And now, some thoughts and suggestions on the World Baseball Classic

The Dominican Republic can lay claim to being the champions of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, going undefeated in the tournament and shutting out Puerto Rico in the final game, 3-0. Robinson Cano was rightfully named tourney MVP, although one could also have made a case for Fernando Rodney, who saved seven games during the tournament.

While it was far from a perfect tournament, it had some great moments. There were the honkbal Dutch, proving that 2009 was far from a fluke by making it to the semi-finals, defeating the mighty Cubans twice on the way. There was Italy’s similarly amazing run. There were the great fans, who even in the less-attended games made the crowd seem several times bigger. And it had high drama, with Davids facing Goliaths, the old facing the young, and, in some cases, entire nations sitting on the edge of their seats.

And, yes, all of my reasons while the WBC is going to be sticking around are still valid.

Still, the WBC does definitely have room for improvement, so go below the jump for some of my suggestions:

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WBC Finals Preview: Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico

It’s all come down to this:  Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico for the WBC title. The Dominican is going for a perfect tournament, but Puerto Rico, with a win, could make all those previous games for the Dominican irrelevant. It’s one game, winner take all. Go below the jump for the tale of the tape:

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WBC Semi-Final Preview: Japan vs. Puerto Rico

The game between Japan and Puerto Rico, on paper, should belong to the Japanese team, a seasoned squad that relatively breezed into the San Francisco round and which will be playing with far more rest than Puerto Rico, which will be playing it’s third game in as many days. But, as has been shown time and time again, in baseball weird and unexpected things can happen. Go below the jump for a more in-depth preview.

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Games aren’t played on paper

With Team USA’s 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico and elimination from the World Baseball Classic, there are certain to be many theories as to why, once again, the Americans failed. Some are legitimate (lack of conditioning compared to teams from Asia and Latin America, the various dropouts from the event), some aren’t (the claim that the American players “didn’t care” about the games or their outcomes is easily disproved by Vinnie Pestano‘s post-game Tweet), and some are probably somewhere in between. But, ultimately, the fact that Team USA fell can be brought down to this:

It’s baseball, and in baseball, games aren’t played on paper. And that means weird things can happen, and even small mistakes can doom giants, especially in settings such as tournaments where the margin of error is small.

Consider: Who could have expected that the Team USA lineup would be so anemic (sans David Wright, now resting from his wounds in a S.H.I.E.L.D. Heli-Carrier until he is needed in 2017, and Joe Mauer, who reminded the world about how beautiful a swing he has) for much of the tournament? On paper, you wouldn’t have expected it, but the games aren’t played on paper.

Or consider Nelson Figueroa, who hadn’t thrown a pitch in the Majors since 2011. Who could have expected him to have the night of his life? Or that the umpiring would have had such a… unusual strike zone? Nobody. There are countless other variables that determine this tournament and any given game. And tonight, those variables helped put Puerto Rico on top.

So, before you go ripping into Team USA, or calling for the WBC to be cancelled (it won’t be), just remember: this is baseball. The best team doesn’t always win. Some of the greatest teams in baseball history* haven’t won. It’s what makes the sport great. It’s why we watch. And sometimes, it can be very cruel and fickle game.

So enjoy the rest of the World Baseball Classic, people, because, like all baseball, we have no idea what’s going to happen.

*The 1906 Cubs, the 1954 Indians, the 1969 Orioles, the 2001 Mariners…

Jurickson Profar will be playing for Team Netherlands after all- here’s why that matters

Jurickson Profar will be playing for Team Netherlands after all, taking over for the injured Yurendell de Caster.

So why does that matter?

Well, for one Profar (a switch-hitting middle infielder) is the top prospect in baseball, according to and other sources such as Baseball America. He’s only 20, but has already played a short stint in the majors last season, even having a home run in his first AB. But it’s what he’s done in the minors that is especially impressive… take a look:

2010 17 Spokane NORW A- TEX 63 288 252 42 63 19 0 4 23 8 3 28 46 .250 .323 .373 .696 94 8 0 6 2 0
2011 18 Hickory SALL A TEX 115 516 430 86 123 37 8 12 65 23 9 65 63 .286 .390 .493 .883 212 7 11 6 4 2
2012 19 Frisco TL AA TEX 126 562 480 76 135 26 7 14 62 16 4 66 79 .281 .368 .452 .820 217 11 5 2 9 5
3 Seasons 304 1366 1162 204 321 82 15 30 150 47 16 159 188 .276 .367 .450 .817 523 26 16 14 15 7
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/13/2013.

And, what’s more, it provides another MLB-level (or close to it) bat into the Dutch lineup, something that will come in handy against whoever they play in the semi-finals. Okay, that isn’t really that much of analysis, but it is true. And, what’s more, it could provide a psychological boost for the Dutch: they are now heading into the semi-finals round and now they are going to be joined by one of the best future stars of baseball.

Should be interesting to see how it all turns out.

WBC Round 2 Preview: Pool 2 (Miami)

Japan and the Netherlands have already qualified for the final four of the WBC, but who will join them? That will be decided in Miami, where three of baseball’s traditional powers are joined by the surprising Italian team to determine who will escape to San Francisco. Go below the jump for my preview of the double elimination round:

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Video of the undetermined amount of time: The crazy Cuba-Netherlands game

In case you missed that awesome game between Cuba and the Netherlands this morning, MLB has this little recap for you:


It was a good game.

WBC News and… Dickey vs. the Mexican National Team (and Gallardo vs. USA)

Okay, here’s the WBC news for today: Brett Lawrie hurt his ribcage, and Deolis Guerra also is out of the WBC.

Got that? Okay, good, now, time for a little bit of a preview for the USA-Mexico game tonight. It should be a treat, with reports coming that the game is close to a sell-out, with the crowd expected to be an even split between the USA and Mexico (a common occurrence in games featuring the Mexican national teams, to the extent where the American national soccer team plays many of it’s games against Mexico in northern cities like Columbus and Seattle to ensure it’s mainly an American crowd).

For Team USA, it’s an important game in order to get the WBC off to a good start. But for Mexico, this is an all-but-must-win game, after their shocking upset by Italy yesterday. And in the center of this is R.A. Dickey. He played for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics (and Brandon Phillips was the bat-boy!), but this is his first time in the WBC. So, how have Team Mexico’s hitters done in the past against Dickey:

Jorge Cantu: 3-8, 2B, BB, SO

Luis Cruz: 0-1

Ramiro Pena: 0-3

Gil Velazquez: 2-5, SO

…And that’s it. Those are the only players on Team Mexico that have met Dickey in MLB play. Knuckleballers are so hit and miss, of course, that there is no way of possibly knowing how the game could turn out, or how the other players could fare the first time they see the knuckler.

On the flip-side, here’s how the expected lineup for Team USA has done against Yovani Gallardo, the Mexican starter (this includes postseason play, by the way):

Jimmy Rollins: 2-10, SO

Brandon Phillips: 9-37, 3 2B, HR, 5 SO, 2 BB

Ryan Braun: None, since Braun and Gallardo both have played with the Brewers their entire careers

Joe Mauer: 5-10, 2 SO, 2 BB

David Wright: 3-16, HR, 8 SO, 3 BB

Eric Hosmer: None.

Giancarlo Stanton: 3-9, 2B, 3 SO

Adam Jones: None.

J.P. Arencibia: None.

So, there you have it: the histories between Team USA and Team Mexico’s hitters and today’s starting pitchers. Enjoy the games.

Picture of the day: Honkbal Forever

It is well known that I am a big fan of the Dutch word for baseball: Honkbal. In Dutch, apparently honk means home, purpose or goal, but thanks to the fact that it means something entirely different in English, it is, well, an inherently fun and an inherently funny word to us. And the style of play of the the Dutch National Team, who upset Cuba yesterday, is infectious, a team of athletic, smooth-fielding players who won’t let the fact they play for a country that isn’t among the traditional baseball powers stop them from showing that they belong.

And, by the looks of what was trending late last night, I’m not alone in having Honkbal fever:

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 1.58.39 AMHonkbal fever- catch it!

In Case You Missed It: WBC Pool C, D and 1 Previews

With Pools C and D of the WBC’s first round starting, and Pool 1 of the second round (it is happening earlier so that there is less jet-lag later on) also beginning, here are the previews of those pools. Note that in some cases they (whether they are rosters that have had last-minute changes or information about a country) are out of date- for example, the preview of Venezuela mentions that Hugo Chavez is the country’s president, since I wrote it before he passed away.

Pool C Preview (Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Spain, Dominican Republic)

Pool D Preview (USA, Canada, Mexico, Italy)

Pool 1 Preview (Cuba, Japan, Taipei, Netherlands)

So, there you go.