venezuela

Venezuela has long been a source of promising, young Major League talent. MLB teams have set up scouting networks, sent players to private facilities and participated in the Venezuelan Winter and Summer Leagues. In fact, in the early 1990s, over 20 MLB teams had a significant presence there.

Unfortunately, Venezuela also has some pretty ugly issues over the years. The country has struggled with large homicide rates, political turmoil, cases of kidnapping/ransom and much more.

Back in May, for example, the Seattle Mariners decided that they’d had enough and vacated their baseball academy in Venezuela. That came after a rash of teams leaving, and left a particularly anemic Venezuela Summer League, led by just four MLB clubs – Cubs, Tigers, Phillies and Rays. The league was generally for youngsters who’d just signed and were starting their professional career.

According to Baseball America, however, the Chicago Cubs are now also pulling out of the VSL, and that was apparently the final straw for the league. With just three teams remaining, there was no longer a point in continuing.



To be clear, the VSL is shutting down for 2016, but no one’s really sure what’s going to happen beyond that. As Ben Badler writes, he’s not sure if teams intend on continuing the use of their academies and facilities, or if the teams are abandoning the country entirely. Some organizations (which, in particular, is vague) are planning on sending their players to the Dominican Republic to field an extra Dominican Summer League team (which may include the Cubs), but that won’t work for everyone. According to Badler, that would create many over-crowding/logistical issues. The Tigers, for another example, are taking their most talented/experienced players from the VSL and are sending them to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, stateside.

It is unclear what the Cubs are going to do, but we might hear about it soon. The last time anyone at BN discussed this issue, it was Luke back in June, and, unfortunately, he nailed it right on the head:

Hopefully the situation in Venezuela improves over the next year to the point that the Cubs’ potential advantage will be fairly small, but I do not think that is likely. A more likely scenario would have one of the four remaining academies closing, the Venezuelan Summer League shutting down, and possibly even the Cubs joining the vast majority of teams in pulling out of the country rather than place their employees at too great a risk. It really is getting that bad.

Sounds like the “one team” was the Cubs, and from there the league folded.



It is, of course, a bummer for the MLB teams that hoped to acquire more talent, but don’t lose sight of the impact on the players, themselves. One team official, Badler relays, explained that it was important to maintain facilities and leagues in Venezuela, so that the very young players don’t have to make their professional debut far away from home. For many of them, playing professional baseball has been their entire life’s goal, and it might have just gotten a whole lot harder to contend. It’s an unfortunate occurrence – especially in an era that (according to scouts) is loaded with more talent than ever before, but it is life.

With any luck, the country will become much safer over the next few years, and maybe the VSL can reopen in the long-run, but for now, the door is shut.




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