Venezuela topped the U.S. 5-3 on Wednesday night, avenging an earlier loss in the WBC, and both teams will advance to the second round in Miami.
Anytime the Americans and Venezuelans square off in competition, the political backdrop is part of the story. In recent months, tensions have grown as both countries shooed away each other’s ambassadors and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez nationalized a U.S.-owned rice mill (good thing it wasn’t a Chilean copper mine). In this instance, however, the sub-plots are mostly a media obsession. The U.S. and Venezuelan WBC rosters are larded with major-league players who have toiled against and alongside each other for years without letting politics get in the way.
Now if the U.S. runs into Cuba in Miami … that’s a story with off-the-field intrigue.
And speaking of Cuba, Fidel Castro himself has been blogging about the Classic. There’s a subtle jab at the U.S. in there, as Castro refers to Japan and South Korea as “Cuba’s strongest opponents.” Castro later refers to “the dangerous and emblematic Ichiro,” which absolutely should be Ichiro’s nickname going forward.
Something that might give Castro pause is that Congress recently (and wisely) rolled back sanctions against Cuba. Reuters speculates that the move “could herald deeper changes to the long-standing U.S. policy of shunning the communist-ruled island.” Eventually, that could extend to softening our awful policy toward Cuban immigrants. And that, thankfully, could mean more Cuban ballplayers in major-league uniforms.