by Steven Cano
The upcoming MLB season is looking to be one of the most competitive – no longer are there just one or two dominant teams. The playing field has been evened out and you can safely say the road to the championship is a fairly open one.
Many teams have improved their rosters through free agent signings, both domestic (Albert Pujols to Angels and Prince Fielder to Tigers), international (Yu Darvish to Rangers), and through savvy trades (kudos to Brian Cashman for getting Michael Piñeda from the Mariners). Unlike last season, the Yankees and Phillies are not the clear favorites to face each other in the World Series.
Although there are many stories to follow this season, the one that intrigues me the most is the one surrounding Yoenis Céspedes. For those who are not aware of Mr. Céspedes, he is a rookie phenom out of Granma, Cuba. Every year since 2003 he has finished top three in just about every offensive category in Cuba. He even has greatness in his blood – his mother Estela Milanés was a world class pitcher for Cuba’s National Softball team who appeared in the 2000 summer Olympics. Yoenis has been predicted to be a 20 homers/20 steal type player and has signed a 6 year deal with the Oakland A’s after he recently defected from his native Cuba.
Many sports analysts had predicted he would sign with the Miami Marlins, due to their very strong Cuban community, their Latino manager (the always colorful and entertaining Ozzie Guillen) – not to mention a number of Latino players on the Marlins such as Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes. Instead, he opted to go to Oakland A’s, a team that struggles to put fans in the stands, plays in the major league equivalent of a slum stadium, and really does not have much of a Latino community around it. So now, predictably, many of these same sports analysts that praised his playing ability, are now predicting he will fail in Oakland.
I can understand where these writers are coming from. Yes, perhaps the comfort level for Yoenis would have been optimal in Miami and yes having a manager like Guillen along with teammates that speak Spanish might have made things easier for him. However Yoenis is not the first Latino who has had to move to a new and unfamiliar area (Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh comes to mind), he is not the first player to sit in a locker room and not understand his teammates (although the A’s also signed Bartolo Colon, who may take Yoenis under his wing). I look forward to this young man going out and proving people wrong, there is great strength in Yoenis. I truly believe he will overcome any hardships and will go on to have a long and successful major league career. So, although I am a big Mets fan, I will be cheering for this kid on the West Coast.
By Guest Contributor, Steven Cano.