Dominicans have always been the king of Latin American baseball players in the United States. They have far outnumbered those from Venezuela. But the players from the South American nation have been making up for it by putting on a big display recently, one that's become part of baseball lore.
The 108th edition of the World Series features a record 22 Latinos with Venezuela and Dominicans leading the delegation, with nine players a piece. There was a record six Venezuelans on the Game 1 starting lineups Wednesday night and Saturday night it was eclipsed with seven starters.
“I think the World Series reflects the increasing presence of Latinos in baseball,” baseball historian Rob Ruck told Fox News Latino. “What we're seeing year after year is how much Latinos have become the heart of baseball proving what I think is the best talent and a lot of the games reverberant energy.”
“Venezuelans starring in the World Series should be no surprise. We've had many number of exceptional Venezuelan baseball players come on in the last decade and I think that in general Venezuelan baseball has really over the last 20 years become a much more significant part of the game.”
We all would have expected Dominican power hitters with the household names and track records of Alex Rodriguez (he did hit in the 2009 playoffs) and Robinson Cano to come up big in the Fall Classic's stage. But Venezuelans have recently been coming up huge. There was Marco Scutaro taking over the National League Championship Series and Pablo Sandoval becoming Señor Octubre.
They performed well along with Detroit's Anibal Sanchez, who shut down the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and let’s not forget Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Even rookie Avisail Garcia has made these recent October nights for the Venezuelans. Gregor Blanco has made us ask ourselves, Melky Who?
New York Yankees broadcaster Beto Villa told Fox News Latino he would have expected a three-homer night from Cabrera the slugger, not from Sandoval, who etched his name in baseball lore in Game 1, becoming the second Latino along with Albert Pujols to homer three times in a World Series game.
“What these young Venezuelans have done is something extraordinary. Each one of them has had an extraordinary performance, contributing so that their teams could be in the place they're in,” Villa said.
Scutaro, the NLCS MVP who came over from Colorado three days before the non-waivers trade deadline, has always been a good solid ballplayer over the course of his career but never really a star. So far in the postseason he is hitting .317, including .500 (14-for-28) in the NLCS. When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, Sandoval was a non-factor. The Kung Fu Panda, most likely the World Series MVP, has been the exact opposite during these playoffs hitting a franchise record 23 hits.
Dominicans have outnumbered Venezuelans and all other talent head-to-head in the history of America's Pastime. About 563 Dominicans have appeared in a Major League Baseball game compared to 286 Venezuelans. Venezuelans have started to bridge the gap closer this year. 91 were active during the 2012 regular season while the Dominican Republic had 128 peloteros. Both countries were neck and neck when it came down to players that made their debuts this season, as 21 Dominicans wore a major league uniform for the first time ever while 16 Venezolanos realized their dreams.
Villa said that eventually Venezuela can catch up to the quantity of baseball players the Dominican Republic has sent to the majors.
He pointed out that point out that what they lack in numbers they have made up for it by the talented players that they have in the majors and the rare feats Venezuelans accomplished during the 2012 regular season.
“Our quantity of baseball players has it great qualities. With Venezuela we already have a pitcher that threw a perfect game which the Dominican Republic hasn't achieved. We have a Triple Crown winner which the Dominican Republic hasn't accomplished. We've placed six players in the starting lineup of a World Series game which the Dominican Republic hasn't accomplished. So we've risen well. We're practically on par (in terms of talent level) but the only thing is that it's not in quantity.”
Baseball is a game of chances where the right bounce of the ball, the right broken bats have to go your way the way they've gone for San Francisco Giants in the playoffs. The same case can be made for the success that Venezuelans have enjoyed while their Dominicans counterparts have been looking for answers.
It might have been a different story with appearances from say an A-Rod, Cano, Pujols or Big Papi, but those Dominicans remaining in the playoffs aren't the same names we're used to hearing and the ones that are remain in the World Series, like the struggling closer Jose Valverde of the Tigers, have failed but then that's not diminishing what Venezuelans have accomplished.
Ruck, who in the past penned The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game and The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic and Raceball: How The Major Leagues Colonized The Black and Latin Game said that while Venezuelans had outshone Dominicans on the baseball diamond, it's very difficult to say that the role of Dominicans has been greatly diminished and “eclipsed” in the World Series.
“Give Venezuelans their due. But I think that it's pretty clear that Dominicans have been in the forefront in the last couple of decades. This is baseball. Even great hitters miss a lot more than they succeed,” Ruck said.
“And to have a down year for Rodriguez, Cano and Melky Cabrera and the other Dominicans who might have ended up being difference makers in the (World) Series, that's not a surprise. I mean that's just what happens in sports."
But he said things could change.
"Now if you see that in the next five years or if you can go back and point out that Venezuelans have outperformed Dominicans in the last five years in the World Series," he said. "Then it’s a different story. But I don't think you can. I mean, in 2009 when the Yankees won, A-Rod, Cano, Melky Cabrera were all part of that team."