Panama Wins the Series del Caribe

Panama has not won the Series del Caribe since 1950, but that is not their fault. When the Series del Caribe was first formed in 1949 they were one of the original teams who participated in the event. That ended in 1960 after Fidel Castro over ran Cuba and for ten years there was no Series del Caribe. It restarted in 1970 but Panama was not included in that new group. It was felt they were not talented enough.

The talent level for the Series del Caribe has dwindled down to the AA level at best. In years past you would have Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays play in the event. It was always to earn a few extra bucks. Now the ballplayers make too much in the major leagues to take a risk of injury, jeopardizing million dollar contracts. The talent in Panama has caught up to the Series del Caribe, or more accurately the Series del Caribe talent level has dropped down to the level in Panama.

Panama was only allowed to play because the original host Venezuela continues to struggle with upheavals and it was felt to hold the tournament there was not safe. It was the second year in a row the tournament was to be held in Venezuela and the second year it had to be moved because of violence. Last year Mexico agreed to host it at the last minute. They did want to bail out the Series del Caribe again. So it was either Panama or cancel the series. And to make it attractive to Panama they agreed to let the champions of the Panama League participate in the series.

Panama qualified for the championship by winning their pool. Cuba, despite their lack of offense won the tie breaker in their pool to face Panama in the championship. Cuba was only recently allowed to return to the Series del Caribe, but that was when they could produce name players that could attract a fan base. Most of those name players are in the major leagues now and the Cuban team is just a shell of its former self.

That shell failed to generate any offense again as Panama won the championship game 3-1. Harold Arauz silenced the Cuban bats for one run in five innings. Panama’s staunch bullpen then went to work to shut out the Cuban bats for the final four innings, Manny Corpas pitching the final inning for his fourth save of the tournament.

Panama got all the runs they needed in the first inning on a Allan Cordoba and Elmer Reyes RBI singles to take a 2-0 lead. Cuba showed a little life in the fifth on a Alfredo Despaigne double and a Carlos Benitez single to cut the lead to 2-1. An Elmer Reyes throwing error put runners on second and third with two outs but Daniel Castro popped out to first to end the threat. Cuba got only two hits after that, one of them a bunt single.

Panama scored another run in the seventh on a Rodrigo Vigil RBI single. With a runner on second and two out in the ninth Alfredo Despaigne came up to represent the tying run. He flied out to center to end the game.

Myworld will put together our all Caribe team later tonight.

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