When people mention the Pittsburgh Pirates, you assume that nothing good can follow. But there are exceptions to that rule, at least if you believe Time magazine. Two weeks ago Time not only said the Pirates are doing something right, they also said the organization is an example to be followed.
It’s no secret that MLB spends a lot of money looking for fresh talent overseas. Many of the greatest players in the game today and in the past are products of that search. MLB has harvested the fertile fields of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Curacao (just to name a few) to give us players like Big Papi, Johan Santana and Andruw Jones. That is not going to stop.
But Time raises the alarmist cry, decrying the conditions in the DR and castigating teams for not providing the same level of living standards the writer claims exist for young players in the US. At the same time, the article gets a little schizophrenic, insinuating that the DR will go the way of PR if baseball decides to treat them the same way it now deals with the territory. The article claims, “After the U.S. commonwealth became subject to the draft in the (sic) 1989, the
number of Puerto Rican signees remained flat, while those in the D.R.
What I read in that, though, is that despite Puerto Rican players now going through the draft, the number entering MLB each year stayed constant. If anything, that seems to imply that the system worked. Puerto Ricans still made it to the majors, they just followed a route that ensured they got their fair share. And if you can play, you’re going to get paid.
Look, it’s no secret that many kids see sports as a way out of a bad situation. That’s just as true in the US as it is in the DR. But do we crucify Nike for running basketball tournaments in the inner city where they can then get their hooks into promising young talent? Do you think Coach K runs a basketball camp each year out of the kindness of his heart? Both Nike and Krzyzewski realize that most of those kids are never going to make it, even at the collegiate level. And it’s not like they’re taking care of them when the inevitable happens and the dream of an NBA career shatters.
This is how sports operate. They offer the hope of a better future but that future is only available to a very select group. What happens in the DR is sad and most of these kids will never end up making it. But it’s even more sad that the government of the DR can’t provide basic services to its citizens and MLB is supposed to step in and fill the gap. At least baseball offers them a dream. That’s a lot more than the Pirates offer their fans.
Special thanks to L for the article