More on the Astros leaving Venezuela

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.

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14 years ago

In the past three or four year other MLB teams (e.g. Red Sox, Padres, Indians) have pulled out of Venezuela so focusing on only the Astros does not give the broader perspective of what may be happening.  From my understanding this was due to the political issues in the country as well as the risk factors mentioned in these post. 

However I also suspect that the increased flow of talent from Japan specifically as well as Korea and Taiwan are also having an impact on decisions.  For example, the Red Sox have signed three pitchers from Japan in the last two years (pulled out of Venezuela in 2006) and are in on several others as pre-DiceK the Sox significantly increased their efforts to scout Asia.  Coincidence – I think not.

I suspect that if MLB quality talent wasn’t available elsewhere that more team would find a way to deal with some of the issues in Venezuela.  However with equivalent talents pools elsewhere the cost/benefit of being is the #2 talent pool in Latin America is current weighted more on the cost side than the potential benefit side.

Mark R
14 years ago

That’s Dutch, Craig. VON Awesome would be German, in which case I’d be wondering why a German knows so much about a South American country.