When I visit U.S. Cellular Field for fun; and not business (i.e. seeing my Chicago White Sox as a ticketed fan,and not as a credentialed member of the media) one of my favorite places to stop is outside section 143 (pretty close to where Soxman and Batboy sit in 148) for a “Cuban Comet” sandwich.
It’s the tastiest new specialty food item at the Cell, and I’m sure you can figure out one (well, two actually) of the reasons it’s here- Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and rookie third baseman Dayan Viciedo.
The two Cuban infielder defectors are one of the main reasons the Sox have been on fire since Early June.
In today’s increasingly global economy, Major League Baseball franchises put more effort into investing in foreign countries than ever before. And if Che Guevara were alive today, his favorite baseball team might be the Chicago White Sox, who get around the U.S. government’s trade embargo on Cuba by signing defectors.
By Paul M. Banks
But doing business internationally requires investing time and currency into developing connections to scouts, agents, coaches and front office professionals. You don’t just dabble in the foreign market by picking up a lone player. You build a whole pipeline to the available talent commodities abroad. (Why aren’t they covering this on MLB Network’s “The Club”?)
The success of AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Alexei Ramirez has greatly increased the level of interest in the Sox in a land known for salsa parties, mojitos and shredded pork. Ramirez, the rookie record holder for grand slams, got off to a very slow start this season, hitting just .221 at the conclusion of April.
But he’s hit above .280 in every month since, including a scorching hot .386 for the month of July, (tu quieres el Fan Graphs? Que Bueno!). Now his season line reads .289 11 HR, 43 RBI.
And of course there’s Dayan Viciedo, the Sox prospect known as the “Cuban Babe Ruth.” He was an All-Star in Cuba’s top league at age 16, and scouts raved about his cannon-like arm and “light tower power.”
Although he is yet to draw a walk in his 71 MLB plate appearances, he is making the most of his time with the parent club thus far, hitting .310 with 3 HR, 7 RBI and a .831 OPS. He’s come out swinging and helped A LOT with infild depth- an important need with Mark Teahen still in rehab and a 43-year-old Omar Vizquel needing his days off every now and then.
Sure, Viciedo is a bit portly, but some believe he could be Paul Konerko’s replacement as full time White Sox 1b some day.
And the immediate success of Viciedo, along with the continued development of “The Cuban Missile” Alexei Ramirez, the Sox currently have an advantage in signing the next wave of Cuban prospects.
And that’s great news, because the last two times the Sox lit up victory cigars in the AL Central was ’05 and ’08. Each season, their roster boasted two Cuban nationals. So in 2010 “Viva la Revolucion!”
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguruFollow paulmbanks