Archive for the 'World Baseball Classic' Category

WBC: Clemens not going out yet

During tonight’s WBC broadcast, the ESPN announcers were commenting on the future of Roger Clemens. Clemens, according to Jon Miller, has said he will, after the Classic, go back to his family until June or July, and then he will make his decision on his baseball future. During the intervening months, Clemens will stay in game shape, teasing the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Rangers.

While Clemens did not provide a definite answer on his future, after watching him pitch last night, I would predict that Roger Clemens is not quite ready to hang up his spikes.

I have watched The Rocket pitch for nearly my entire life. Clemens broke into the Majors on May 15, 1984. I was 1 year, 1 month and 16 days old. I’ve seen Clemens pitch against my team, and I’ve begrudgingly rooted for him to pitch for my team. I cheered him in 2003 when he announced his retirement and booed him when he snubbed the Yankees for the Astros.

I saw him in person shut down the Diamondbacks in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series when the Yankees were in a must-win situation. I watched on TV as he mowed down the Marlins in the 2003 World Series. He was going out on top.

When he changed his mind, it was clear to me that Clemens wanted to win. He saw Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt on the Astros and knew that he could bring victory to Houston. He came within four games of delivering that elusive championship to his home state. However, the long season caught up with the 43-year-old Clemens, and he pitched just 2 innings in the Astros’ World Series loss.

At that point, Clemens did not commit to anything for 2006. He knew that if he stuck around with the Astros, he could play with his son Koby, a prospect in the Astros’ system. But at 43, his body couldn’t recover as quickly as it used to. He wanted to spend some time with his family too.

So his compromise was to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. He would see how it felt to pitch every five days and train. Then, he would take his time to decide his future. While we don’t know what’s going to happen, for Clemens, it will be very hard for him to walk away knowing his last game was a loss.

I think Clemens will come back to lead a team to victory in a divisional race. He’ll be the biggest deadline acquisition any team willing to pony up the dough could make. He may come back and team up with Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina for one last pinstriped run at a title. He could return to Boston, but I don’t think that’s too likely. If Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte can keep Houston in contention, maybe Clemens will return to Minute Maid Park to bring the Astros back to the playoffs.

And then there is Texas. If the Rangers are looking competitive, Tom Hicks may be able to lure Clemens out of retirement. Some people think that Clemens may head to Texas.

Me? I hope Clemens can rescue the Yankees. It’s clear that pitching is this team’s weakest link. No matter what, I don’t think a 2-1 half-hearted defeat at the hands of Mexico in the World Baseball Classic is going to be Clemens’ swan song. The Rocket will return.

Mis-managing the WBC

With 2 on and 1 out down by a run in the 9th, the Americans were mounting a comeback. They had momentum on their side and Mexico seemingly on the ropes. One hit would tied the game.

The Mexicans had just brought in David Cortes, a right-handed hitter. With Chipper Jones on second and pinch runner Johnny Damon edged off first, Buck Martinez opted to stick with right handed hitter Vernon Wells.

What was he thinking?

Team USA had a left handed hitter in Chase Utley on the bench. If ever there was a time to use a lefty, it was then in the 9th with Team USA’s chances on the line.

If Martinez insisted on keeping Utley around for whenever, then how about Derrick Lee and his 3 home runs? Or what about telling Vernon Wells to take a pitch? Instead, Wells grounds into a game-ending double play on the first pitch.

Buck Martinez has not managed in the Major Leagues since 2002 when he was dismissed by Toronto. Now, the rest of the country knows why he’s just an ESPN announcer instead of a Major League manager. Hopefully, in 2009, when fewer players opt out of the Classic, Major League Baseball can find a better manager for a team that certainly won’t be favored to win its own tournament.

Putting the World in World Baseball Classic

The American performance in the World Baseball Classic has come as a surprise to nearly everyone. Wasn’t this the team favored to win the tournament? Weren’t these American All Stars, the top of the game playing America’s Pastime, supposed to show the rest of the World how classic baseball is to the United States?

Well, sure, but don’t sound the alarm yet. In my opinion, Team USA’s struggles in the WBC vindicate the tournament. Baseball is a worldly game, and as an All Star-laden Team USA plays on equal footing with the rest of the field, the games are showing that the World really belongs in the World Baseball Classic.

Not just an American pastime

Baseball is considered the quintessential American game. Along with apple pie and the Fourth of July, nothing is more evocative of America than a game of baseball played in a park on a sunny summer day. Yet, in our association with baseball, Americans often forget (or don’t know) that baseball has a history in other countries that stretches back nearly as long as it does here.

In the Caribbean and Latin American nations, baseball has been around since the middle of the 19th century. Cubans have been playing baseball since 1864 or nearly as long as Americans have. While the Major Leagues may be the oldest established professional baseball association, America was never the only place where baseball has been played.

Across the Pacific, the Japanese have played baseball for just as long as well. Some stories have baseball originating in Japan in 1872 thanks to an American sailor who brought the game with him on a visit. Other sources say the precursor to what we know of as baseball arrived in Japan in 1820. Similarly, baseball arrived in Korea in the mid-1800s and in Taiwan at the end of the 19th century.

While Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have become established talent pools for Major League Baseball with the past decade and a half, people on the western shores of the Pacific have been playing America’s pastime long enough for it to be Korea’s or Japan’s pastime as well.

In the Caribbean and Latin American nations, baseball’s popularity far surpasses that of the American version of the game. The Dominicans, the Puerto Ricans, the Cubans, and the Venezuelans live and breathe baseball. Major League Baseball has the World Series in name only. Baseball truly is an international phenomenon.

The Worldly Reach of the World Baseball Classic

In considering baseball’s rich international history, it is interesting to see how little Americans know about the global reach of the game. For many, baseball is America co-opted by the Japanese and brought back here in such timely classics as Mr. Baseball. We tend to view the game as something borrowed by foreign countries without realizing that these foreign countries have developed and contributed to the game just as much as Americans have.

At the same time, fans in foreign countries view American baseball traditions as neglectful of international traditions. As Bobby Valentine demonstrated in challenging the White Sox to a truly global World Series last November, fans in other parts of the world scoff at the term World Series. America’s championship series isn’t a World Series, they argue. It involves teams from just one country.

From this conflict arises the reason for the World Baseball Classic. The brainchild of Bud Selig, a divisive figure among the baseball literati, the WBC is supposed to promote baseball as an international game. Ostensibly a marketing campaign for Major League Baseball, it serves as an outreach tool for Americans and an educational tool for everyone else. The World is showing American fans that they can not only play baseball but beat the Americans at what we consider to be our own game.

Viewing the WBC through this prism, the tournament so far can be seen as an unqualified success. The games have been so popular that ESPN has dumped programming to fit more of the WBC games on TV, and it is only because March Madness lingers on the horizon that every tournament game isn’t available on ESPN or ESPN2. (This is a point of conflict for the tournament. In the future, the WBC organizers should schedule it so that it avoids the crush of the NCAA tournaments.)

The games themselves contain all of the drama of October baseball. Last night’s Dominican/Venezuela contest came down to the very last pitch in the 9th inning. Venezuela had the tying and go-ahead runs on base in an elimination game. The last American victory came with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th. The pitching in the second round has been stellar and the hits timely.

When we add the patriotic dimensions, we see players celebrating as though they’ve just won the World Series. The Dominican team ran onto the field to celebrate a World championship last night after downing Venezuela, one of their regional rivals. The fans show an outpouring of national pride and the players do too. The World Baseball Classic is truly Worldly in its appeal and in its outcomes. But what of America?

The American Baseball Conundrum

While we’ve seen Puerto Rican fans go nuts in the stands, Cuban fans become embroiled in deep-seated political tensions, and Dominican fans showing their undying love for Big Papi, Albert Pujols and others, in America, the outpouring of support has been more like a trickle. Americans seem to be the least enthusiastic of all supporters. While Jim Caple tried to rally the troops today, American support for Team USA has been lukewarm at best.

As best as I can tell, Americans were expecting this tournament to be boring. They expected to trample the competition, and watching Team USA – a team made up of not quite the best players in the country – struggle has turned many people off from the team. While Americans may watch the Dominican Republic and Cuba battle it out in the semifinals, we can’t get too excited by Al Leiter and Randy Winn playing the Canadians.

The twist to the tale is that American disinterest in the event is not a bad thing. The World Baseball Classic was meant to be an international event. As long as people are watching the other games, the tournament is a success.

Furthermore, the problem of American disinterest may fix itself before the next WBC in a few years. Already big names are expressing their regret at dropping out, and Barry Bonds has even said he may play in the next round. I would be that in 2009, many fewer players will opt out of the tournament. Those that do will have legitimate excuses.

So as the tournament enters its final week, Bud Selig has a legitimate success on his hands, and the World Baseball Classic has proven to be better than I or anyone else thought it would be. If Major League Baseball can turn the success of the WBC into a greater international appeal for baseball, the level of play in the Major Leagues could see a huge influx of talent for overseas markets. While it is much to early to proclaim this victory, the World Baseball Classic could go a long way toward putting the World in Major League Baseball and putting the World into the World Series.

WBC: Untangling the Team USA tiebreaker scenario

I’m going to look at the WBC for the rest of your week. To whet your appetite, tomorrow’s post is entitled “Putting the World in World Baseball Classic.” I’ll examine the American struggles in the WBC in the context of the game’s global appeal.

Things are not looking good for Team USA. The favorites to win the tournament, the Americans will once again turn to Roger Clemens – and a little bit of luck first – to advance to the semifinals.

After a disappointing loss to the 5-0 Korean team, the Americans find themselves in the position they were in for the first round of pool play. They are relying on their old horse and another team’s pitching to get them into the next round of tournament play. To make this easy, here are the five scenarios.

Scenario 1 or The Easy Way
Korea beats Japan
USA beats Mexico

This is, as the name suggests, the easiest way for the Americans to advance. Korea already beat Japan once in the WBC, and the team has been downright dominant. Their pitching staff has given up just 7 runs in 5 full games, and their offense has come through with key hits to control the games from the start. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Korea come out on top here.

If Korea wins, all the US has to do is beat Mexico again. With Roger Clemens potentially pitching his last game, you can bet that he’ll be fired up if he is in a position to carry Team USA into the semifinals.

Scenario 2 or The Hard Way
Japan beats Korea but allows 7 runs or more
USA beats Mexico

Now, it starts to get confusing. If Japan beats Korea and the US beats Mexico, the pool will once again have a three-way tie for best record. In this case, the tiebreaker heads to fewest runs allowed per innings played of defense in games against those teams with which you are tied. (Got that? Yeah, well, me neither.) As of now, the US has allowed 10 runs in 17 innings against Japan and Korea or .588 runs per inning.

Japan, if they allow 7 runs, would have allowed 11 runs in 17.6 innings for .625 runs per inning. While you may be tempted to count out Japan at this point, hold on.

Korea, if they lose and score 7 runs, means they allowed more than 7 runs. So the fewest runs allowed by Korea in this scenario is 8. That gives them 11 runs in 17 innings (because Japan is the home team). At .647 runs per inning, Korea would be out. At this point, Japan and the US would advance.

But don’t count on this happening. It would be a slug fest of epic proportions considering the pitching we’ve seen in the WBC.

Scenario 3 or The Nearly Impossible Way
Japan beats Korea but allows 6 runs or fewer

If Japan wins and allows 6 runs or fewer, the US team can disperse back to their training camps. At this point, Japan will win on the fewest innings clause.

What about Korea, you may ask? Here’s the rub.

In this scenario, if Japan wins by scoring 7 runs or fewer, Korea is in. Both Korea and the US would have allowed at most 10 runs in 17 innings. But since Korea beat the US, Korea is in.

If Japan scores more than 7 runs, Team USA would then have to beat Mexico to make. At that point, Korea would have given up at least 11 runs in 17 innings, putting them behind Team USA. Nobody ever said wrapping your head around this was easy.

Scenario 4 or The Impossible Way
Japan beats Korea
Mexico beats USA

The end. Team USA does not advance. In this case, who advances in addition to Korea depends on the outcome of the Korea-Japan game. But that is a calculation for another day never.

Scenario 5 or The Losing Way
Korea beats Japan
Mexico beats USA but scores fewer than 3 runs

In this case, USA advances. Take my word for it. The math works out. Team USA would have allowed 5 runs in 16 (or up to 16.6) innings to Mexico and Japan while Japan has allowed 5 runs in 17.6 innings.

If Mexico scores 3 runs or more AND beats the USA, Japan advances, and the Americans go home.

Now, everyone ready for the quiz?

WBC: A costly call in the Japan/USA game shows umpire fallacy again

It’s the bottom of the third in the Mexico/Korea game. So far, ESPN 2 has shown the controversial call in the Japan/USA game twice. Like the World Series and the ALCS, the umpires have once again taken center stage for all of the wrong reasons.

For those of you who missed the WBC (and seriously, stop missing the WBC! This is great baseball.), in the top of the 8th in a 3-3 game, Japan had the bases loaded and one out. Akinori Iwamura hit a fly ball to Randy Winn in left field. On third base, Tsuyoshi Nishioka tagged up and scored what seemed to be the go-ahead run.

The USA team appealed the call. Second base umpire Brian Knight ruled Nishioka safe. But then Buck Martinez, the Team USA manager I second guessed on Friday, came out to discuss the call with home plate umpire Bob Davidson. Davidson overturned the call and the game went into the bottom of the 8th inning still tied.

It was a shocking blow to Japan. Manager Sadaharu Oh argued to no avail, and Japan eventually lost the key first game in the pool when Alex Rodriguez came through with a 2-out, bases loaded single in the bottom of the 9th. While it’s possible that A-Rod’s single could have plated two runs and Team USA would have won anyway, we’ll never know.

The arguments in favor of instant replay have raged on and off since the A.J. Pierzynski debacle in game 2 of the ALCS. Just like that call, replay could have helped Davidson determine if Nishioka left early. While numerous angles were inconclusive, it did seem that, after ESPN showed the play for the 15 time, Nishioka should have been called safe. He left on time.

So as Major League Baseball continues to ignore technology that, if implemented correctly, could improve the accuracy of umping decisions, it is possible to determine just how costly this blown call was. Through an analysis of win expectancy, I can show how close Japan came to winning and how little of a chance Japan had at winning today once the call was overturned.

In essence, Win Expectancy uses the outcomes of games played over a long period of time to determine how many times a team in a certain situation wins the game. How certain is the expected outcome of a victory given the game situation? I am just going to look at Win Expectancy for the top of the 8th inning in today’s Japan/USA game. Here is the chart for that fated inning:

As the chart shows, at the start of the 8th inning in a tied game, the visiting team wins about 48 percent of the time. As the Japanese hitters got runners on base, their shot at winning so late in the game rose dramatically. When Iwamura strolled to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, Team Japan had a win expectancy of .698. Nearly 70 percent of teams in their position won the game.

Had Iwamura’s sacrifice fly stood, the Japan team with a one run lead in the 8th and runners on first and second with two outs would have had a win expectancy of .744. Team USA would have needed quite a comeback to salvage this game.

Instead, when Davidson overruled the call on the bases, win expectancy shifted significantly in favor of the Americans. Instead of looking at a .256 win expectancy, the Americans as the home team coming to bat in the bottom of the 8th in a tie game had a win expectancy of .634. Conversely, the Japanese team had a win expectancy of .366. It was a remarkable swing of .378 from the run scoring to the end of the half inning.

In effect, one blown call late in the game had a huge effect on the game. In an era when the technology exists that should allow umpires to get these key calls right, it is a sad taint on the game when an umpire can so alter the course of a game. Japan has a right to be disappointed in the outcome of the game, and Major League Baseball once again is embarrassed by its officiating in a key situation of an important game.

Sources

Walk-Off Balk’s Win Expectancy Finder

WBC: Second guessing Buck Martinez

In my passionate appeal to the US World Baseball Classic team yesterday, I briefly touched upon some decisions made by manager Buck Martinez. Today, I want to revisit Martinez and second guess him into the ground.

Buck Martinez as a manager has had very limited success in Major League Baseball. He has managed for a total of 215 games, leading the Blue Jays to an overall record of 100-115. He was dismissed after just 53 games in 2002. The Blue Jays were 20-33.

Now, I can’t say why Major League Baseball picked Martinez to lead Team USA. As Brett Carow noted in a Baseball Musings discussion yesterday, the best managers are all in training camps, presiding over their teams. David Pinto threw out the name of Davey Johnson as the best manager not currently busy with a team. In my mind, Buck Martinez ranks fairly low on the list of available guys to manage a team in a tournament, and he’s living up to this assessment.

On Wednesday, Martinez’s biggest mistake was his lineup construction. From the get go, I wondered about Martinez’s thinking. Here was the lineup to start the game against Canada:

Micheal Young 2B
Derek Jeter SS
Ken Griffey CF
Derrick Lee DH
Chipper Jones 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Vernon Wells RF
Jason Varitek C
Matt Holliday LF

Without using any statistical analysis, it’s clear that this lineup is not the best, offensively or defensively, that Martinez could have put on the field. Without looking at the bench, Martinez did not even use his best centerfielder in centerfield. For some reason, he went with Ken Griffey, Jr., in center and Vernon Wells in right. While Griffey was once the best centerfielder in the game, those days are long behind him. It makes no sense to put him in center.

Adding to this oversight is the bench. On Team USA’s bench to start a key game in the World Baseball Classic tournament were Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. Think what you will about A-Rod and Damon, but these two are the best at their respective positions on the USA team. It is inexcusable for Martinez to have these two players – one of them the reigning AL MVP – on the bench for most of the game.

While I understand that Martinez may have wanted to give Matt Holliday a start or allow Chipper Jones to ride his one home run hot streak from Tuesday, it is absurd to see these two players on the bench. Cuba doesn’t rest its best players during the tournament. David Ortiz isn’t sitting out a game for the Dominican. Martinez should manage this to win now. Had the US team won and secured a second round berth, then Martinez could have played the back-ups.

The next mistake Martinez made was bringing in Al Leiter in a key situation with two runners on and the game getting out of hand. As a Yankee fan, I saw my fair share of Al Leiter last season. Let me tell you: There is a reason why he announced he is retiring after the tournament is over. Leiter last year had a combined 6.12 ERA. As a reliever, he 21 hits in 16.1 innings. When he allowed the two inherited runners to score – two big runs in the game – I wondered if this was the best America had to offer.

So now Team USA has its back to the wall. While it is highly unlikely that the Republic of South Africa will be able to beat an energized Roger Clemens, I sure hope Buck Martinez doesn’t yank Clemens after 23 pitches as he did to Peavy in game 1. I hope Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon are in the lineup. I hope the US team, under guidance from its manager, can put its best face forward and win.

Buck Martinez ought to treat this tournament as an audition for a real managerial gig. He was tabbed by Major League brass to represent the nation. So far, he’s doing a poor job. Let’s hope we don’t have make the biggest second guess of all: MLB’s choice of Buck Martinez for manager.

WBC brings out the best in everyone but the US

For the first time in my life, I was rooting for Jason Varitek today. As a Yankee fan, I am no supporter of Varitek, but today, when the Canadian team went to their bullpen to bring in a lefty to face the switch hitter, I was ecstatic. As any Yankee fan knows, Varitek is much dangerous hitter from the right side of the plate.

The situation was perfect for some heroics. The U.S. team, one of the favorites of the World Baseball Classic, was down 8-2 in the 5th inning. Bad pitching, sloppy fielding and anemic hitting had the ESPN commentators predicting the biggest upset of the tournament by the end of the 4th. Varitek’s grand slam put the game within reach. It was 8-6, and Team USA was finally hitting off of Canada’s weak bullpen.

But it, alas, it was not to be. A deep centerfield and a defensive Adam stern conspired against Chase Utley and a would-be three-run home run. Instead of a 9-8 USA lead or at least a tie game in the 9th, the Americans were stuck watching Canada, a group of not-so-great Major Leaguers and some very young Minor Leaguers, celebrate an improbable victory.

As I watched the USA/Canada game and the Cuba/Panama game before it, I was struck by the reaction of the American players to the game. Or at least the lack of reaction.

The Cuba/Panama game was one of emotion and tension. As the announcers pointed out over and over again, Cuba and Panama had a history. At the last Baseball World Cup in Rotterdam, some showboating on the part of a Cuban hitter led to a war of beanballs. This war carried over into today’s game as six different players were on the receiving ends of pitches.

As the battle wore on and Panama, the underdogs, kept coming back, the players on the field really cared about this game. For Panama, it was a chance to upset the best team in the Caribbean. For Cuba, it was a chance to show the world that this awesome team of amateurs could beat a team consisting of at least some Major Leaguers.

This game was also about national pride. The Cuban fans would be disappointed if Panama won. The Panamanians would have been ecstatic had they emerged victorious. Home run after dramatic home run, great defensive play after great defensive play, the players in the two dugouts never let the emotion sag. They were bouncing out of the dugouts after every great play or timely hit. As Bruce Chen noted during an in-game interview, these were two teams that genuinely cared to be playing in this tournament no matter how slim their chances of winning.

When I switched over to the USA/Canada game, I hoped to see the same thing. I wanted to see a loose, powerful American team behind the exuberant Dontrelle Willis battering the Canadian team and Adam Loewen, a pitcher who has yet to see action above Single A. Instead, I saw a tight American team that frankly looked uninterested to be playing in this competition.

I saw Michael Young hacking at first pitches with key men on base late in the game. I saw Mark Teixeira make a bad play early in the game. I saw Matt Holliday give up on a foul ball a few plays after allowing an inside-the-park home run to get past him in a park with which he ought to be more familiar.

Had Varitek been on the Panamanian team, he would been greeted as a hero when he returned to the dugout. Instead, he was greeted as he will be during the regular season when he launched a ball over the Green Monster.

At the end of the game, Team Canada literally bounced out of the dugout. Meanwhile, the Americans walked away as though it were just another game. They didn’t seem to mind that they could be facing elimination on Friday and that their tournament fate is now largely out of their hands.

To me, it’s disappointing. While I am no fan of this tournament and would love to see Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter return to Tampa for Spring Training this weekend, I would also like to see the All Stars my country trots out during the tournament play like they actually care about these games.

When Al Leiter is called in to the game to replace Dontrelle Willis and that is the best option available, something is wrong. When Buck Martinez manages the game like a Spring Training game instead of a World Baseball Classic game, something is wrong.

We might not like the tournament, but let’s show up. If I can root for Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox, then the American players can make an effort to show a bunch of Minor Leaguers who’s the boss when it comes to baseball.

On the eve of the Classic, tournament coverage marked by withdrawals

The first pitch of the World Baseball Classic is just five days away. While the tournament hype machine has been working overtime lately, the biggest news out of baseball has been the defections and withdrawals.

Major Leaguers are dropping like flies, and in my opinion, these defections reflect poorly on the institutional support for the tournament.

Last week, more big names withdrew from the WBC. The Blue Jays’ outfielder Vernon Wells announced he won’t play in the first round due to a leg injury. While this injury may just be an excuse for Wells to stick around the Blue Jays camp on the eve of an exciting season for Toronto, it means that the American team will be relying on Jeff Francoeur and Randy Winn in the outfield. These two players are hardly of Wells’ caliber.

In another case of Manny being Manny, the Red Sox enigmatic slugger seems to enjoy being around Boston’s spring camp so much that he took himself off the Dominica roster. Who knows what this is all about? After an off-season during which the Red Sox tried to tried their disgruntled All Star, I am surprised Manny wants to spend any extra time around the Red Sox camp.

In my opinion, this is a case of Manny exerting the least amount of energy. While Ramirez may come off as aloof on the field and somewhat absent-minded, he is not an idiot. Ramirez knows that if he were to play on Team DR, he would be expected to show up and compete throughout the course of the tournament. But this tournament is just exhibition. Why should he over-exert himself so early in the year? By staying with Boston, he can take it easy and relax. He can be Manny.

The Dominican team so far has been hit the hardest by those opting out of the tournament. Alongside Manny’s announcement came a decision from Pedro Martinez. His sore toe has forced him out of the tournament. Pedro’s toe has been an issue since the end of September when he missed his last few starts for the New York Mets. Fitted with a special shoe, Martinez has been looking for a way to pitch without pain. He has decided that he is not physically ready to compete in the tournament. I can’t blame him.

Angels’ rookie Ervin Santana who wowed the baseball world by shutting down the Yankees in game five of the ALDS last October also dropped out of the tournament. He wants to stay in Spring Training with the Angels. Santana and Martinez were at one point expected to be key cogs in the Dominican pitching rotation.

Withdrawing due to health reasons was the projected Dominican starting third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs’ All Star who hit 31 home runs in just 123 games last season missed the month of September with a strained left quad. Replacing him will be Seattle’s free agent bust Adrian Beltre. While the Dominican Republic team was one of the early favorites for the tournament, these high profile loses could harm the team’s chances.

While the Dominican team is struggling to keep its All Stars on board for the tournament, the Panama team suffered a morale blow late last week when Roberto Kelly, the manager, quit. Kelly, citing a lack of support from the Panama baseball federation, noted that many of his star players were held back to play in the Panamanian league championship tournament.

Bruce Chen of the Orioles echoed Kelly’s sentiments. Chen, as reported by the Washington Post, said that he agreed with Kelly’s assessment.

Kelly’s resignation showcases one of the conflicts of the tournament. Many international leagues hold popular championship tournaments during March, and training for these tournaments begins in January and February. To compete in the World Baseball Classic, teams needed to practice throughout February.

In other words, international baseball federations, the organizations in charge of putting together the nation-based teams, would have ask their nation’s top players to pull out of the popular tournaments. As I noted last week, organizers in Cuba were not too thrilled about this prospect, and it seems that the same has happened in Panama as well.

So as the tournament nears its start this Friday with games in Asia, the biggest stories leading up to the first pitch won’t be about the tournament. Rather, the reports will focus on who is in and who is out, who is hurt and who is not. For Major League Baseball, these stories are hardly the positive marketing light through which they had hoped to sell the tournament.

Hopefully, once the games start, the focus will be on the compelling on-field action instead of the behind-the-scenes machinations. In the meantime, tournament supporters will just have to hope that the remaining big names will still be enough to draw international interest for the two-and-a-half week event.


RSS River Ave. Blues

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  • DotF: Frazier homers, Gregorius continues rehab assignment April 23, 2017
    OF Blake Rutherford made SportsCenter’s top ten plays yesterday. He flipped over the wall making a catch in foul territory. The video is above. Hopefully that’s not the last time we see Rutherford on the top ten, eh? Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Indianapolis) SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 1 BB — in a little 1-for-15 […] The post DotF: Frazier homers, Gregorius cont […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Carter’s clutch homer helps Yanks to an 11-5 win over Pirates April 22, 2017
    Source: FanGraphs Well that was a wild one, huh? Look at that win probability graph up there. The Yankees went from being no-hit in the fifth inning to having two five-run innings by the eighth. The end result was an 11-5 win over the Pirates in the middle game of the series. It’s Saturday, so […] The post Carter’s clutch homer helps Yanks to an 11-5 win ove […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 17: Still no DH April 22, 2017
    Four days ago the Yankees lost to the White Sox to snap their eight-game winning streak. They rebounded the next day with a blowout win. Last night the Yankees dropped the series opener to the Pirates due in part to some sloppy defense. How will they rebound today? Hopefully with another blowout win. That’ll be […] The post Game 17: Still no DH appeared firs […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Saturday Links: Top 50 Prospects, Cabrera, Forbes, Uniforms April 22, 2017
    The Yankees and Pirates will resume their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Until then, here are a few bits of news and notes to check out. Three Yankees on Law’s updated top 50 prospects list I missed this last week, but Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted an updated list of the […] The post Saturday Links: Top 50 Prospects, Cabrera, F […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Bad pitching, bad defense send Yankees to 6-3 loss to Pirates April 22, 2017
    Source: FanGraphs Blah, that was a clunker of a series opener. A little of this (bad pitching), a little of that (bad defense), and a little of everything in between (0-for-7 with runners in scoring position) sent the Yankees to a 6-3 loss to the Pirates in Friday night’s series opener. Have I mentioned I […] The post Bad pitching, bad defense send Yankees t […]
    Mike Axisa

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