1997-1998 Cuban National League
The league underwent many changes after the national team lost in the gold medal match of the previous summer's Intercontinental Cup against Japan. For instance, the champion Pinar del Río changed managers from former national team manager Jorge Fuentes to the new skipper of the national team Alfonso Urquiola – despite Fuentes having led the team to a championship.
For the first time in over three decades the Serie Nacional is the only competition in the National League. As the only league competition, the season length was increased to 90 games. There was also the reemergence of the league's two zonas; the Zona Occidental, consisting of Grupo A and Grupo B, and Zona Oriental, consisting of Grupo C and Grupo D. However, these grupos are simply nominal and have no effect of the schedule or playoff match-ups. The playoffs were also expanded to include the top four teams from each zona. In the best-of-five quarterfinals, the first and fourth place teams face off in one series while the second team plays against the third place team in the other series. The best-of-seven semifinals are between the quarterfinal winners, with the best-of-seven finals following the semifinal round. Another format change involved the introduction of a mid-season All-Star Game held in early March.
Santiago de Cuba was the top team in the Serie Nacional and the number one seed in the Zona Oriental, with the other seeds being Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila, both tied atop Grupo C, and Guantánamo. The seeds in the Zona Occidental were Pinar del Río, La Habana, Metropolitanos, and Industriales. Both perennial cellar-dwellers, Guantánamo and Ciego de Ávila, were promptly swept in three games by Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey respectivly. Both higher seeds in the Zona Occidental – Pinar del Río and La Habana – won their series. Both semifinals went the full seven games, with both zona's number one teams making the finals, where Pinar del Río defeated Santiago de Cuba, 4 to 1.
Pitcher José Ibar of La Habana has perhaps the finest season in league history. The righthander wins a record 20 games while pitching in 196.1 innings pitched and striking out 189 opposing batters – both aluminum bat era records. He also leads the league with a 1.51 earned run average by giving up only 33 earned runs. Ibar, with only 2 losses, ties with Pinar del Río's 10 – 1 pitcher Ismael Cortina for the league's best winning percentage at .909.
Villa Clara's Óscar Machado sets a new runs batted in record with 87 RBI; he also strikes out 73 times, the highest total in nearly 25 years and the league record during the aluminum bat era. Carlos Alberto Yánes of Isla de la Juventud gives up an all-time record 204 base hits, while starting an era record 25 games. Industriales' Maique Quintero walks 69 batters, another era record.
The Metropolitanos' newcomer outfielder Yasser Gómez makes a smashing début rapping out a rookie record 112 hits causing him to be named the Rookie of the Year (Novatos del Año). Gómez's total would be surpassed four years later by Kendry Morales.
- Bold indicates Zona champion; Italics indicates Serie Nacional champion
|Grupo A||Grupo B|
|Pinar del Río||90||56||34||0.622||-.-||La Habana||90||54||36||0.600||-.-|
|Isla de la Juventud||90||46||44||0.511||10.0||Cienfuegos||90||27||63||0.300||27.0|
|Grupo C||Grupo D|
|Camagüey||90||57||33||0.633||-.-||Santiago de Cuba||89||61||28||0.685||-.-|
|Ciego de Ávila||90||57||33||0.633||-.-||Guantánamo||90||52||38||0.578||9.5|
|OCC1||Pinar del Río||3|
|OCC1||Pinar del Río||4|
|OCC1||Pinar del Río||4|
|OTE1||Santiago de Cuba||1|
|OTE1||Santiago de Cuba||3|
|OTE1||Santiago de Cuba||4|
|OTE3||Ciego de Ávila||0|
The thirteenth Juego de las Estrellas (All-Star Game) was held at Ciego de Ávila in Ciego de Ávila, Ciego de Ávila (Serie Nacional)|Ciego de Ávila on March 8, 1998. In the game, Oriente defeated Occidentales by a score of 5 to 2. Oriente had 6 hits to Occidentales's 5, while the errors were 3 to 2 in favor of Oriente. The winning pitcher was Oscar Gil and the losing pitcher was Adrian Hernández.
- Bold indicates either wooden bat record or aluminum bat record (1976-1977 to 1998-1999), Italics indicate Serie Nacional record
|Batting Average||Roberquis Videaux||Guantánamo||.393||110 hits in 280 at-bats|
|Runs Scored||Óscar Machado||Villa Clara||65|
|Base Hits||Reemberto Rosell||Cienfuegos||132|
|Triples||Danel Castro||Las Tunas||11|
|Home Runs||Óscar Machado||Villa Clara||24|
|Runs Batted In||Óscar Machado||Villa Clara||87|
|Intentional Base-on-Balls||Luis E. Rodríguez||Holguín||15|
|Hit-by-Pitch||Reutilio Hurtado||Santiago de Cuba||18|
|Strikeouts||Óscar Machado||Villa Clara||73|
|Sacrifice Hit||Wilber de Armas||Metropolitanos||18|
|Sacrifice Fly||Michel Perdomo||Villa Clara||9|
|Stolen Bases||Enrique Díaz||Metropolitanos||38|
|Wins||José Ibar||La Habana||20|
|Win-Loss Percentage||José Ibar
Pinar del Río
|0.909||20 - 2, Leader with most wins|
10 - 1
|Earned Run Average||José Ibar||La Habana||1.51||33 ER in 196.1 IP|
|Innings Pitched||José Ibar||La Habana||196.1|
|Games Pitched||Raúl Reyes||Camagüey||35|
|Games Started||Carlos A. Yánes||Isla de la Juventud||25|
|Games Relieved||Raúl Reyes||Camagüey||35|
|Complete Games||Giorge Díaz||Guantánamo||16|
|Hits Allowed||Carlos A. Yánes||Isla de la Juventud||204|
|Strikeouts||José Ibar||La Habana||189|
|Intentional Base-on-Balls||Joel Monzón||Matanzas||9|
|Hit Batters||Eliecer Montes de Oca||Villa Clara||22|
The Most Valuable Player (Jugadores más Valiosos) was Oscar Machado a outfielder with Villa Clara. The Most Valuable Pitcher (Lanzadores más Valiosos) was José Ibar of La Habana. Yasser Richard Gómez of Industriales was the Series' Rookie of the Year (Novatos del Año).
- (March 17, 2004). "Cronología: 1998 (Spanish)". Radiococo. Radiococo. Retrieved October 29, 2006.
- (March 22, 2004). "Tabla de Posiciones de la XXXVII serie 1998 (Spanish)". Radiococo. Radiococo. Retrieved October 29, 2006.
- (November 18, 2005). "Guía Digital 2005-06". Guía Oficial de Béisbol 2005 (Digital). Instituto Nacional de Deportes, Educación Física y Recreación. Retrieved October 29, 2006.
- Peter C. Bjarkman. A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864–2006. : McFarland, 2007. ISBN 0786428295