51st National Series
PERHAPS never before has the word 'new'
been so appropriate. Cuban Baseball's 51st National
Series will see the debut of 11 new managers, one
more team, an extra six games and two new measures
meant to reduce the escalating dominance of the
Only six of the managers from last
season are returning. Among the rest, only Felipe
Sarduy in Camagüey, Pinar del Río's Juan Castro and
Víctor Mesa in Villa Clara have had previous
experience leading teams at this level. The other
rookie coaches will face challenges ranging from
returning Granma to the play-offs to getting
Industriales back on a winning track. Not easy.
The increase in the number of teams
to 17, playing 96 games, involves a new level of
commitment on the part of organizers, as well as
players. One team will always be resting, but in
reality, it is to be expected that the team out of
play will be training and practicing with provincial
or juvenile teams, to stay in shape and maintain
Since a baseball season is much like
a marathon, there is always the danger of starting
out strong and then falling behind, if adequate
plans are not made. During the 90-game season, there
were teams which imploded after mid-season, like a
long-distance runner out of breath.
THE PITCHER'S MOUND
The height of the pitcher's mound
has always been a controversial subject since John
Montgomery Ward, a Hall of Fame pitcher and
shortstop came up with the idea of an elevated
pitcher's mound in 1880. Since then the height has
changed. Set at 15 inches in 1950, it was reduced to
10 inches in 1968, when the best hitter in the major
leagues had an average of only .301. Cuban baseball
has once again adopted a height of 15 inches.
Although the season will begin with
Mizuno 150 balls, and these will be used until those
on hand run out, the rest of the season will be
played with the Mizuno 200. This is expected to slow
down the offense, which batted 300 as a whole last
year, hitting an inordinate number of homeruns.
But it's not enough. I am of the
opinion that there are three main shortcomings in
Cuban pitching: lack of control, tactical thinking
and specialization. We need to do away with the
phrase, heard on thousands of occasions, "Everyone
here opens, relieves and closes."
The issue of records deserves its
own article. It could be assumed that with six more
games, the records established during the 90-game
season will be left in the dust and new ones will be
marked with an asterisk, as happened with the 61
homerun record set by Roger Maris 50 years ago.
However, with the pitchers mound
being three inches higher and the ball less
responsive, the likelihood of setting new records
this season appears remote. That is a shame, since
if there is one thing that excites the fans and
makes the game more attractive, it's seeing a record
broken, be it for homeruns or strike-outs.
No doubt, the 51st National Series
is getting underway with questions and high
expectations abounding. Like anything that is new.