It’s no secret that over the past three years some of the biggest names in major league baseball are players who defected to the U.S. from Cuba. We’ve all heard the horrific stories of what some of these guys went through to finally achieve their lifelong dreams (and financial security) of playing in the MLB – guys like Aroldis Chapman, José Fernández, Yoenis Céspedes, Yasiel Puig, Onelki Garcia, and Alexander Guerrero, to name only a few.
As we all know, the United States enacted a trade embargo against Cuba in October of 1960 as a result of extreme political tension between the two countries. And while the very last thing on the minds of outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower and incoming President John F. Kennedy and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was baseball, it is possible that our beloved sport may one day play an important role in re-establishing free trade between the two countries.
Keep in mind that the Cuba is one of four countries identified as State Sponsors of Terrorism by the U.S. State Department (along with Iran, Sudan and Syria) and it is highly unlikely that free trade will ever happen between the U.S. and Cuba until this status changes; but it could happen depending on who succeeds Raúl Castro.
This is certainly not to suggest that the reasons for the on-going trade embargo are any less important today than they were in 1960 and, quite frankly, an end to the embargo is highly unlikely anytime soon. In fact, things may even get a little more tense before they get better. Just last week Cuba held military maneuvers (called Bastion 2013) – this in spite of comments recently made by Secretary of State John Kerry to the Organization of American States on November 18 that relations between the two countries were improving.
All of this being said, it was reported on Thursday in an article posted on the National Public Radio (NPR) website that Cuban authorities have lifted a 50-year ban on players signing professional contracts abroad. It does not, however, include the MLB.
Here again, this is not to suggest that the 53-year trade embargo will end anytime soon, nor is this post intended to spark a political debate, but what it does suggest is that the political climate between the U.S. and Cuba may be changing.
(A hat tip to Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue who first reported this story on Twitter)