"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: World Baseball Classic

Star Power

I’m a Scrooge when it comes to the World Baseball Classic. I don’t want any Yankees to play. Correction: I don’t want any Yankee players to get hurt. I care about how the Yankees play in 2013 not about the WBC.

Will Andy Pettitte pitch for the US team? Klap has the skinny.

[Photo Credit: The Star-Ledger]

On The Banks Of The Old Raritan

alma mater

Steven Goldman and I will return to our alma mater to promote Baseball Prospectus 2009 at the Rutgers University Bookstore tonight at 6pm. Jay Jaffe will join us for the hour-long Q&A, and Allan Barra will also be there to talk about his new Yogi Berra biography.

The Raritan, incidentally, is among the 20 most polluted rivers in the nation. It’s unswimmable and unfishable and at times can be as much as 50 percent sewage. It is also the water source for many of the homes and buildings in central New Jersey. I remember that, in the dorms, the water in the showers would smell “different” after a heavy rain. I also have a theory that the water from the Raritan (which does go through purification plants) is responsible for some of the stomach problems I developed in college. At one point during my juinior year, I ate almost exclusively cerial and packaged foods as everything else was cooked in or otherwise contained the local water and would upset my stomach.

So, come see Steve, Jay, Allan, and me tonight and ask us everything you need to know for your upcoming fantasy draft or about baseball in general past, present, and future. Just don’t drink the water.

In an unrelated note, I have a piece up on SI.com about the impact of the WBC upon the health and performance of its participants. Given that the Yankees didn’t let any of their starting pitchers participate, they don’t have anything to worry about.

Japan-Korea V: The WBC Final

Japan and Korea play one last time in the WBC, this time to crown a champion. Once again, I’ll be liveblogging all of the action for SI.com over on FanNation. Also, check out my preview of the game on SI.com’s main baseball page.

WBC Semifinal: USA v. Japan

Join me on my SI.com liveblog for tonight’s single-elimination showdown between native All-Stars of the two best professional baseball organizations in the world.

Yankee Panky: Not O-Kay to Be Ethnocentric

Politics has become a focal point of the sporting world in the past year, particularly on the international stage. For example, there were numerous protests leading up to, and during, the Beijing Olympics last August. Six weeks ago, the Israeli female tennis player Shahar Peer was barred from the Barclays Tennis Championships in Dubai, due to Israel’s military action in Gaza. The Emirate’s decision caused a strong response, including Andy Roddick boycotting the men’s event and The Tennis Channel removing the tournament from its broadcast schedule.

The World Baseball Classic has not been immune to politics. In fact, it was a topic of conversation this week on some sports talk radio programs. I happened to catch one of these discussions, between Michael Kay and Al Leiter. Prior to the Puerto Rico-U.S. game in Miami, Kay, like many of his broadcasting brethren, lauded the enthusiasm of the Latin American players and fans, and how seriously they took the WBC. This should be a non-story. So why is that not the case? Because Kay demonstrated a shallowness and a lack of understanding of the sport he covers and the people who play it.

Yadier Molina, who hit the home run to put the Cardinals into the World Series in 2006, delivered a go-ahead double in the eighth inning against the Netherlands to advance Puerto Rico into the second round of the WBC. Afterward, Molina told reporters that the moment would “be in his heart all his life,” and that he considers the WBC “to be his World Series and that he enjoys it more.” That the game took place at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan likely added to the emotion.

Kay was incredulous at the Molina quote. “I don’t get it,” he said. “You mean to tell me that that base hit meant more than getting to the World Series? Come on.”

Come on? I beg to differ with my former YES Network colleague. He’s been around the game long enough to know that Molina’s comment makes perfect sense. Playing Major League baseball is a job to many of the Latino ball players; a means to help their families and/or communities out of poverty. Prime examples can be found in Roberto Clemente, Rico Carty, Juan Marichal, Luis Sojo, and Pedro Martinez.
Leiter, replying to Kay, issued an impressive response. He understood Molina’s point and went into a short explanation of Latino pride and nationalism, adding that it is even greater at the annual Caribbean World Series. Leiter also added that Venezuelan fans booed Magglio Ordoñez because he supports Hugo Chavez. (You didn’t see fans who are registered Democrats booing A-Rod because he donated to George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign.)

Former Met Endy Chavez, who’s playing for Luis Sojo’s Venezuelan contingent, had a telling quote in an interview with Tyler Kepner:

When we’re in the majors, it’s our job. We are professionals. You play for your team, but you just try to do your job. Here [in the WBC], it’s something special. You feel like a little kid. It’s not money. No matter who you are, you have to play hard for your country. I think it’s the biggest thing that has happened in my life.

The U.S. complacency is as understandable as the Latinos’ fervor. It’s a matter of conditioning. We’re taught that being a Major Leaguer and playing in the World Series is the pinnacle of the baseball experience here in the United States. That’s not the case elsewhere, where representing your country is the greatest honor you can achieve. With that in mind, the U.S. players give the impression they’re playing out of deference to the public relations disaster it would cause Major League Baseball, which runs the tourney, if they didn’t play. Thus, on a game-by-game basis, the U.S. team has been forced to match the intensity of their opponents, a reaction to the “playoff atmosphere” that many have described.

Deep down, I believe Michael Kay knows this and understands this. If he was playing the “Ugly American” ethnocentric card for radio, it was a poor strategy that only made him look bad.

USA vs. Puerto Rico: Two Teams Enter, One Team Leaves

Tonight, the USA will either advance to the World Baseball Classic semi-finals or be eliminated. The game is on MLB Network at 7pm, or you can follow it via my liveblog over at SI.com.  Or both!

USA: Backs Against the Dykes

Catch my liveblog of the USA’s double-elimination game against the upstart Netherlands team over at SI.com’s FanNation already in progress.

USA Liveblog

Follow the USA v. Canada game with me over on my SI.com liveblog.

WBC Fields

I’m going to be covering the World Baseball Classic for SI.com over the next few weeks. My coverage starts today with previews of all 16 teams. You can check those out here:

Pool A: Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, China
Pool B: Cuba, Mexico, Australia, South Africa
Pool C: USA, Venezuela, Canada, Italy
Pool D: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Panama

The first two games in Pool A have already happened, with Japan beating China 4-0 and Korea defeating Chinese Taipei 9-0. China and Chinese Taipei, who battled for 12 innings in their Olympic showdown last year before China came away with their first-ever win in international competition, will play tonight at 10:30, and the loser of that game will be the first eliminated from the tournament.

Things really get going after that, with Japan vs. Korea kicking off a slate of five games tomorrow, including Team USA’s opening game against Canada.

I’ll be livebloggin the USA’s game for SI.com tomorrow at 2:00, and will liveblog nearly all of the USA’s games in this tournament. Be sure to check those out, as well as my overview of the tournament and the rules changes:

The top two teams from each pool advance to Round 2, and it would be a major upset if any of the “second division” teams — Chinese Taipei, China, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Italy, Panama, Netherlands — were to advance at the expense of any of the “first division” teams — Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. . . . With the weak half of the teams eliminated, the competition should really start to heat up in Round 2. It will take just nine days for the elite eight to yield a champion via the final at Dodger Stadium on March 23.

I’m likely a bit biased because I’ve been emersing myself in the tournament for the last week or so in preperation for doing this coverage, but the innagural WBC was more popular than expected, and I think as each tournament gives the next more backstory (such as the USA’s Round 2 exit and Korea’s three games against Japain in 2006), those stories will begin to overshadow complaints about the format or the players who aren’t participating. In just the second go-around, I can really see this thing catching on, not just in Asia and Latin America, where it’s already a big deal, but here in the U.S. as well. After all, it’s passionate, high-stakes baseball being played by some of the best players in the world.

USA 6, Yankees 5

The Yankees–without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, or Robinson Cano–nearly beat the All-Star-quality Team USA (which did have Jeter) yesterday afternoon, and likely would have if not for some poor play in the field by the New York reserves. As it was, they led the US in hits 13 to six, didn’t allow an extra-base hit, and the only member of the US squad who had a multi-hit day was their captain, Derek Jeter, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored, two RBIs, and a walk against his real team. In the end, John Rodriguez flied out with the tying run on base and the Yankees lost 6-5.


L  – Johnny Damon (LF)
L – Brett Gardner (CF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
R – Xavier Nady (RF)
R – Cody Ransom (2B)
R – Kevin Cash (C)
R – Angel Berroa (SS)
R – Justin Leone (3B)

Subs: Nick Swisher (1B), Ramiro Peña (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Doug Bernier (3B), Kyle Anson (C), Shelley Duncan (RF), Melky Cabrera (CF), Colin Curtis (LF), John Rodriguez (DH)

Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Phil Coke, Eric Hacker, Michael Dunn, David Robertson, Jose Veras

Opposition: The USA All-Stars.

Big Hits:

Brett Gardner went 3-for-3 with a double and a stolen base. Nick Swisher (1-for-2) delivered a two-RBI ground rule double that bounded over the outfield wall. Jorge Posada and Cody Ransom both went 2-for-3; Ransom also stole a base.

Who Pitched Well:

Everyone but Hacker. Michael Dunn, David Robertson, and Jose Veras combined to hold the US hitless over the final four innings, striking out seven and walking one man each. Phil Coke allowed just a single in 2 1/3 innings and struck out Adam Dunn and Ryan Braun swinging. Phil Hughes faced the minimum for the first two innings, getting Jeter to ground into a double-play in the first, striking out David Wright and Dunn looking back-to-back in the second–Wright on a fastball on the inside corner, Dunn on a curve that dropped into the zone. In the third, Braun reached on a broke-bat single and with one out Hughes threw inside under Curtis Granderson’s hands and clipped his jersey, putting him on base. The runners move up on a 400-foot fly ball to center tracked down by Gardner before Jeter hit a bouncer past Berroa at short to drive them both in and end Hughes’ day.

Who Didn’t:

Eric Hacker allowed two singles, walked two men, and uncorked two wild pitches without getting an out. Angel Berroa botching a backhanded grounder didn’t help anything but Hacker’s stat line, which shows four runs allowed, but only three earned in zero official innings pitched.


Melky Cabrera went 1-for-2 and stole a base, the hit and steal coming during the Yankees’ ninth-inning rally against Matt Lindstrom which fell a run short. Unfortunately for Melky, Brett Gardner had already gone 3-for-3 in the game with a steal of his own and a double down the left field line. Adding insult to injury, during a remote from the dugout with the YES Network former Yankee and current Cubs and Team USA lefty Ted Lilly complemented Gardner’s swing and asked if he was going to be the Opening Day center fielder. Xavier Nadywent 1-for-3 and hit into a 2-6-3 double-play. Nick Swisher went 1-for-2, his one hit being a booming two-RBI ground-rule double. Cody Ransom went 2-for-3 with a stolen base and a great diving play to his right at second base, while Angel Berroa went 0-for-3 and made an error at a ball hit to his backhand at shortstop. Jose Veras, having passed on the Dominican team to fight for his bullpen spot, turned in a second strong outing. David Robertson turned in his first strong outing of the spring. Phil Coke‘s 2 1/3 innings suggest he is indeed in the long-relief battle and his dominance in those inning suggest he’s got a good lead in that battle.


Jorge Posada went 2-for-3 as the DH. His shoulder soreness seems to have already been forgotten about. Across the state with the Dominican team, Alex Rodriguez was diagnosed with a cyst on his right hip. It’s not enough to keep him from working out, and shouldn’t threaten his availability for Opening Day, but it could give the Yankees and excuse to recall him from the WBC.


The Yankees’ games against the USA (yesterday) and Canada (Thursday) won’t count in the spring statistics, which doesn’t make much sense to me, as all of the spring games are exhibitions, the US is an All-Star team and Canada is at least as good as a split-squad team (more hitting, less pitching).

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver