The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on Peter Bjarkman, a former university professor turned historian/Lord Haw Haw of Cuban baseball. Bjarkman, as Matt Welch pointed out way back in 2000, loathes the commercialization of American baseball, bellyaches about supposedly inflated salaries, and romanticizes the game of the 1950s, when the MLB wasn’t fully integrated and players were routinely ripped off by management. But stadiums weren’t named after private telecom companies either.
"It's a wonderful, alternative baseball universe," he says, citing the lack of commercialism, free agency and high ticket prices that mark the modern U.S. game. He says its pastoral nature recalls American baseball of the 1950s, when he was growing up following the Brooklyn Dodgers.
And the only place one can find such authenticity, as Playboy magazine pointed out last year, is in the fetid Castro dictatorship, where players are locked in their hotels during tournaments abroad to prevent them from leaving for the MLB. So Bjarkman, his critics say, has become the regime’s chief baseball propagandist, which explains why he, unlike other Americans, has almost unlimited access to Cuba’s top baseball talent. The Journal asked Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, a Yale literature professor and historian of Cuban baseball, for a comment on Bjarkman: "Bjarkman echoes government propaganda, so I have nothing to say about him.”
So how does he echo government propaganda? The Journal offers a few examples:
Cuban officials weren't pleased when [his book on Cuban baseball] came out in 1999.The reason: It contained two photographs of defectors, including Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who had become a star pitcher for the New York Yankees. Defectors didn't get official mention in Cuba. "We never would've put those in there if the publisher hadn't requested it," says Mr. Bjarkman...
After Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman defected last year to sign with the Cincinnati Reds for $30 million, Mr. Bjarkman wrote about the pitcher's inconsistency and limited pitch variety and said that Mr. Chapman "had considerable trouble even qualifying" for the national team. Before the player defected, Mr. Bjarkman had described him in his online column as a "stellar flamethrower" and a "phenom" likely to be the No. 2 starter on the Cuban team.
"Cubans who read his column are fed up with it," says Roberto Moralejo, a 30-year-old civil engineer in Miami who left Cuba 11 years ago.