossroads, and the quality of international play has increased, players do need to play more. Less games (45 for half of the teams and 87 for the other half) will bring nothing but lower quality, and a shortage in the amount of young talent surfacing every year.
Many players who might later become stars start the seasons slow, mainly as rookies, and it is not until game 30 that they start showing signs of quality and all that. Limiting the amount of games played will hurt the legitimacy of the Rookie of the Year, since not all the players will have the chance to fully develop and many of them will be ignored for the second half.
So we hope that this type of structure does not last long, or the only first-place Cuban baseball still holds, being the IBAF World Ranking, will be gone in a couple of years.