To have fun Hispanic Heritage Month, MLB.com offered a collection of panel discussions, debating prime gamers from numerous Latin American international locations. Our closing installment is Cuba.
Alyson Footer, Moderator/Editor: This must be a giant debate, contemplating all of the expertise that has come from Cuba and Cuban-born gamers, over time. Once we mentioned the greatest puerto rico gamerswe actually needed to begin with participant n°2, as a result of [Roberto] Clemente was the clear No. 1 and nobody got here shut. Is there an undisputed greatest Cuba participant, ever?
Nathalie Alonso, Editorial Producer, Las Mayores: It is a sophisticated query, as a result of a few of the greatest Cuban skills have had restricted taking part in time within the main leagues due to issues like institutional racism and the political state of affairs between america and Cuba. But additionally, as a result of two of essentially the most completed hitters to return out of Cuba – Rafael Palmeiro and José Canseco – additionally noticed their legacies tainted due to the usage of PED. I do not assume it is easy.
Sarah Langs, researcher/analyst: Fully agree right here. I virtually marvel if a greater query is essentially the most hard-hitting as an alternative of higher… impacting the game/his place/and so on.
Mark Feinsand, Govt Reporter: Based mostly on statistics alone, you must say Rafael Palmeiro. However the truth that he examined optimistic for performance-enhancing medication definitely obscures the difficulty a bit.
His profession numbers converse for themselves: 569 house runs and three,020 hits are Corridor of Fame worthy, however PEDs killed any shot from that. I feel he was a extremely good hitter, however I by no means thought-about him top-of-the-line within the recreation when he was taking part in. He was nonetheless superb and he performed for 20 years, so the numbers simply piled up. He was All-Star solely 4 occasions.
There are 4 Cuba Corridor of Famers: Tony Perez, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva and Cristóbal Torriente (elected by the Black League Committee). After which there’s Luis Tiant, who truly has the best bWAR of any participant of Cuban origin apart from Palmeiro.
Alonso: Martín Dihigo can be a member of the Corridor of Fame and he did it each methods lengthy earlier than [Shohei] Ohtani did. We’re so removed from the times of Dihigo and Cristóbal Torriente that it’s troublesome to understand how good they had been.
Languages : José Méndez can be a member of the Corridor of Fame.
Feinsand: Perhaps I ought to give my vote to Perez. His consistency was super and he performed a key function within the Huge Pink Machine dynasty.
Alonso: If we discuss affect as Sarah recommended, Miñoso is for me. He is known as the “Latino Jackie Robinson” for a motive. He was the primary Afro-Latino within the AL/NL. That is why this one is troublesome – there are a number of layers.
Footer: We’ve the benefit of getting Nathalie as a part of this dialogue – her household is initially from Cuba and she or he is aware of this topic properly. So I am simply going to say “I agree with Nathalie” lots immediately.
Alonso: If we go by bWAR together with place gamers and pitchers, Palmeiro is first at 71.9, adopted by Pink Sox legend Luis Tiant at 65.6. Tiant is not within the Corridor of Fame, however many people assume he must be. Evaluating pitchers and positional gamers is difficult, however Tiant additionally tops the checklist.
Languages: You see, I agree with Mark and Nathalie. On the participant facet, it is Perez for me, together with his manufacturing and the group he performed for. However once I consider gamers born in Cuba… the primary one I consider is ALWAYS Miñoso. Nonetheless. With affect in thoughts.
Footer: Placing on my Rose-colored Reds glasses (see what I did there?), Perez’s greatness was diminished by the straightforward undeniable fact that his teammates had been a few of the best hitters of that period. He simply hasn’t been talked about sufficient.
Feinsand: Agreed. He is been ignored due to the gamers on these groups, however we’re speaking a couple of man with 9 20 homer seasons, seven 100 RBI seasons and a profession .804 OPS. These are fairly spectacular numbers for the period wherein he performed.
Alonso: Tony Oliva, who was lastly inducted into the Corridor of Fame this 12 months, is not #1 for me, however he is positively within the prime 5.
I additionally do not assume we are able to have this dialog with out speaking about Yuli Gurriel. The Gurriel household are baseball royalty in Cuba, and Yuli is the star. Yuli did not play within the Majors till he was 32, however he helped Cuba win gold on the 2004 Olympics after which silver in 2008. He represented Cuba within the Caribbean Collection , the World Baseball Traditional and succeeded at each stage.
When Yuli first arrived on the Majors, Cuban gamers from different groups went out of their strategy to introduce themselves to him. And Cuban Astros prospect Pedro León remarked some time in the past that each Cuban participant of this era has “a little bit of Yuli in him.” It actually exhibits what Yuli means to Cuba and Cuban baseball – despite the fact that his time within the majors was comparatively brief.
Languages: This once more brings us to the essential level that the historical past of baseball is just not simply MLB historical past, and the identical for lineage in sports activities.
Alonso: And what he did within the Astros makes me marvel the place he would rank if he had performed his total profession within the Majors. He gained a batting title final 12 months and a gold glove as a primary baseman, which to me is wonderful as a result of he by no means performed a single recreation at first base in Cuba or throughout his keep in Japan. He is simply an unbelievable athlete, and his adaptation to the Majors could be very spectacular.
Languages: If we speak concerning the present gamers, José Abreu should even be current. He’s fourth for circuits behind Palmeiro, Canseco and Perez. And such a mainstay for thus lengthy in Chicago.
Feinsand: I add my New York bias right here: Once I consider Cuban gamers, the primary one which involves thoughts is at all times Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. He clearly would not slot in a class with the blokes we have talked about to this point, however he hit the scene with such hype and lived as much as it. He was 32 when he got here to the Yankees, so he was by no means going to have the lengthy profession that others earlier than him did, however he was one of the electrical pitchers I’ve ever seen — and the top-of-the-line post-season pitchers of his era.
El Duque was such a personality. Watching him and Jorge Posada yell at one another from 60 ft, 6 inches away was a lot enjoyable.
Alonso: You’ll be able to’t inform the story of Cuban baseball with out the Hernandez brothers, that is for positive. Like with Yuli, you marvel what might have been.
Feinsand: And regardless of solely pitching 9 years within the Majors, El Duque has the sixth-highest battle of any Cuban-born pitcher in historical past.
Footer: Again to Sarah’s remark – if it’s a must to title essentially the most impactful Cuban participant(s) and never essentially the “greatest”, is that completely different?
Feinsand: If we’re speaking about affect on the sport on ET off the sphere, then sure. Jackie Robinson wasn’t the perfect African-American participant in historical past, however he was clearly essentially the most impactful.
For the affect on the pitch, I’d return to Perez. When you’re a Corridor of Fame cog on a Dynasty group, that is a reasonably good affect.
Alonso: He is additionally second amongst Cuban-born hitters in bWAR (54.0), in order that checks out. Miñoso is shut behind, nevertheless, with 53.8. It took him approach too lengthy to get into the Corridor of Fame. It ought to have occurred on this lifetime, however I digress.
Feinsand:I like that Miñoso’s Baseball Reference web page lists his profession from 1946 to 1980. At first look, you simply assume, “Wait, he performed 34 years??? Who’s Tom Brady?” Miñoso was a powerful success on the age of 52!
Languages: Such an essential determine for the game, and likewise an incredible profession. Seven-time AL All-Star, and so constant, hitting .307 in almost 1,500 video games from 1951-60. Fourth-oldest participant with a success since at the very least 1901!
Feinsand: Tiant has loved a decade of excellence. He was 140-106 with a 2.93 ERA from 1964 to 1974, however his late profession wasn’t as robust (89-66, 3.89). I feel he simply had the perfect pitching profession of any Cuban-born participant, however I am unsure I can put him on the prime of this checklist.
Alonso: He’s in my prime 5, however not first. Plus, we will not overlook Tony Oliva, who lastly made it into the Corridor this 12 months.
Feinsand: One very last thing I wish to add right here: I ponder if we might have talked about José Fernández on this dialog with out his tragic loss of life. The primary 4 years of his profession had been so particular.
Alonso: And he was so good for Miami.
Footer: Let’s rank the 5 greatest Cuban gamers of all time. Go!
Alonso: Perez, Minoso, Tiant, Oliva, Y. Gurriel
Feinsand: Perez, Minoso, Tiant, Oliva, El Duque
Languages: Perez, Minoso, Tiant, Oliva, Abreu