Meanwhile in Yuma, Arizona— literally 2,500 miles from the Bronx but figuratively ten million miles away baseball-wise—an astonishing development occurred two weeks ago that has negative implications for young, aspiring American baseball players for decades to come.
The Yuma Scorpions, a team in the Golden Baseball League, signed an affiliation agreement with the Colombian Professional Baseball League that resulted in the abrupt termination of the careers of many American hopefuls.
Golden Baseball League Chief Executive Officer Dave Kaval, [email him] a Stanford MBA, said the league still owns the Scorpions. Kaval described the Colombian league transaction as a standard affiliation agreement, on par with the ones major league teams have with their minor league affiliates.
According to Kaval, it's the first affiliation contract with a foreign league for any American baseball team at any level.
Under the contract's terms, promotions, concessions and other front-office business remain with the Scorpions and its president Mike Marshall.
But—importantly—the Colombian league handles on-the-field and player issues.
And, as the first matter of business, the Colombians fired the Scorpions' manager, the coaches, trainers, clubhouse attendants, ground crew, and all the American players—a total of about 50— and replaced them with their own personnel including two umpires.
Presto—Colombian players displace Americans.
After the finalizing the agreement and two days before the season began, Kaval offered this analysis:
"I think for Yuma, one, you get higher quality baseball, which is great; two, it's really a groundbreaking kind of thing for independent baseball. Yuma isn't an independent team. They play in an independent league against independent teams, but they are affiliated. So that's really good because it provides additional stability, higher quality of play, additional excitement with an international accent. It's really a cool thing." [Scorpions To Be Affiliated With Colombian Pro League, by Edward Carifio, Yuma Sun, May 20, 2009]
While I'm sure the transaction provides "additional stability"—more money from the wealthy Colombians—Kaval is on shaky ground when he claims that fans will be watching "higher quality baseball".
First, unlike the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Japan, Colombia does not have a rich history of players who have succeeded in the major leagues. I count a total of seven so far who made it to the bigs.
But no one can say with a straight face that Colombia is a fountain of great baseball talent. No one, that is, except Renteria or Cabrera who not so coincidentally own the Colombian Professional Baseball League.
Second, in a stroke of good fortune, ten former Scorpion players signed on with other Golden League teams. Scorpions' president Marshall, who also served as the field manager until the Colombians booted him, knew that the players (especially the less talented among them) would have a tough time relocating, but they managed it. [Ten Former Scorpions Sign With New Teams, by Edward Carifio, Yuma Sun, May 26, 2009]
Then, on opening night, the displaced American Scorpions, many now playing for the Saint George Roadrunners, hammered the Colombians 13-3. A day later the Roadrunners inflicted more of the same, beating the Scorpions 11-6. Through the season's first week, the Colombian Scorpions occupy last place with a 1-5 record.
Making the case that the current Colombian Scorpions are better players than the past American Scorpions, as Koval tried to do, is hard when the South American pitchers can't get anyone out.
What we face here is tough. The decision to import the Colombian players —and then fire the Americans—is, as they say in the Mafia, "just business".
Influencing an individual, low-margin baseball franchise owner to hold on to his investment for the possible long-range benefit of a few American players instead of selling it profitably to a foreign investor is a tall order.
Expect to see more foreign money coming onto the American sports scene. The Cleveland Cavaliers recently announced that it formed a partnership with New World Development Co, a Hong Kong-based conglomerate with more than $21 billion in assets. [Cleveland Cavaliers New Investment Partner Brings Plenty of Cash to the Table, by Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 25, 2009]
This news is especially bad for African Americans who have long dominated basketball. The multibillion-dollar Hong Kong backers probably would rather see Asians on the court than blacks. And Asia has plenty of seven-footers.
Only tougher immigration visa laws can protect American athletes.
In anticipation of the Scorpions' sale (and possibly with Renteria's assistance), the Colombians had their visas already arranged. They had only to board the Arizona-bound plane. No visas would have meant no entry.
Look how easy it for foreign-born players not only to replace Americans on the ball diamond, but also to become a permanent part of our national fabric.
All overseas investors have to do is find an unaffiliated minor league team, ante up, and send twenty-five players on the next flight.
Since they're all "baseball players" no one questions whether they should qualify for visas. Everything is on the up and up—at least until the players overstay.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.