AT LEAST CASTRO KNOWS BETTER
Unless you've been living in a cave the past three years (and if you have, did you happen to see Osama?), Hugo Chavez has become the leader of the anti-American lip-flappers. It seems that no matter what we do, no matter how we act, or react, we just can't please ol' Hugo. And that's fine. Little despots in little countries don't concern me very much. But what he can do to baseball (our pastime, not his), is a cause for concern.
Venezuela is one of the top producers of South American players in the major leagues. Since 1939, 193 Venezuelans have donned a major league uniform. Since coming to Washington, the Nationals have played five Venezuelans, four in 2006 alone (Mel Dorta, Tony Armas Jr., Wiki Gonzalez and Alex Escobar). Endy Chavez was the fifth member of the group. My concern is how Chavez' motor-mouth might effect the relationship between the players and the fans of their adopted cities.
Let's say that Mel Dorta is a patriotic and nationalistic Venezuelan, and supports Chavez and his anti-American rhetoric. Perhaps he likes the feel of his small nation verbally attacking America. How difficult must it be to be in the very country that your president attacks, almost on a daily basis. Who are these players loyal to? Regardless of how they may feel about their homeland, there is no country that offers more freedoms, more opportunities, than the United States. Can they be loyal to both their birthplace as well as their adopted home? And if they do feel some sense of loyalty to America, if they turn their backs on Chavez' rhetoric, will there be repercussions against the players back home?
And what of the fans in the stands, patriotic Americans who are growing weary of Hugo Chavez and his anti-American diatribe. Won't some take their frustrations out not on Chavez, but on the Venezuelan players, even on their team? Might Tony Armas Jr. get booed if he sides with his president?
I don't have all the answers; heck, I don't have any of the answers. I do know, however, that Hugo Chavez isn't about to let up anytime soon, and sooner or later, the bad blood between the two countries is going to take its toll on American baseball.
For all his faults, Fidel Castro understands that politics don't belong in baseball. As much as he dislikes the United States, he takes every opportunity for his Cuban National team to come here and play, usually dominating the competition. I hope that Chavez realizes one day that baseball can be a conduit between the two countries, a way of communicating without all of the rough and reckless language.
Hey Hugo, it's okay this one time to take your cue from Fidel. Baseball is hallowed ground. Leave politics out of it.
DIAMONDBACKS 4, NATIONALS 2: Nothing worth mentioning here. Blah all the way around.
NOTE: comments will be available again on my next post. I pushed a wrong button last night. Oops.