IT WASN'T a good week for the World Baseball Classic. On Friday word got out that AL MVP Alex Rodriguez will skip the March event. At least it was Rodriguez's choice. Three days earlier Cuba was told by the U.S. Treasury Department that it couldn't compete in the Classic, to be held in Japan, Puerto Rico and the U.S., because of the American embargo on the Communist country.
So much for baseball diplomacy. Cuba, which has won three of the last four Olympic golds, has sent other teams to the U.S.; last summer a soccer team played in Seattle and Foxborough, Mass. What probably bothered the Treasury Department is that the WBC players would have received money for competing. (Each team in the Classic will get a share of a revenue pool.)
So Cuban stars like pitcher Adiel Palma and second baseman Yuliesky Gourriel won't showcase their talents for U.S. fans. (Fidel Castro had bragged that Team Cuba had players better than major leaguers Jose Contreras and Livan Hernandez.) MLB could turn to Nicaragua or Colombia as a replacement, but first it will lobby to have Cuba reinstated. Said an MLB official, "We will continue to work within appropriate channels in an attempt to address the government's concerns."
AL BEHRMAN/AP (GOURRIEL)
OUT! Gourriel (right, sliding) is one star U.S. fans won't see.