Monday, May 22, 2017

Could Chicago White Sox become beneficiaries of Cuban beisbol legacy?

It has been just over two years since the two living icons of Chicago baseball – Ernie Banks and Minnie Miñoso – passed on. Banks, as many have pointed out, didn’t live long enough to see his Chicago Cubs win a World Series.
The grandfather of Cuban baseball in Chicago

While Miñoso was around back in 2005. He even was a participant in that World Series parade wending its way from Armour Square through the Sout’ Side and into “da Loop.”

BUT IT’S ACTUALLY a shame the ballplayer, whose many nicknames included being called “the Cuban Comet,” isn’t still with us. Not that he didn’t live a long-enough life (about 90).

But it would be a sight to see if Miñoso could be present if the modern-day attempt by the Chicago White Sox to rebuild into a winning ball club were to succeed with all the Cuban talent the team has managed to obtain.

That talent appeared to have been bolstered this weekend (it won’t be official for a few more days) with the signing of Luis Robert, a 19-year-old who is among the Cuban national team’s stars and who has decided he wants to have a baseball career in the United States.

That led to a bidding war amongst several ball clubs, although is appears the fact that the White Sox have developed a reputation as being Cuban-friendly led him to want to play in Chicago.
Wore No. 9 in Cuba, but in Chi, that's Minoso

ALTHOUGH LET’S NOT make a mistake; he’s going to be paid well. The still-a-teenager living in Cuban poverty now will be paid some $25 million to play the next couple of seasons for Chicago White Sox minor league affiliates – possibly resulting in him working his way to Guaranteed Rate Field by about 2019 or 2020.

That is about the time the White Sox’ rebuilding effort is supposed to be complete. It is an effort that will include Yoan Moncada, who is the big Cuban star whom the White Sox obtained during the winter and could become a part of the Chicago baseball scene by this season’s end.
Robert and Moncada could join ...

It also may include the star slugger Jose Abreu, who when he broke into U.S. baseball did so with a jolt, winning Rookie of the Year and showing himself to be a consistent slugger in U.S. baseball ever since. And yes, it seems that Abreu was a part of the effort to sway Robert to want to come to Chicago (or at least to the South Side) on the grounds the White Sox "get" Cubans and what they go through to adapt to life in this country.
... w/ existing star Abreu for Cuban trio

With Abreu often saying he’s happy with the White Sox because of the large number of peloteros Cubanos they have employed throughout the years. Including Miñoso, who was around to see Abreu play, and many of the other Cubans such as former shortstop Alexi Ramirez, outfielder Dayan Viciedo and the two pitching stalwarts of that 2005 World Series-winning team, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez.

THE LATTER OF whom gave what I still consider one of the most amazing pitching performances I have ever seen, in the ’05 playoffs against the Boston Red Sox, when the pitcher known as “El Duque” came in relief that one game and pitched three shutout innings right at a point when Boston was threatening to retake the lead, and momentum, in that playoff round.
Yankee had his moment in White Sox 'sun'

I’m still trying to figure out who looked most ridiculous – Johnny Damon swinging at that “Strike Three!!!!!” in the dirt, or Manny Ramirez an inning later looking totally hopeless as he struck out.

This Cuban connection of sorts leading his old ball club to a championship is something I’m sure Miñoso would have liked to have seen. Although to be honest, those of us beisbol fans who enjoy the growing Latin American presence will also get our kicks if this phenomenon becomes a reality.
A tie between Venezuelan and Cuban Sox heritage

Which, I’m sure, means there’s some xenophobic type out there who’s teeth are gnashing and his “I (heart) Trump” pin jiggles on his chest as he rants about the need to tighten the immigration laws AND undo the efforts former President Barack Obama made to improve U.S./Cuba relations.
A recent Cuban Sox star

SO WE’LL HAVE to see how all this plays out, particularly if it turns out to be that a Cuban influence helps rejuvenate the White Sox into a championship ball club.

Who’s to say the Chicago Cubs don’t have another championship run in them as well, and we really could get that all-Chicago World Series our city has dreamed of, yet been denied since 1906.
Will Ernie, Minnie quarrel in heavens?

Those Cubs with a Puerto Rican presence in the form of infielder Javy Baez taking on the Cuban- and Venezuelan (Chico Carrasquel and Luis Aparicio to Ozzie Guillen to Magglio Ordonez to today’s Avisail Garcia)-influenced Sox.

That really would make a Chicago “city series” into a World-Wide spectacle the World Series likes to think it is – something for us to look forward to in coming years. Even if Miñoso won’t be around to see it; he and Banks will have to watch from that realm above.


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