I got a pretty informed and insightful comment regarding the Astros bugging out of Venezuela and I thought I’d share it with the rest of the class. It’s from reader James Van Awesome (pretty sure that’s German), who is writing his undergraduate thesis on baseball in Venezuela. James writes:
In my opinion, the Astros’ operations in Venezuela have been in jeopardy at least since Andres Reiner’s resignation in early 2005. With Andres and Gerry Hunsicker gone, there was no one left to fight for Venezuela.
Like with anything there are multiple reasons for the shut down:
1. This is a cost cutting measure above all else. Drayton McLane is a very frugal owner. If, as it appears, the current higher-ups in the Astros organization do not deem an Academy in Venezuela an absolute necessity, then Uncle Drayton is going to cut it. Budget cuts have hampered the Astros’ Latin America efforts since their infancy, and McLane would cut this program in any economy, but the current climate certainly can’t help. See Ty Wigginton.
2. Personal safety truly is an enormous issue to consider in Venezuela. Crime rates are out of control and Caracas is currently the murder capital of the world. Venezuela is especially dangerous for Americans given recent political climates.
3. I suppose you can include the gibberish from the Astros’ official reasoning, but as Craig pointed out, what’s to stop them from holding kids too long other places?
I was surprised by this news even though I suppose I shouldn’t have been. The Astros think they can compete for talent in Venezuela without infrastructure onsite, and I hope for their sakes they are right. Venezuela is a hugely important market with three times the population of any of the other Latin American baseball playing countries. All I know is that if I was a young Venezuelan kid looking to sign with a Major League team, I would be more inclined to sign with one that has an Academy in my home country where I can train rather than one that wants to ship me overseas at age 17 (or I would want to sign with the team that is going to pay me top dollar, and since that will never be the Astros, how can they get away with cutting their Academy?). Am I wrong?
Sounds pretty right to me, James.