Two Top Cuban Players Have Left the Room

Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes.com reported that Cuba's top pitcher in the 2006 Bseball Classic and the 1997 Rookie of the Year have fled Cuba and are now in an undisclosed place. They are attempting to reach the Dominican Republic in order to find a career in the Major Leagues.

The information came from players' relatives and friends in Cuba who confirmed their departure, but would not disclose details of the planned route.

RHP Yadel Marti and outfielder Yasser Gomez were kicked off the Industriales de la Habana team before the current National Series tournament "for having committed a serious infraction," according to the Cuban baseball authorities.

The pair were apparently caught, along with others, attempting to leave the island illegally. They have since been banned from Cuban baseball.

A Latin American talent scout who has seen them both play at international events told ESPNdeportes.com that they are both ready to play in the majors.

Marti, 29, went 1-0 with two saves and led the 2006 tournament in ERA (0.00), not allowing a run in 12.2 innings. He was elected to the WBC All Star team. He won 67 games with a 3.23 ERA during his career with Industriales but participated in a limited capacity last season (4-2, 3.12 ERA in 15 games).

Gomez, 28, is a swift outfielder who was Rookie of the Year in 1997 and hit .394 with 51 runs scored and 41 RBIs in 66 games in the most recent National Series tournament. He has a .331 career average with Industriales.

He was left off the Cuban National Team in the 2006 WBC and the 2008 Olympic Games for undisclosed reasons.

It is not known if the Dodgers would be interested in either of the players should they reach the United States.

Baseball Network Getting Ready
USA TODAY Baseball reports that the biggest challenge for the new MLB Network could be bridging the gap until spring training begins in mid-February.

The network, which opens in January, will use it's massive archive as well as producing new material and there will be theme days -- such as four-homer games by one player and games in which pitchers recorded 18 or more strikeouts -- and a show called Prime 9 that will count down the top nine in various categories.

When spring training starts they will feature a "30 Teams in 30 Days" series that will highlight each team from its camp and game coverage from the World Baseball Classic.

The network will not broadcast spring training games and during the season will feature only a Thursday night game that will include a network announcing crew calling the game off a local feed. There are no plans to televise or produce other games.

Interest in Jones Deal Wains
MLB.com reports that although the Mets and Dodgers were involved in superficial discussions involving outfielder Andrew Jones earlier this month, one close to the situation said "nothing is ongoing, and nothing is going to happen."

The Los Angeles Times reported that the talks apparently went nowhere after the Mets asked the Dodgers to take second baseman Luis Castillo in a swap of bad contracts.

MLB.com said that the Dodgers likely would have been required to pay most of the remaining $22.1 million on Jones' $36.2 million, four-year contract. The Mets owe Castillo $18 million for three more seaso

At the present time, it looks like both clubs are stuck with their own mistakes.

No-News Story of the Day
Astros owner Drayton McLane told the Houston Chronicle he would be in favor of Major League Baseball adopting a salary cap. McLane said that the Astros' payroll next year will still rise to over $100 million, thanks to Carlos Lee's big jump in salary and a handful of players receiving raises in arbitration.

OF COURSE he wants a salary cap, every baseball owner wants a salary cap and have wanted one for years. But only since the Yankees spent nearly a half-billion to sign three players has any of the owners even mentioned one.

Baseball is the only one of the four major U.S. sports leagues - NBA, NFL and NHL being the others - to operate without a salary cap, which sets a limit on how much teams can spend on players' salaries in one season.

But baseball is also the only one of the four major U.S. sports leagues that has a Player's Union as strong as the one the players enjoy. They might be in favor of a cap if the major league owners would agree to, say, increasing major league rosters to 30 players or raising the minimum salaries to $1,000,000.

That possibility, or one like it, can be summed up in three words. "Ain't Gonna' Happen."

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