Weekend Sports Reads: Cuban Baseball and Free Agency

On Cuban player smuggling, the NFL Network and free agency.

Start your weekend off right with some of the best reads from around the sports world:

Leonys Martin Lawsuit Details Allegations of Cuban Baseball Player Smuggling
By Jeff Passan, Charles Robinson, and Rand Getlin, Yahoo Sports

A civil lawsuit by Texas Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin highlights the turmoil Cuban baseball players have to endure to play in the U.S. Martin was allegedly held captive in Mexico with other baseball players, a practice not uncommon as smugglers look to make a buck off of athletes for whom the rewards of defection outweigh the enormous risks. As Passan, Robinson, and Getlin write, this latest case might just force MLB to address an issue it's known about for years. It's not exactly a secret the lengths to which Cuban and other Hispanic players go to come to the U.S. Remember the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona? And not knowing just how old is El Duque was a long-running joke among baseball fans. It's no laughing matter to those whose path to the American Dream goes through human traffickers.

Together We Make Football
By Bryan Curtis, Grantland

Curtis analyzes how the NFL Network, now in its 10th year, has affected football, approaching the issue from both sportswriter and fan perspectives. With the goal of "eventizing" the game, the network has indeed made a spectacle of everything surrounding the NFL, from midweek news conferences to the combine. It works because it's built on inside access, but should also raise questions about the credibility of a league-created network whose sole goal is to basically cover itself. Curtis also points out that we have the NFL Network to thank for "Thursday Night Football," hated by most players and many fans, yet seems here to stay. It's football's world, and we're all just living in it.

Bang for Your Buck
By Neil deMause, Sports on Earth

Are high-priced free agents actually worth the money? That's the question deMause seeks to answer, with the help of some advanced metrics. But as he notes, the idea of "worth" itself is up for debate, as it is every year in the infuriating Most Valuable Player debate. Sure, WAR and VORP are good measures, but the whole picture is more complex than that, when you also consider both on-the-field intangibles and off-the field effects on revenue and audience building. DeMause arrives at a conclusion that most of us already assume to be true: all players are overpaid, and it's a little troubling just how little method there seem to be to baseball's salary madness.

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