Global Baseball

One man\’s year-long journey through the world of baseball

Changes Afoot in the VSL

The Venezuelan Summer League looks like it will receive somewhat of an overhaul this season, as new teams look to establish a stronger foothold in South America’s largest baseball hotbed.   Reports are conflicting on what this year’s VSL, set to begin in 10 days’ time, will look like.  Last year, the VSL was a 10-team league, with seven teams owning and operating their own squad attached to their team’s academies, and six other major league franchises splitting their players between three teams.

Last year’s split squads, the Orioles/White Sox, Tigers/Marlins, and Twins/Blue Jays, are being switched around.  In for sure are two newcomers to the VSL, the Cubs and Devil Rays.  Chicago’s  north-siders will split their VSL squad with the Twins this year, while the Devil Rays will run a split VSL team with the Reds.

As for the Orioles, White Sox, Marlins, and Blue Jays, it’s unclear at this point whether they will be getting out of Dodge altogether, or forming a second division in the VSL with full squads.   If the latter is the case, the two divisions will not play against each other as schedules for the existing division have already been set.

New developments in the Venezuelan academies are interesting to keep an eye on as the country’s political and economic links to the United States become more tenuous.  Venezuela is already considered one of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere for foreigners to visit, and from my brief time there, I can say that the reputation is well earned.  Venezuela does not yet appear on the US Government’s travel warning list, and its ‘s vast oil reserves make an embargo of the emerging socialist nation unlikely.

For now, it is interesting that certain clubs are ratcheting up their involvement in Venezuelan scouting, even if others are backing off.  If Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez makes good on hints that he will begin instituting a system where the government negotiates players’ contracts with MLB clubs (a major long shot), all hell will break loose.

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May 5, 2007 Posted by | Venezuela, VSL | 1 Comment

4 VSL-ers Suspended for Doping

I first got the tip that MLB had handed down some more steroid suspensions from an article in the print edition of the Listin Diario. For some reason the Diario prints a couple of articles each day that don’t make it into the online version. The MLB.com press release has a little more info anyways, though, and carries the benefit of being in English. This is an interesting development. I must confess, I completely missed the statement Bud Selig issued to the congressional hearing on steroid use last year. In that statement, Selig announced his plan to expand his steroid testing program to the Venezuelan Summer League, and he’s delivered.

The 4 VSL players, Carlos Fajardo (Reds), Alfredo Martin (Twins), Jonathan Requena (Twins), and Richard Rodriguez (Blue Jays), will serve 50-game suspensions.
While there are some depressing issues involved here – Latin-American players are under particularly strong pressure to make it to the major leagues – summer league testing is good news. In the past, major league baseball has been disturbingly hands-off where clubs’ Latin-American operations are concerned. Any increased involvement is a positive.  I’m not sure why they would invest the money in expanding testing to include the VSL and not the DSL, but you have to assume that will be coming in the next couple of years.

July 25, 2006 Posted by | Steroids, VSL | Leave a comment