2016-2017 Cuban National League
The 2016-2017 Cuban season saw a few chances in the formatting. The second phase was reduced from eight teams to six, while the schedule was moved up a few months to coincide more closely with the other winter leagues. Given recent Cuban entries in the Caribbean Series, this would enable the current champion to play in the Series rather than the prior year's champion. Also, with some Cuban stars like Alfredo Despaigne playing in Japan with Cuban permission, they would now be available for a full Nippon Pro Baseball campaign rather than joining part-way into the year. Perhaps more NPB teams would be interested in signing Cuban players if they were available for a full season as well. Defections continued to plague the league, including 2015-2016 MVP José Adolis García.
Two-time defending champion Ciego de Ávila made the finals again, but was swept aside by Granma, which won their first title. Granma had stunned Matanzas in the semifinals. Matanzas had gone an astounding 42-3 in the first half and also won the second half (with a 28-17 mark) but fell in 7 games to Granma. In game 7, a duel of aces, Lázaro Blanco easily outdueled Yoannis Yera in a 12-2 romp.
The finals began on January 18 at Estadio José Ramón Cepero. In the second, Ciego de Ávila C Osvaldo Vázquez opened the scoring with a solo shot off Yoalkis Cruz and his teammates tacked on a couple more runs that inning, but Cruz, Leandro Martínez and Miguel Lahera allowed nothing further. Meanwhile, veteran Vladimir García was shutting down Granma with only one hit in the first six innings. In the 8th, though, he tired, allowing a RBI double by SS Yordan Manduley to score PH Osvaldo Abreu. Raidel Martínez relieved García and he walked 3B Yunior Paumier, fanned DH Despaigne and allowed a single to LF Dennis Laza. 2B Carlos Benitez hit a two-run single to tie it. In the 10th, Despaigne hit a home run for revenge off Raidel Martínez in what would be the winning blow.
In game 2, Granma's Manduley had a one-out double in the first off Bladimir Baños and Paumier singled him in but Baños retired 16 of the next 18. He was matched well by Noelvis Entenza, who threw 7 shutout innings. In the 6th, Granma again got a big two-run single from Benitez, scoring Despaigne and Laza. Entenza finally allowed two unearned runs in the 8th thanks to a Manduley error but Lahera wrapped it up to send Ciego de Ávila to a 2-0 hole at home.
After two close wins on the road, Granma dominated in game at Estadio Mártires de Barbados, their home turf. Blanco, Yanier González and Juan Olivera combined to allow one run while Granma scored five in the first off Dachel Duquesne (1 H, 2 BB, 1 HB, 4 R, 0 outs) and Raidel Martínez en route to a 10-1 win; a grand slam by 1B Guillermo Avilés off Martínez was the big blow. CF Roel Santos had 3 hits in the romp.
In game 4, Granma capped their first title in a closer contest in front of 13,000 fans. The Tigres got on the board in the 4th off Leandro Martínez as Vázquez singled in DH Donald Duarte and RF Yoelvis Fiss scored on a sacrifice fly by 2B off RP César García. García would pitch four shutout frames after that, though, and Lahera again excelled, with two scoreless innings for the win. Granma scored their first run in the bottom of the 4th off Erly Casanova and José Angel García on walks to Paumier, Despaigne and Laza (by Casanova) and by Benitez (off García). José Angel García (Cuba's All-time save leader) pitched shutout ball in the 5th and 6th but faded in the 7th. Avilés hit into an error by 1B Eliecer Griñan and C Frank Morejón laid down a sacrifice. RF Yoelkis Cespedes singled in Avilés with the tying run. In the bottom of the 8th, García walked Despaigne, Laza and Benitez in order. Duquesne replaced him on the hill and Avilés hit a game-winning sacrifice fly.
|Team||Classification Phase||Secondary Phase||Manager|
|Ciego de Ávila||29-16||27-18||Roger Machado|
|Villa Clara||26-18||26-20||Vladimir Hernández Solas|
|Las Tunas||23-21||--||Ermidelio Urrutia|
|Isla de la Juventud||23-22||--||Jose Luis Rodríguez Pantoja|
|Pinar del Rio||18-25||--||Jorge Gallardo|
|Santiago de Cuba||14-30||--||Reutilio Hurtado|
|Sancti Spíritus||13-31||--||Mario Zulueta|
- Granma 4, Matanzas 3
- Ciego de Ávila 4, Villa Clara 2
- Granma 4, Ciego de Ávila 0
- Bold indicates either wooden bat record or aluminum bat record (1976-1977 to 1998-1999), Italics indicate Serie Nacional record
Where two teams are listed, the player switched teams at the half
On October 29, 2016, the 2016-17 All-Star Game took place at Estadio Victoria de Girón in Matanzas, Matanzas. The Occidentales beat the Orientales, 2-1. Julio Pablo Martínez led off the game with a homer off Yoanni Yera but the Orientales did not get another hit the rest of the way against nine different hurlers. Adrián Sosa got the win and José Angel García the save. The Occidentales tied it in the second off Freddy Asiel Álvarez when Leonardo Urgellés hit a sacrifice fly to score Yordanis Samón. Urgellés homered in the 5th off Dairon Riera for the game's last run.
Lázaro Blanco of Granma was named Serie Nacional MVP after leading the league in wins, ERA and shutouts. Eliecer Griñán of Pinar del Rio is named Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year after hitting .336/.402/.495.
Postseason Offensive All-Stars were C Osvaldo Vázquez (Ciego de Ávila), 1B William Saavedra (Pinar del Rio), 2B Carlos Benítez (Granma), SS Alexander Ayala (Camagüey), 3B Jefferson Delgado (Matanzas), OF Víctor Víctor Mesa (Matanzas), OF Julio Pablo Martínez (Guantánamo), OF Dennis Laza (Mayabeque), UT Michael González (Mayabeque) and DH Yordanis Samón (Matanzas). Lázaro Blanco (Granma) was named the top right-handed pitcher, Yoannis Yera (Matanzas) the top left-handed pitcher and José Angel García (Artemisa) the top closer.
Defensive All-Stars were C Franklin Aballe (Holguín), 1B Guillermo Avilés (Granma), 2B Humberto Bravo (Camagüey), SS Yulián Milán (Granma), 3B Osvaldo Abreu (Granma), OF Víctor Víctor Mesa (Matanzas), OF Julio Pablo Martínez (Guantánamo), OF Dennis Laza (Mayabeque) and P Yaifredo Domínguez (Pinar del Río).