Tag Archives: #worldbaseballclassic

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC FINALS

When the United States and Puerto Rico take the field at Dodger Stadium it will be a classic in the making.  Besides the fact that this game is a rematch of an earlier nail biter, the story lines go deeper than the game of baseball.

The USA is the Mother Ship, Puerto Rico is the Territory.  Puerto Rico has representation in the US House of Representatives, yet it has its own flag.  And here is the biggest political kicker, a referendum is scheduled for June of this year to decide what direction the island will take.  The two choices are either apply for statehood, which will possibly make this the last competition between the two entities, or declare its independence as a nation.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman will take the mound for Team USA this evening and will be opposed by Seth Lugo of the New York Mets.  Stroman could have been part of Team Puerto Rico, but opted to play for the Americans.  As a result, Stroman’s mother has been the subject of harassment on social media by many Puerto Ricans.  This will make for an emotional start for Stroman.  This again, could go way beyond the game of baseball.

Image result for marcus stroman Team USA

Marcus Stroman will start for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic Finals.

Seth Lugo will return to the Mets camp in Pt. St. Lucie, Florida following the WBC to finish competing for the fifth spot in their rotation.  Tonight, he takes the pride of the territory that either wants to join Big Brother or break away from it on his shoulders.  Yes, this is the biggest start of Lugo’s career, notwithstanding a start on the World Series stage at Citi Field.

Who will be the Classic’s MVP?  Yadier Molina has been arguably the driving force in Puerto Rico’s 7-0 record and a place in the Finals.  Adam Jones and possibly Christian Yelich are candidates from the United States.

So the grand old ballpark set in Southern California’s Chevez Ravine could see another chapter written in its hallowed halls.  Perhaps a ballpark that has been home to Sandy Koufax, Tommy LaSorda, Don Sutton, and Don Drysdale to name a few, can add one of the all time biggest international games to its resume tonight.  Too bad old Vin won’t be in the Dodger Stadium press box to tell everyone in the USA and its extended family in the Caribbean to pull up a chair this evening.  Enjoy the game wherever you may be!

Advertisements

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC PART II

When I left you last week the boys from the Holy Land were the talk of the World Baseball Classic.  That was before the bigger boys from the west  began play.

In a wild weekend in Miami and Jalisco, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the United States, and the Dominican Republic emerged as winners.  The highlight of the Pool C bracket in Miami was Saturday night’s contest between the USA and the Dominican Republic.  The Americans came out big trying to avenge their semi-final loss in the 2013 classic.  The Red, White, and Blue held a 5-0 advantage in the middle of the sixth inning, that’s when things got interesting.

Manny Machado began the comeback with a solo home run off of Tanner Roark.  Later in the inning, Carlos Santana would single home Robinson Cano making it a 5-2 ballgame.  An RBI double by Wellington Castillo in the seventh drew the Dominicans to within 5-3.

Andrew Miller, who was a main cog in the Cleveland Indians bullpen last year took the mound to begin the 8th.  The Dominicans would tee off on the Indians star.  Home runs by Nelson Cruz (with two aboard) and a solo shot by Stirling Marte capped the comeback and a 7-5 victory.  Both the Americans and the Dominicans advanced out of Pool B and will meet  again in San Diego.  The Dominicans lost their first game in San Diego’s Pool F to Puerto Rico yesterday by the score of 3-1.  The USA sees its first action in Pool F tonight against Venezuela.

Image result for Dominican Republic defeats USA in 2017

Team Dominican Republic celebrates a comeback victory over the USA.

 

Puerto Rico and Japan are the only undefeated teams remaining in the competition.  The Japanese team ended Israel’s dream this morning (Eastern time) with an 8-3 victory in Tokyo. The boys from the Land of the Rising Sun head to Los Angeles sporting a 6-0 record in the tournament.   Team Israel’s loss to Japan coupled with the Netherlands 15-1 drubbing of Cuba sent the boys from the Holy Land home.  A valiant effort, a wonderful surprise, but Israel ran into a superior squad.

So as of today Team Japan and Team Netherlands head for Los Angeles.  So much baseball is to be played in San Diego between four of the planet’s top teams. Next Wednesday I will preview the Finals.  Look for the blog to print earlier than usual leading into game time at 9:00 Eastern Time.  Until then, grab a beverage, pull up a chair and show your nation’s pride and colors!

 

 

PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES AND INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION-IS IT TOO RISKY?

Kansas City Royals fans and management are cringing this morning.  In a Pool D contest at the World Baseball Classic in Jalisco, Mexico yesterday, Royals catcher Salvador Perez left with an apparent knee injury. He was playing for his native Venezuela. To add insult to injury it was as a result of a home plate collision with his backup in Kansas City, Drew Butera who was trying to score the tying run for Team Italy.  Perez was guarding home plate while Butera was trying to score.  Venezuela won the game 11-10 in ten innings.  The Detroit Tigers are also licking their wounds from this game and that play.  Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez strained his groin while acting as the cutoff man on the play.

Perez will sit out the remainder of the World Baseball Classic and return to the Royals training camp in Arizona.  Initial examination has shown that the knee injury isn’t that serious.

Royals catcher Salvador Perez playing for Team Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic.

This incident made me think back to other situations where professional athletes have been injured while playing in international competitions.

The National Hockey League is leaning towards not participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea for this exact reason.  The owners feel that to close down in the middle of the season to let high-priced players play full tilt for their country has become too much of a risk.

At the Sochi Olympics in 2014 both of New York’s hockey teams took a hit.  The Islanders got a huge scare when all-star center John Tavares, while playing for Team Canada was checked hard into the boards in a game against Latvia.  Tavares had suffered a torn MCL and a torn meniscus.  He was out for the remainder of the Isles 2013-14 season.

2014-02-20-tavares-injuryNew York

Islanders all-star center John Tavares is helped off the ice while playing for team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

 

Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello also returned home injured.  He suffered a broken hand while playing for Team Norway.  Other injuries in Sochi included Florida Panthers forwards Aleksandr Barkov (playing for Finland) and Tomas Kopecky (playing for Slovakia).  Detroit Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg aggravated a back injury while playing for Team Sweden.

Prior to this year’s season, the NHL and the International Hockey Federation teamed up to stage the World Cup of Hockey.  This tournament is similar to the World Baseball Classic and claimed two of the NHL’s young stars.

Florida Panthers star defenseman Aaron Ekblad left the tournament following what turned out to be a concussion.  He was playing for Team North America.  Panthers ownership pulled him from the competition.  Ekblad was able to open the NHL season for Florida.

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins also had to hold their breath.  Goaltender Matt Murray suffered a thumb injury while also playing for team North America.

So the question remains, are owners and management going to continue to support sending their stars to these tournaments?  Like I’ve said before, I’m all for shuffling the deck and watching professional athletes play for their country.  However, this latest chapter that claimed three players on one play makes me wonder what the answer is.

I am not a fan of preseason tournaments like the WBC and the World Cup of Hockey since the players shouldn’t be playing full tilt yet.  I am a fan of international competition when players are in top shape.  The Olympics have featured NHL and KHL players since 1998 in mid-season form but the rash of injuries in 2014 speaks for itself.  The NBA has sent players to the Olympics since 1992 right after the end of its playoffs.  There haven’t been any major injuries in Olympic basketball competition, however the NBA stars have shied away from the Olympic at times to not risk injury.  Lebron James and Stephan Curry are prime examples, both sat out this past summer’s games in Rio.

So the question remains and the debate will continue without an answer.  International competition is great, but at what cost?

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC HAS BEGUN

The World Baseball classic got underway early Monday morning here in the eastern United States when Pool A began the competition in Seoul, South Korea.  No pun intended here but right off the bat this year’s tournament became eventful.

Israel is known as the Holy Land.  Israel is known perhaps as the birthplace of the worlds major faiths.  Israel and baseball? oy vey!, but that is the top story in the early going of this year’s World Baseball Classic.  Team Israel consists mostly of Jewish American Major Leaguers who, upon returning to Israel obtained Israeli citizenship.  They visited Jerusalem earlier this year.

Ike Davis has played for multiple MLB teams. He is currently in the Dodgers organization.

Ike Davis, pictured above drew a tenth inning walk that led to the winning run in Israel’s 2-1 victory over host country South Korea.  Scott Burcham drove in Mike Meyers (who ran for Davis) with the go-ahead run.  Israel has never qualified for the World Baseball Classic before this year.

Late Monday night eastern time (Tuesday afternoon in Seoul) the boys from the Holy Land were at it again.  There were no extra inning heroics needed in this one. Team Israel defeated Chinese Taipei by the score of 15-7.  The 2-0 start for Team Israel has already placed them in the next round. They finish play in Pool A vs. the heavily favored Netherlands.  The Dutch have also advanced already with a 2-0 record.

Seoul was not the only Oriental venue to begin play this week.  Host country Japan has already jumped out to a 2-0 record in Tokyo where Pool B is being contested.  A Japanese team loaded with American and Japanese Major League players defeated Cuba, 11-6 on Tuesday. Team Japan also defeated Australia earlier today by the score of 4-1.  Team Cuba is even at 1-1 followed by Australia and China at 0-1 .

Tomorrow the World Baseball Classic opens for business in the Western Hemisphere.  Miami’s Marlins Park will host perhaps the strongest pool in the competition.  Team USA although always loaded with Major League stars, has yet to win a gold medal at the WBC.  Teams from Canada, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic round out the star-studded field in Pool C.  The Dominicans are the defending champions, having defeated Puerto Rico in the 2013 finals.

Image result for marlins parkMarlins Park in Miami, host venue for Pool C.

Team Puerto Rico, the runner-ups from 2013 will highlight the field in Pool D.  Mexico will host this pool in Jalisco.  Venezuela and Italy round out Pool D.

The boys from the USA see their first action on Friday against Colombia.

In an already eventful tournament there will be lots of international baseball this weekend.  I will be focusing the Wednesday Night Baseball blog on the World Baseball Classic until it concludes.  The finals are set for March 22 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

So wave your country’s flag, don your nation’s colors and enjoy baseball’s version of the World Cup!

WEDNESDAY NIGHT BASEBALL-PROS AND CONS OF THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC

The World Baseball Classic was born as a result of the International Olympic Committee removing baseball as an Olympic event in 2005.  Beginning in 2006, Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and International Baseball Federation developed the idea of a World Cup style tournament to determine an international World Champion.

Image result for world baseball classic

I’m all for international competition in any sport.  With the return of baseball to the Olympic Stage in 2020, I would love to see MLB send players to Tokyo the same way the NHL has since 1998.  Every time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hints at pulling the plug on the league’s Olympic involvement, it makes me cringe.

Here’s where I have a problem, it’s the scheduling.  Why on earth would you have the best players in the world represent their country when they haven’t played meaningful baseball since September or October?

Pitchers and catchers will begin filtering into training camps in mid February.  Position players will follow roughly a week later.  The World Baseball Classic is scheduled to begin on March 6th.  Why would any owner, or the players association risk having their brightest stars play full tilt away from their team when they should be loosening up and performing infield drills and soft tossing?  The NHL did the same thing this past preseason when they staged the World Cup of Hockey.  That tournament resulted in injuries to players and put them behind in training camp!  I do realize that hockey is a more physical sport than baseball and the training camp is much shorter.

My point here is that players aren’t ready, and even if they are, they aren’t where they need to be this time of year.  What if the likes of Max Scherzer blows out his elbow?  What if there is a collision between Andrew McCuthchen and Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield? It’s too risky this early in my opinion for such high profile players to be playing full tilt.

Image result for giancarlo stanton Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Team USA)

That being said, I do believe that the WBC is a great idea .  Here’s my thought, even though some players are a little beat up by late September and into the post-season, they are still in full tilt playing form.  The venues that are selected are either indoors or in warm climates.  The weather and conditions in November and December are similar to the conditions in March.  Miami, San Diego, and Los Angeles are the three American venues this year.  Tokyo’s Tokyo Dome is hosting one Oriental pool, while South Korea is playing host indoors as well.  The other venues are in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Image result for dodger stadium

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles.  Venue for the WBC Finals

 

Of course, there is still the risk of injuries and accidents, but the players won’t be coming out of the off-season.  Any minor injury will have the rest of the winter to heal and have the player ready for a full Spring Training.  Although there is always a risk of an injury to a player it’s less likely to happen when players are in condition.

Commissioner Manfred, I ask that you consider moving this tournament to the end of the season.