CUBA, COOL PAPA BELL AND THE FRUSTRATION OF CLOSED SOCIETIES
Since I was quite young, I read everything I could find about James "Cool Papa" Bell. The Bell Legend is that he was so fast (Due credit here to the great Buck O'Neill) he could "Flip the light switch in his hotel room and be in bed before the light actually went out." Without question, Bell could play the outfield with great competence and virtually always hit over .300. But the Negro League Stats are difficult to find and authenticate. The opposition is difficult to evaluate. There is little question the NL stars were as good many MLB players. There can really be no doubt that the number one pitcher on most NL teams could have pitched in the big leagues. But, in their primes, they didn't. As a consequence, we don't know how good Bell and other NL standouts really were. It is frustrating. With modern stat conversion, we can approximate how Lou Gehrig compared to Adrian Gonzales. We have context. With the NL, we don't.
That brings us to modern Cuba. Long a hotbed for some of the best players in the world, Cuba does not share its stars with the rest of the world (sometimes they break loose and we get to see them). The shelf life a top end player is 8 or 9 years, less for most pitchers. The world had missed out on being able to appreciate the skill of Cuba's top end contributors. The U.S. should make an embargo exception for Baseball players and baseball diplomacy trips. Cuba should allow its top talent to play in MLB and, if they want, tax Hell out of the compensation. We would be able to tell how good some of those guys really are and some world class talent would not be wasted.
Yes, this is rather about the parochial topic of baseball but it's also a metaphor for the cost of any kind of apartheid. Everybody loses, not just the embargoed class.