Previously, I discussed some possible neutral-field games in the USA or Canada. Today, it’s time to look beyond the borders and muse about possible neutral-field games internationally going forward.
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Appearing in an Olympic baseball tournament for the first time, Mexico is a serious medal contender. They are managed by former Major League infielder Benji Gil, who now manages in the Mexican League. The roster can be found en español here.
About the Country: Gaining recognized independence in 1821 (11 years after it was declared), Mexico is built where the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs once lived. Mexico is home to a rapidly-modernizing economy, the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere (Mexico City, beating out New York), and a diverse ecology. However, it has also had to deal with inequality and crime, particularly related to the drug trade.
Baseball History: Although it is not nearly as popular in Mexico as futbol, baseball still holds a long and storied history there. Nobody is quite sure how it was first introduced, although it is likely the Americans were involved in some way. Notable events in Mexico’s baseball history include the formation of the Mexican League in 1925, the back-to-back victories of a Monterrey team in the 1957 and 1958 Little League World Series, and Fernando Valenzuela‘s debut with the Dodgers in the early 1980s.
Olympic History: Mexico has never participated in the Olympics in baseball.
Outside of baseball, Mexico debuted at the Olympics in 1900, but didn’t return until 1924. They’ve taken part in every summer games since, including hosting the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. They have also had sporadic participation in the winter games. Mexico has seen its most success in track, boxing, taekwondo, and diving. The top medalists in Mexican history are diver Joaquín Capilla, equestrian Humberto Mariles, and taekwondo practitioner María Espinoza.
Road to Tokyo: Mexico qualified for the Olympics through the 2019 Premier12 tournament by finishing as the best-finishing team from the Americas thanks to a bronze medal upset against Team USA.
Notable Names: The Mexican National Team possesses several former MLB players from Mexico or of Mexican descent. The most notable, no doubt, is Adrian Gonzalez. Born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana, the five-time all-star is now 39 and a member of the Mexican League team in Guadalajara.
Notable MLB experienced pitchers include but are not limited to Oliver Perez (now playing in Mexico), Manny Banuelos (who most recently was in Taiwan’s CPBL but who has returned to the Mexican League ahead of the Olympics), Hector Velazquez (now in the Astros system), Sammy Solis (now in Mexico) and Fernando Salas (who has a 0.00 ERA in 19.1 IP in Mexico this season).
Notable MLB experienced position players besides Gonzalez include Danny Espinosa, Brandon Laird (who is currently playing in Japan), Efren Navarro and Ramiro Pena. One of Team Mexico’s two catchers, Ali Solis, had two cups of coffee in the big leagues in the 2010s.
Ones to Watch: As expected, most of those without MLB experience on Team Mexico are active in the minors or the Mexican League (this is also the case for those with MLB experience, of course).
Joey Meneses, for example, has spent his career bouncing between Mexico, Japan, and affiliated baseball, winning the International League MVP award in 2018. The 29-year-old 1B/OF is currently playing in the Red Sox system. Another outfielder, Jonathan Jones, is a 31-year-old was a member of the all-tournament team in 2019’s Premier12. Now playing in Mexico, Jones also has experience in the affiliated minors, independent ball, and even a brief stint in Australia. A third outfielder, right-hander Jose Cardona, got as high as AAA but has now been in Mexico the last few years. Cardona has been hitting over .300 this season between two teams. In the infield, middle-infielder Isaac Rodriguez is a 30-year-old veteran of the Mexican League who is hitting .389/.455/.520 this season
Among the pitchers without MLB experience, notables include righty Manny Barreda, who joined the Orioles organization this season (primarily in AAA) after several years in Mexico after his initial affiliated career flamed out. Another notable is lefty starter Juan Oramas, who has a 3.17 ERA in 10 starts in Mexico this season. Like Banuelos, Teddy Stankiewicz (who is Mexican on his mother’s side) was active in the CPBL but has moved to the Mexican League ahead of the Olympics. Daniel Duarte is a 24-year-old righty in the Reds system, while Carlos Bustamante (3.20 ERA in 19.2 IP in Mexico this season) will be another right-hander out of the bullpen.
Outlook: The selection for this team have not been without controversy, with some saying that Benji Gil overly-favored players who have played for his Culiacan club. Regardless, Mexico is a dangerous but likely outgunned team in these Olympics, and would likely fall behind Japan, Team USA, the Dominican and perhaps Korea (in no particular order) in a power rankings ahead of the games. However, in a field this small and with a playing format so strange, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll pull out a medal.
You can find all the current Olympic Baseball previews here.
Another round of WBC qualifiers starts on Thursday, with two pools going. One of them, in Mexicali, is a odd mix of two Latin American countries mixed with two European nations. While Mexico is most definitely the favorite, it’s not inconceivable that a shocking upset will take place… just very unlikely. You can see the rosters here.
Go below the jump for more:
Finally, the rosters for the Panama and Mexicali qualifiers of the WBC have been unveiled. I’ll go deeper when I do the previews for the tournaments, but a quick rundown:
Finally one last other piece of news:
There is some exhibition action, as Germany split a two-game series with the Tijuana Toros, France beat Seminole State College, and the Czechs lost to a Brewers’ minor league squad.
It’s been a fairly quiet week in WBC news, as we await the official release of the rosters for the next round of qualifiers. Still, there has been some news:
Jon Morosi on the Czech Republic’s WBC team and how the country’s hockey heritage has led to a lot of left-handed hitters.
The Japanese National Team swept Taiwan in a 3-game early warm-up for next year’s WBC.
Nicaragua leads Panama 2-1 in a warm-up series.
Alex Rodriguez, who famously has hemmed and hawed between playing for the USA (the land of his birth) and the Dominican (the land where he spent significant parts of his childhood), has said if he takes part in 2017 it’ll be for the Dominican.
Alex Cora will be the General Manager of Team Puerto Rico for the 2017 WBC.
ESPN Deportes will be showing the Mexicali qualifying round this month for any Spanish-speaking fans in the USA.
As expected, Max Kepler will not be playing for Germany in the qualifiers, as he will be staying in camp. It was thought that it was unlikely anyway given how he has an outside chance at making the opening day roster, but this is further confirmation.
…And that’s it for now. More soon, hopefully.
Here’s the latest WBC news as of March 1, 2016:
Team Germany will play exhibition games against three different Mexican League teams, as well as a team from the Brewers organization.
“Samurai Japan” has teamed up with the Anime series Mr. Osomatsu to help raise awareness for the team, both in the WBC and in other tournaments (where they generally don’t draw as well).
News on who will and will not be in the WBC qualifiers:
First off, the Mexican League will be allowing their players to play for Team Mexico.
Jose Quinanta of the White Sox is in for Colombia.
The official rosters apparently come out tomorrow, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.
Hello, everybody. Here’s some WBC news from the last few weeks, in no particular order:
The Mexican League and the Mexican Baseball Federation continue to squabble, making it unlikely that any Mexican leaguers will partake in the qualifying. However, I’ve also seen some tweets that indicate that this has been solved and that Mexican League players will take part. I’ll let you know when I have it cleared up.
Yovani Gallardo had said that he was going to play for the Mexican team in the qualifiers, but that was before he signed with the Orioles, so that may change. Another iffy Mexican pitcher is Julio Urias, a top prospect for the Dodgers, who has said he will skip the qualifiers if it looks like he has a good chance of making the team.
A preliminary roster for Team Nicaragua (thanks to Max Wildstein) was released. This roster has since changed (you can find how it has in some of the other items) and would be pared down to 28 anyway, but it gives you a good idea of some of the players who will be on the team:
Omar Vizquel will be the manager of Team Venezuela next year. Bobby Abreu and Magglio Ordonez were candidates for the batting coach position, and it appears that Magglio won the job. Other tweets have confirmed that Eduardo Perez will be a bench coach, Roberto Espinoza will be the pitching coach, and Henry Blanco will be a bullpen coach. Also in Venezuelan news: Gregor Blanco wants to play for his country in the 2017 WBC.
The Spanish have announced their coaching staff for the upcoming qualifiers, led by Tigers Latin American director Manny Crespo.
Speaking of the Czechs, it appears that they will have more players with North American experience than last time thanks to players of Czech ancestry, such as John Straka, Brett Tomko, Mike Cervenak, and Alex Sogard. However, apparently Eric Sogard has been denied, unless if he hasn’t. I find it much less likely that he will take part, though. The Czechs will be playing exhibitions in Arizona ahead of the qualifiers.
Donovan Solano, now in the Yankees organization, is still deciding whether he will play for Colombia in the qualifiers or if he will stay in camp. However, he is listed in a list of MLB-affiliated players who are “confirmed” for Colombia:
— Pinceladas del CMB (@pinceladascmb) February 26, 2016
Dilson Herrera of the Mets, as said above, will definitely suit up for Team Colombia. Others listed in the above tweet (if it doesn’t show up): William Cuevas, Carlos Mario Diaz, Kevin Escorcia, Tayron Guerrero, Gregory Nappo, Jesus Posso, Mauricio Ramos, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Tito Polo, Harold Ramirez, and Carlos Vidal. Apparently a complete list for Colombia will be out on Saturday.
Dean Kremer, a pitcher for UNLV who’s parents are from Israel and who lives there during summers when he isn’t playing, hopes to play for Team Israel in the WBC qualifiers.
Elmer Reyes of the Braves organization will play for Nicaragua. Wuillian Vasquez, a Venezuelan-born player who has lived and played in Nicaragua for several years while also playing in Europe, is also eligible.
The German National team will have a exhibition game against the Tijuana Toros on March 9.
Quick run-down of other players who have been confirmed in/out for certain qualifying teams (from various Twitter sources found by @MaxWildstein):
Luis Guillorme is in for Spain.
Now, this was a lot of news. Maybe too much. And I probably missed some. And for that reason, I’m glad to say that starting now, WBC Updates will be FAR more frequent, occurring AT LEAST once a week, but at times happening on a daily or every-other-daily basis.
This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.
It’s time for a World Baseball Classic update! With the first qualifiers coming up, more news has started to come out. Let’s take a look at some of the news:
Sydney Qualifying Pool Rosters and Schedules released:
On Wednesday, the rosters and schedules for the Sydney qualifying pool came out. They can be found over here on Baseball America. I’ll have a more thorough preview as we get closer to the event, but it’s definitely a case where Australia should be considered the heavy favorite, full of players with experience in MLB or the Minors. After Australia, it’s a fight for the second spot to face them in a winner-take-all game to get to the main tournament. Clay Rapada is probably the most notable player outside of the Australians, as he will be playing for the Philippines, the country of his father’s birth, before retiring. Former All-Star Jason Bartlett, also of Filipino descent, was also expected to play, but I don’t see him on the roster.
News from other qualifying pools:
As I mentioned last time, the qualifiers, unlike the main tournament, are not events where MLB teams are required to allow 40-man roster players to take part if there’s an overlap with official team acitivites. This will most hurt a team like Mexico, where the Blue Jays are unlikely to allow their three Mexican players from taking part in the March qualifier in Mexicali.
Jon Morosi, one of the best people to follow for WBC news, had information on his Twitter feed on the German team, who will be managed by Garth Iorg (yes, that Garth Iorg). Depending on what difficulties Mexico has, they could be a threat in Mexicali, even with Max Kepler likely skipping as he tries to win a spot on the Twins, they will have Donald Lutz, one of the few Germans with MLB experience.
Bruce Chen, who retired last season, is apparently willing to pitch for Panama.
Other WBC News:
Ozzie Guillen is totally up for managing Team Venezuela in 2017.
And that’s it… for now.
Keep an eye out for more WBC news on the Baseball Continuum as it occurs.
At 9 AM: International Baseball Culture
This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.
It’s time to catch up on some World Baseball Classic news!
Lincoln Holdzkom passes away
First off, though, there is tragic news out of California, where New Zealander-American pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom has passed away after a car accident. Holdzkom, the brother of John Holdzkom of the Pirates organization, was expected to be the team captain for New Zealand in the WBC Qualifiers. Our thoughts are with him and his family and friends.
Mexico’s roster starts to take shape
Jon Morosi has an article on the Mexican National Team that has begun to take shape. Edgar Gonzalez will be the manager for Team Mexico in the WBC Qualifiers and presumably the main tournament as well if they qualify. His younger brother, Adrian Gonzalez, will be on the roster. The team could be pretty deep in pitching, Morosi writes:
Mexico’s preliminary roster will be especially deep in pitching, with Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, Miguel Gonzalez and Dodgers prospect Julio Urias among the notable arms certain to be included on it. Pitchers Jorge De La Rosa, Joakim Soria and Olivez Perez also are eligible to play for Mexico, as is Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who is Mexican-American.
However, there are some problems that could trip up Mexico. For one thing, while MLB teams are very strongly encouraged to allow players to participate in the qualifiers, they are not required (unlike the main rounds of the WBC, where they are only allowed to officially block player participation if they are coming off an injury or there are too many players being picked from their roster). In addition, there is an ongoing feud between the Mexican League and Mexico’s national baseball federation that will make the participation of Mexican Leaguers iffy.
Edwin Rodriguez will begin recruiting for Team Puerto Rico
In a Spanish-language article on Elnuevodia.com, there is the news that Edwin Rodriguez will soon begin to recruit for Team Puerto Rico. While the article mentions how he will try to make an effort to get players of Puerto Rican descent (like Jake Arrieta) to take part, I personally think it’s more likely they’ll have to rely upon native-born Puerto Ricans like Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and the like. All of them are mentioned in the article. Puerto Rico came in a surprising second in the 2013 WBC.
So, until next time, this has been a WBC update!
Well, I told you that more news was probably coming, and today it was confirmed, as the World Baseball Classic qualifying pools have been announced! They are (all qualifiers in 2016):
Qualifier 1 (Sydney, Australia on February 11-14th):
Qualifier 2 (Mexicali, Mexico on March 17-20th):
Qualifier 3 (Panama City on March 17-20th):
Qualifier 4 (Brooklyn on Sept. 22-25th):
As you can see, they’ve mixed up the locations (only Panama is a return qualifying host), the pools (no pool has more than two teams that were in the same individual pool last time), and also teams (Pakistan has replaced Thailand). Some things to note here:
So, look in the coming days and no doubt more news will come out and I’ll take a look at some of the teams and other aspects of the qualifying tournament- like Pakistan’s baseball program.