Changes On The Horizon?

SANTIAGO, D.R.–As the 2008 Caribbean Series came to a close, the birth of the next one, to be held in Mexicali in 2009, might change . . . a lot.

1) Lacking players outside the Domincan Republic with big league experience, officials are considering moving the 2009 Series up to the end of January. This way, more players from Venezuela–Miguel Cabrera was out for this year’s Caribbean Series (again) to prepare for spring training–Mexico and Puerto Rico would certainly increase the competition level of the event. And with the starting date of the Series pushed up, more major league players might be more willing to play. Ï’m not sure why Mexican big leaguers refuse to play,"said Mazatlan general manager Chino Valdez. "Spring training, sure. But each player from each different country in this Series loves to play for the people they represent. That’s why I respect (Mexico shortstop) Alfredo Amezaga so much. He didn’t have to play in this Series–he’s a big leaguer. But he loves his country and wanted to see Mexico do well. And a guy like that could come out and go through the motions, but he didn’t. Amezaga played hard every day."Of the 33 players currently on 40-man rosters in the big leagues that played in this year’s Caribbean Series, 30 were from the Dominican.

2) Puerto Rico coming back to field a team in the Series would provide a huge boost. The only reason Licey, who lost the Dominican League finals to the Aguilas, was even here in Santiago was because Puerto Rico cancelled its season due to economic concerns. Caribbean Baseball Confederation commissioner Juan Francisco Puello said that Puerto Rico’s absence hurt the Series this year, despite the fact that it was held in the Dominican and the host country fielded two clubs.

3) Puello also intimated that a change in the agreement between the Federation and Major League Baseball was in order to allow more players from the big leagues to play without restrictions. For instance, Licey closer Carlos Marmol was limited to four Carribean Series innings by the Cubs. He finished with 3 2/3 innings pitched. "The biggest help we get from MLB is allowing the players to play," Puello said. Ït’s not the economic help they provide. And it’s better long term for Latin players." But several scouts disagreed, especially the way the timing is set up now–every player that is signed by an organization leaves to head back to the States for spring training by tomorrow (Feb. 9) at the latest. "You just see certain guys here, especially pitchers, just airing it out,"said one scout from an American League club. Ï understand wanting to play and win for your country, but a lot of those guys, Jose Capellan is definitely one of them, it’s just not smart. It doesn’t make sense for the organization or the player. Capellan isn’t the only one, but this game is about competing and having sucess in the big leagues over a long period of time–not winning the Caribbean Series at any cost, even if it means your elbow or your shoulder.

4) Adding new countries is something Puello touched on during last year’s Series in Puerto Rico, but that seems like a long way away. Teams have to pay the Federation a ton of money to join; and before that they have to invest even more cash to improve their stadiums and general league infrastructure. Countries that have been considered to join the annual fray include Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama and Cuba; the latter of which was an original member of the Federation. Ïn all those cases, it’s up to them," Puello said.