Oregon Eugene Register-Guard Editorial
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006
Some things in life should be off limits to politics. Baseball is one of them.
Not that an occasional politician shouldn't be allowed to throw out the first pitch, although they should get some coaching first so the ball doesn't take five bounces to reach the catcher.
But politicians should be tossed out of the game whenever they try to interfere with decisions such as what countries should be allowed to play in a new international tournament organized by Major League Baseball and its players' union.
Called the World Baseball Classic, the idea is to put America's best players up against those from other nations. Sixteen nations were selected for the 2006 tournament, and fans everywhere were ecstatic about what some regarded as the first genuine World Series.
Enter the politicians. The Bush administration ruled that Cuba, which would have been guaranteed a share of the proceeds, could not participate because of a four-decade-old trade embargo.
It was a foolish, shortsighted decision by an administration that has tightened sanctions against Cuba despite 44 years of evidence that they've only strengthened Fidel Castro's standing at home.
Castro had more to lose than the United States in the tournament. Six years ago, a Cuban team played an exhibition series against the Baltimore Orioles and several top players defected. The U.S. decision gave El Jefe a chance to avoid a similar embarrassment and an opportunity to claim Cuba is being persecuted by the United States.
Last week, the administration finally reversed course on condition that Cuba receive no money. Castro, true to form, said Cuba will participate, even though the U.S. has "stolen many of our best players."
Now, the fledgling tournament is back where it was - and should have remained - before politicians started mucking with it.