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Reading Room: The story of Jose Abreu's defection

Plus: Robin Ventura gets rave reviews for bullpen management, a Dayan Viciedo rerun, and more

David Banks

When Jose Abreu arrived in Chicago for his introductory press conference last year, we had little idea how it was made possible. Abreu wasn't willing to disclose any details of his defection, and that included personal items tied to that process. He didn't even divulge information gained from routine or polite questions, like about his immediate relatives.

Over the last year, the family photo developed as his parents made it to the United States, and saw him play for the first time at the All-Star Game in Minneapolis. But we still didn't know much about his journey.

Thanks to the Chicago Tribune's Jared Hopkins, now we do.

Hopkins reported the hell out of the story of Abreu's defection. I'd recommend reading the whole article, which provides context about an increasingly process for Cuban ballplayers (as they sign for more and more money, more and more people want to get paid along the way).

The bare-bones account:

  • Abreu was taken from Cuba on a small boat that nearly got swept away from the wake created by two huge ships.
  • It seems like Abreu escaped on his first try, unlike Yasiel Puig (four failed attempts) and Jose Fernandez (three).
  • He landed and established residency in Haiti, then went to the Dominican Republic for three months to prepare for showcases and the business side of baseball.
  • His parents and sister live with him in Miami.
  • Abreu has not said he paid smugglers to move him out of Cuba, although one of his agents was linked to smugglers in a 2012 civil court case.

But yeah, read the whole thing to get an idea of what Abreu had to go through, and how he's luckier than others. And hell, set aside your whole Saturday morning, because some links below are worth your time, too.

Christian Marrero Reading Room

We saw this over the last two months, Rick Hahn told us about it, and the numbers back it up -- Robin Ventura basically did the best he could with a weak hand of relievers, adding and subtracting from their responsibilities as they proved themselves (un)worthy. A sample:

Ronald Belisario was the highest paid reliever on the White Sox staff, and he started the season out well enough as a valuable pitcher for Ventura. He began to struggle in June and subsequently saw his usage in high-leverage situations decrease. Ventura didn’t seem to be fazed by Belisario’s price tag or veteran track record in essentially demoting him from that high-leverage work.

Correspondingly, the average leverage of Putnam and Petricka increased as the year went on and they proved themselves at the major-league level. Ventura wasn’t afraid to use Putnam or Petricka, neither of whom had more than 20 MLB innings prior to 2014, in high-leverage situations.

Todd Steverson talked to reporters on a conference call, and it seems that most of the discussion centered on Abreu and Dayan Viciedo. They're good answers, albeit nothing you wouldn't expect. In fact, he said similar things about Viciedo in January.

Ken Arneson is a baseball blogger from way back (he ran the Baseball Toaster site), and this post on his personal blog made the rounds. Of the 10 thoughts, several of them are tied to the technology behind sabermetric understanding, and he wonders if the nature of SQL databases leads us to underestimate the importance of order in baseball events.

Late last month, the New York Daily News reported that Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg has had discussions about moving the team to Montreal. It's not something to take all that seriously -- the columnist has a history of being Bud Selig's mouthpiece -- but it's getting people in Montreal talking, and apparently there's a firmer idea of an ownership group than before. I was just in Montreal on Tuesday for the Blackhawks game, and this is still an idea I like.

Matt Eddy compiled the list of minor-league free agents, and among the White Sox's group is Matt Zaleski, who has pitched in 316 games in the farm system since 2004, which means he predates our entire blogging lives. Also, it's possible this is the last Christian Marrero Reading Room we'll ever have.