Archive | February, 2013

Today in Baseball History – February 28

February 28, 1903

A group headed by James Potter and Barney Dreyfuss, then the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, bought the Philadelphia Phillies from John Rodgers for $170,000.

Potter owned the team for two seasons before selling. It would take the league seven more years before it prohibited ownership in more than one franchise.

Died on this day:

1988 Harvey Kuenn

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Taiwan: Manny Ramirez Signs with the EDA Rhinos

Manny Ramirez has agreed to terms with the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League for the upcoming season.

Enrique Rojas first reported the signing, and it appears Ramirez will be headed overseas unless he can sign on with a MLB team by March 7.

If not for his two suspensions for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, Ramirez would have been a shoe in for the Hall of Fame. One of the most feared right-handed hitters of his time, he has hit 555 MLB home runs and has a career batting average of .312.

This is the first season of the EDA Rhinos who bought the old Sinon Bulls franchise and are moving the team.

Posted in Asia, News0 Comments

Belgium: Mortsel Stars Announces Easter Tournament

Belgian division 1 club Mortsel Stars will have an international tournament during the Easter weekend of March 30th till April 1st, 2013. Besides their own D1 team, PUC Paris (3rd Elite Division France), the national team of Finland and Olympia Haarlem (3rd 1ste Klasse Netherlands) will participate in this 3-day event. Mortsel has one of the nicest ballparks in Belgium, and is located at the south corner of Antwerp International Airport (Luchthavenlei, Mortsel).

Every day two regular 9-inning games will be played. Besides the games there will be a party on Saturday evening and a home run derby on Sunday. Also several activities for kids will be present. Entrance to the tournament is free.

More information on the website: http://www.mortselstars.be/tournament/ , or
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/477780768935729/ .

The tournament schedule:

Saturday March 30th, 2013
11h00 Opening Ceremony
11h10 GAME 1: Mortsel Stars (B) – Olympia Haarlem (NL)
14h30 GAME 2: PUC Paris (F) – Team Finland
20h00 10th INNING PARTY

Sunday March 31st, 2013
10h30 GAME 3: Olympia Haarlem (NL) – Team Finland
13h30 HOME RUN DERBY
14h30 GAME 4: Mortsel Stars (B) – PUC Paris (F)

Monday April 1st, 2013
10h30 GAME 5: Team Finland – Mortsel Stars (B)
14h00 GAME 6: PUC Paris (F) – Olympia Haarlem (NL)
17h30 (approx.) Closing Ceremony

Press Release Mortsel Stars

Posted in Europe, News, Tournaments0 Comments

Team China World Baseball Classic Preview

China Seeking Nation’s Biggest Baseball Upset

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
Third in a series of 2013 World Baseball Classic previews

China will look to capitalise on a surprise performance in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and pull another upset in this year’s edition of the quadrennial tournament. The red-and-yellow will face No. 1-ranked Cuba, No. 3 Japan, and No. 20 Brazil in their bid for the world title.

Baseball History in China
While Japan is best known among Asian nations for its baseball prowess, China has the longest history of the sport on the continent. The first club was formed in 1863 in Shanghai by an American medical missionary. By 1895, three universities fielded baseball teams, though it was not for another decade that organised baseball was played.

The sport became quite popular after the proclamation of the Republic of China in 1949, but the game’s development was halted in the early 1960s as Mao Zedong prepared for what would become the Cultural Revolution. Baseball was forbidden along with other Western practices, and the ban was not lifted until 1976 at Mao’s death.

“We lost a generation of baseball players,” Leon Xie, MLB managing director in China,explained to the Asia Times. “It will take at least one generation to recover.”

Despite a policy of “friendship first, competition second” as applied to most Western sports, baseball struggled to regain a foothold against tennis, table tennis, badminton, and basketball. The nation did not join the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) until 1981.

In 2002, the China Baseball League (CBL) was founded with four teams in major cities on China’s East Coast. Two more teams were added in 2005, and the league has established ties with Japan to aid development.

MLB also sponsors the CBL, and began the “Play Ball” programme in 2007, aimed at training coaches and giving Chinese children basic instruction in schools. A year later, the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres played a pair of spring training games in the Olympic stadium. In 2009, the MLB Baseball Development Centre was established in Wuxi to attract the nation’s top talent and offer training. Similar projects exist in Australia, South Africa, and Italy.

“The government is very protective of the schools to keep out any kind of commercialism,” notedXie. “Having Play Ball in the schools shows the strength of our relationship with the government.”

“It’s a little early to be asking for a Yao [Ming, a former NBA superstar] of baseball, but programs like Play Ball are pushing China in the right direction to cultivate new baseball stars. These kids are growing up as the first generation to play this game, but it has to start with the youth,” observed Jeff Brueggemann, a member of MLB’senvoy to China. “I played baseball with my brother and dad growing up. Most Chinese kids don’t even have siblings.”

According to baseball’s governing body in China, the Chinese Baseball Association, there are four million people that play the sport in China. Many of those do so at one of the approximately 60 universities and 1,000 schools that offer teams. While these numbers may be somewhat inaccurate, they have no doubt risen since the Chicago Tribunereported that there were only around 30,000 players in 1991. Still, the figure is miniscule compared to the population of around 1.3 billion and a booming economy.

“It’s a long haul, a long process,” confessed Jim Small, Vice President of MLB Asia. “We’re taking a sport that’s been gone for a long time, and bringing it back.”

“There is no reason to doubt that in the near future some of the world’s best baseball players will be Chinese,” Jim Small, Vice President of MLB Asia,told the China Daily. “It will take some time but it’s definitely going to happen.”

China’s International Play
China has had very little international success in its baseball history. Their best-ever finish in the WBC is 11th, 10th at the Baseball World Cup, 11th at the Intercontinental Cup, and a single third-place finish in 2005 at the Asian Baseball Championship (ABC) in Japan. They are 33-86 in international tournaments since joining IBAF, including a 14-41 mark in events not limited to Asian countries.

The nation has shown improvement in recent years, defeating Korea to win the bronze at the 2005 ABC.In the 2008 Olympics, the hosts lost to Korea in 11 innings and defeated Chinese Taipei, repeating the feat in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The latter victory is its only one in six games at the WBC.

In the 2006 Classic, China was shelled in three straight games in the Tokyo Dome. In an opening pool that was essentially a replay of the 2005 ABC, Japan beat the red-and-yellow 18-2, Korea avenged itself with a 10-1 drubbing, and Taiwan earned a 12-3 victory.China hit only .185/.286/.293 in the tourney with a 9.72 ERA.

The 2009 WBC revealed a Chinese side that had made some progress, losing 4-0 to Japan before shocking Taiwan, 4-1. They were eliminated with a 14-0 loss to Korea, but finished ahead of an embarrassed Chinese Taipei squad. Chinese batters managed only a .190/.207/.250 line, with the pitching staff recording a 6.65 ERA.

China had very mixed results in their most recent tournament in December at the ABC. They finished 2-3, with their wins coming over an underperforming Philippines and a woeful Pakistan side. Though itlost a close game to hosts Chinese Taipei, 3-1, a subpar Korean side upended China 4-0 and an amateur Japanese team blasted the team 10-1.

With the exception of the drubbing by Japan, the pitching staff performed well at the Championship, notching a 3.08 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and striking out 33 in the 38 innings. The lineup, as it has in other competitions, failed to produce. China scored 25 runs in the five contests, but hit .228, reaching base only 28 per cent of the time and slugging .291. They did steal 11 bases, a feat which they may need to replicate for WBC success.

China’s Coaching Staff and Preparations
Unlike most WBC teams, manager John McLaren and his staff bring more star power to the team than do any of the players. McLaren was manager of the Seattle Mariners during 2007 and 2008, and has a 70-89 record in parts of three campaigns.

McLaren will be assisted by Art Howe, who captained three major league clubs to a1129-1137 record over 14 years, but will serving as hitting coach. Bruce Hurst, who accrued a 145-113 record and 3.92 ERA in 15 MLB seasons, returns as pitching coach, a role he held in 2006.Yufeng Zhang, manager of the Shanghai Golden Eagles in the CBL and national team veteran, will serve as a coach and backup infielder.

“I really found my niche,” Hurst remarked, speaking about his time with Team China. “I really like this. I like the people from Major League Baseball International I work with. They are great guys. This is where I found my passion.”

Unfortunately, China will have to do without Kansas City Royals’ starter Bruce Chen. Chen pitched for Panamá in the first two Classics, but has Chinese grandparents. The journeyman hurler has a 71-72 record and a 4.60 ERA in parts of 14 major league seasons.

Chen submitted documentation to play for China, but approval was slow, and the left-handerpulled out of consideration in mid-February, dealing a significant blow to a Chinese side that does not have a player with MLB experience.

The team warmed up for the Classic with a fortnight of MLB-funded training at the Seattle Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz. before the big league club arrived. China conducted a series of exhibition games that have failed to produce much confidence in its chances of avoiding relegation to the qualifying rounds.

The red-and-yellow started by losing two-of-three against clubs from the Korean Baseball Organisation. China then faced the Netherlands three times between Feb. 14-20, losing every game. The team was outscored 32-5 by the No. 7-ranked nation.

The squad returned home on Feb. 21 and flew to Osaka yesterday. China will play two more exhibition games before beginning World Baseball Classic play. It will have a tall task against two of the top three baseball-playing nations in the world.

China has tested Japan 22 times since joining IBAF in 1985, losing every game by an average score of 11-1. The results have been similar against Cuba, as they are 0-7 since first meeting in 1998, averaging an 11-2 defeat. China has split its two contests versus Brazil, defeating them 2-1 in the 2005 World Cup and losing 4-0 in the 2003 rendition.

China’s Starting Nine
China’s roster is almost unchanged from the ABC in December. Though the team’s performance was unimpressive, they do hold an advantage in that the team has been playing together for several months and has experience against several top level countries. Manager McLaren has added three pitchers and several hitters, including the nation’s top talent in Ray Chang.

The team’s leading hitters are Chang, Wei Wang, WeiqiangMeng,andZhenhong Lu. Chang and Wang are two of only several veterans on a club with an average age of 25. Only 6 players are older than 27, and there are three teenagers on the team.

Chang sat out the Asian Championships, but was a national hero in the last WBC and has a solid career minor league batting line.The journeyman infielder is coming off a .241 season, but has a career .272/.346/.379 line in eight seasons.

Chang was 5-for-11 with two extra base hits in the 2009 WBC. He singlehandedly led China over Chinese Taipei with a 3-for-4 effort that included a home run. Chang was born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrants.

Wang is arguably the country’s greatest homegrown talent. The catcher was signed by the Mariners, though he returned to play in China’s domestic circuit without appearing in a game.

The backstop joined the national team in 1999, appearing in more than a dozen events since then. In the 2006 WBC, Wang was 2-for-9, but had a double and the Classic’s first-ever home run (off Koji Uehara), knocking in four of China’s five runs in the event. He was 5-for-15 at the ABC, though he did not walk or hit for extra bases.

Meng led the team in RBIs (6) in Taiwan, stroking a .294/.368/.412 line and swiping a bag. He showed off a clutch hitting approach, rapping four of his five hits with runners in scoring position.Meng, only 23, is the heir apparent to the 34-year old Wang behind the plate, but plays third on days he does not catch to keep his bat in the lineup.

Zhenhong Lu was the team’s leading hitter at the ABC, ripping a .375 average, stealing two bases and hitting a pair of doubles in 16 at bats. The 21-year old has not appeared in either of the previous Classics.

The batting lineup should remain almost identical to the Asian Championships, with Chang added to the middle of the order.

Xiao Cui – CF

XuAn – SS

Lei Li – 2B

Ray Chang – DH

Wei Wang – C

Fujia Chu – 1B

WeiqiangMeng – 3B/C

Zhenhong Lu – LF

Jingfeng Lai – RF

China’s Pitching Staff
The red-and-yellow had a string of good pitching performances in Taiwan. Tao Bu picked up one of the nation’s victories over Pakistan, while Jiangang Lu and Kun Chen were strong in relief.Dawei Zhu will also factor into the bullpen.

Bu, China’s top pitcher, allowed only one run in 10 frames, striking out 12 and walking two. He pitched a shutout versus Pakistan, striking out nine in five innings of the mercy rule game. Bu also turned in a strong showing against Chinese Taipei, allowing just five baserunners and one run in five innings, whiffing three in the no decision.

Bu may be in line for a start, though he has served as a reliever in the first two Classics. The left-hander has a 9.64 ERA and 2.57 WHIP in four games.

Lu was impressive, surrendering a single hit and no walks to the nine batters he faced in relief, striking out three in 2 2/3. He may return to the rotation for the Classic, as he toed the rubber in China’s win over Chinese Taipei in 2009. Lu gave up five baserunners and one run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out a pair.

The right-hander also recorded a win over China’s archrivals in the 2008 Olympics and the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week. Lu is the only Chinese player with a victory in either tournament and is the only Chinese hurler ever to defeat Taiwan.

Lu is a multiple winner of the Best Pitcher award in the CBL and was the first Chinese player to play in Japan in 1999, a year after joining the national team. Hepitched in the minor leagues for Japan’s Chunichi Dragons, notching a 3.83 ERA over three seasons.

Chen pitched 3 2/3 innings at the ABC, allowing batters to hit only .133 as he accumulated a 0.82 WHIP. He has a 7.71 ERA and 2.14 WHIP in two Classics, though he got the last five outs and the save in China’s 2009 victory over Taiwan. Chen has played for Team China since 1999.

Zhu was born in Shanghai but grew up in Japan. He was drafted by the Seibu Lions, and played for five seasons in Japan, going 4-11 with a 6.65 ERA in 180 innings. The right-hander allowed a run in one inning in the 2009 Classic.

One final name to watch is Haifan Yang. A right-hander pitcher, Yang turned 18 on October 23, making him the youngest player on the roster. Yang pitched for his CBL team, the Beijing Tigers, in the 2011 World Baseball Challenge, recording a 6.96 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings against national teams.

China’s WBC Schedule
China will begin pool play on Mar. 3 in the 38,561-seat Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome against Japan. Game time is 11 a.m. GMT. A day later, they will contest Cuba at 7:30 a.m. GMT. The red-and-yellow will likely enter game three needing a win to avoid relegation, and will face upstarts Brazil, who shocked the baseball world in November with a dramatic sweep through the Panamá City qualifier. The final pool matchup will commence on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT.

For a more extensive look at the China team, check out the full preview at Extra Innings: Baseball Around the World. Stay tuned for more news, previews, and recaps of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

 

Posted in Asia, Tournaments1 Comment

Today in Baseball History – February 27

February 27, 1901

The N.L. Rules Committee decides that all fouls are to be counted as strikes, except after two strikes.

A few other changes that are made were that catchers must play within ten feet of the hitter. Also a ball will be called if a pitcher is not ready to throw to a ready hitter after 20 seconds. A ball will also be called if a player is hit by a pitch.

February 27, 1908

The sacrifice fly is adopted. A batter will not be charged an at-bat if a runs scores on a caught fly ball. The rule was repealed in 1931, but later reinstated gaining final acceptance in 1954.

Born on this day:

1953 Ron Hassey

 

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Today in Baseball History – February 26

February 26, 1935

Babe Ruth is released by the New York Yankees. He signs with the Boston Braves for $20,000 and will earn a share of the profits. He will only play the 1935 season with Boston before retiring from baseball.

February 26, 1991

Bill Veeck and Tony Lazzeri are elected to the Hall of Fame.

Veeck was the colorful owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox. In 1947, Veeck successfully integrated the American League when he signed Larry Doby to the Cleveland Indians. He was known for his publicity stunts such as having the little person Eddie Gaedel bat in a game in 1951 for the St. Louis Browns.

Lazzeri was a part of the legendary “Murderers’ Row” with the New York Yankees in the 1920s. He won five World Series titles while with the Yankees and is one of only 14 players to hits for the natural cycle (hitting a single, double, triple, and home run in sequence). He is also the only person in history to finish his natural cycle with a grand slam.

Born on this day:

1887 Grover Alexander

1968 J.T. Snow

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International Players on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect List – Numbers 81-90

Last time we took a look at #91-100 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect List which featured three international players. Today we take the next step down the list with #81-90.

Hak-Ju Lee, ss, TB – #90

Born in South Korea, Lee was signed as a free agent by the Cubs in 2008. He was later traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs.

Lee spent the 2012 season in Double-A Montgomery where he put up solid numbers, but the slipped a bit as he moved up against tougher competition. This is his third time on the Top 100 List starting at #92 in 2011. He then jumped up a lot after a nice 2011 season to #44 before falling back to #90 this year.

Lee has a lot of speed stealing 37 bases in 2012 in Double-A and hitting 10 triples. His on-base-percentage fell quite a bit this past season as his strikeout numbers jumped to over 100, but look for him to settle in with more at-bats against the higher competition. He is a plus defender at shortstop and has consistently been ranked among the top Rays prospects for the past couple seasons.

James Paxton, lhp, SEA – #87

Paxton hails from Canada but played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He is a hard throwing lefty who has averaged more than a strikeout per inning over his brief career. Drafted by the Blue Jays in 2009, Paxton didn’t sign and elected to return to school. However, the NCAA deemed him ineligible due to his contract with agent Scott Boras. Instead, he signed with the independent Grand Prairie Airhogs before being drafted again in 2010. This time he was drafted in the 4th round by Seattle and signed.

In his first season of affiliated ball, Paxton struck out 131 batters in 95 innings. He spent all of the 2012 season at Double-A Jackson where he posted a line of 9-4/3.05 in 21 starts. He throws hard and has a good breaking ball, but like many young pitchers can struggle with his control at times. In 2012, he walked 54 batters in 106 innings. Look for him to get a little more seasoning in the minor leagues this upcoming season.

Yordano Ventura, rhp, KC – #85

This is the first appearance on the Top 100 for Ventura who hails from the Dominican Republic. While Ventura may be small in stature, 5’11” and 150 lbs, he has shown a live arm and the ability to get hitters out.

Ventura spent 2012 split mostly between Single-A and Double-A, but he posted good numbers at both. In 109.1 combined innings he struck out 130 batters. After his move up to the higher level he struggled a bit, but he is still only 21. For the past two seasons he has ranked #1 in the Kansas City Royals organization for the best fastball.

He will need more seasoning in the minors, but he could have a big future ahead of him, especially if he harnesses that fastball and learns to throw more strikes.

Arodys Vizcaino, rhp, CHC – #83

Vizcaino is no stranger to the Top 100 List as this is his fourth appearance on it. Out of the Dominican Republic, he was once a top prospect with the Yankees and then Atlanta.

He is still  young at only 22, but he has has injury problems. He had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and missed the entire season. He has a great fastball, once clocked at 101 mph, and has had a top rated curve ball in every minor league system he has been apart of.

In 2011, Vizcaino got a taste of the big leagues pitching in 17 games for the Atlanta Braves. While he struggled with his control at times (he walked 9 in 17 innings), he also showed how he can be overpowering striking out a batter per inning.

He will look to come back from injury this season and reclaim the form that made him one of the top prospects. He has a strong arm, is still very young, and with some time already in the big leagues he will look to eventually help the Cubs at the big league level sometime in the near future.

Martin Perez, lhp, TEX – #81

Perez comes out of Venezuela and is a highly thought of pitching prospect for the Texas Rangers. At the age of 21, Perez got a taste of the big leagues making six starts in Texas and getting into six other games in relief.

Perez has been talked about for several years now within the Rangers organization. He is a left-handed pitcher with good off speed stuff having ranked at the top of the Rangers minor league system as having the best curve ball and change up and one point or another. His biggest problem it seems so far has been control. He has continually walked more than three batters per nine innings pretty much everywhere he has gone. He is not going to blow hitters away and rack up strikeouts, so he has to learn better control.

Perez has a shot at the Rangers rotation this year if he can come away with a big spring. The team is hurting for starters as a few of their regulars are on the DL with injuries to start the season. He could just make it in as the number five starter if he pitches well enough.If not, look for him to start the year in Triple-A Round Rock.

Next up we will take a look at the international players from #71-80.

Posted in Minors, MLB, N. America0 Comments

Today in Baseball History – February 25

February 25, 1957

The US Supreme Court decides, by a vote of 6-3, that the only professional sport exempt from antitrust laws is baseball. The issue arose once again when football was seeking antitrust protection as well.

February 25, 1957

The St. Louis Cardinals trade pitcher Steve Carlton to the Phillies for pitcher Rick Wise.

Wise would spend two seasons with the Cardinals winning 32 games before moving onto Boston. On the other hand, Carlton would go on to win 241 games for the Phillies and four Cy Young Awards.

In his first year with the Phillies, Carlton would go 27-10 with an ERA of 1.97 winning his first Cy Young Award.

Born on this day:

1919 Monte Irvin

1940 Ron Santo

1951 Cesar Cedano

1954 Bob Brenly

1963 Paul O’Neill

Died on this day:

1934 John McGraw

 

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IBAF Announces Dates for 18U Baseball World Cup in Taiwan

The IBAF announced the dates of the XXVI IBAF 18U Baseball World Cup to take place from August 30 to September 8, 2013. It was announced recently that the tournament will take place in Taichung, Taiwan.

In the 2012 edition of the tournament, the USA defeated Canada in the gold medal game in Seoul. That tournament featured several future professional players including highly touted pitcher Shoehi Otani from Japan. Many other players from the USA, Canada, and other countries are thought to be high round draft picks this summer during the MLB draft.

National teams are being asked to confirm their participation by March 11. Last year there were 12 teams competing including the USA, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Australia, Netherlands, Panama, Czech Republic, and Venezuela.

This year the tournament looks to be just as competitive.

Final Standings XXV IBAF 18U Baseball World Cup:

1) USA
2) Canada
3) Chinese Taipei
4) Colombia
5) Korea
6) Japan
7) Panama
8) Venezuela
9) Australia
10) Italy
11) Netherlands
12) Czech Republic

 

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Today in Baseball History – February 24

February 24, 1943

The Texas League announces it will cease play for the duration of World War II.  The league resumes play in 1946 with the Dallas Rebels claiming the title once again.

Born on this day:

1874 Honus Wagner

1956 Eddie Murray

1960 Nick Esasky

1974 Mike Lowell

1977 Bronson Arroyo

Died on this day:

1990 Tony Conigliaro

Posted in MLB, N. America, Today in Baseball History0 Comments

New Podcast on Korean Baseball

There is a new kid on the podcast block. Dan from over at MyKBO.net has ventured into the world of podcasts with his first two over the weekend.

If you are not familiar with Dan or the site, you should definitely check it out. The site is THE site for updates and information on the Korean Baseball Organization in English. There is no other site that rivals it.

And there isn’t a better time to learn about the KBO, its players, and the goings on around the league with the World Baseball Classic coming up in under a week. Team Korea finished 2nd in the 2009 Classic, and they will once again be one of the favorites to make a run at the championship.

So head on over to the site, click on News and see what Dan has been doing with his podcasts. So far there are two. They are short, but they are full of good information. And if you like them, like I do, drop him a note and let him know so he will continue making them.

Posted in News0 Comments

Today in Baseball History – February 23

February 23, 1934

Casey Stengel replaces Max Carey as the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He would go on to manage 25 years in the Major Leagues for four different teams. In 12 years with the New York Yankees he will go on to win 10 pennants and 7 World Series Titles.

February 23, 1960

Ebbets Field, the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913-1957, sees its last days as demolition of the stadium begins. The stadium would see nine NL pennants and one World Series title in 1955.

Born on this day:

1963 Bobby Bonilla

1972 Rondell White

Posted in MLB, N. America, Today in Baseball History0 Comments

Today in Baseball History – February 22

February 22, 1980

The Oakland Athletics sign Billy Martin to manage the club. He would spend three seasons at the helm of the A’s taking them to the ALCS in 1981 only to lose to his former team the Yankees.

Born on this day:

1934 Sparky Anderson

 

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Book Review: Slouching Toward Fargo

Originally posted on BaseballJourneyman.com

On the cover it claims it is “A Two-Year Saga of Sinners and St. Paul Saints at the Bottom of the Bush Leagues with Bill Murray, Darryl Strawberry, Dakota Sadie and Me”. The book is Slouching Toward Fargo by Neal Karlen, and I enjoyed every bit of the book except the “Me” part.

The book is about the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League mostly during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. The team, and league, were still in its infancy and full of interesting people on and off the field.

How the book started it seems was that writer Neal Karlen was sent by Rolling Stone to do a piece on Bill Murray who was part owner in the club. He was there to do a hatchet job on Murray and as fate would have it on Darryl Strawberry as well.

Over the course of the first year Karlen has some interesting run ins with Murray, Strawberry, as well as others. These stories are entertaining, but I got a little tired of hearing how Karlen was there to do the hatchet job.

The characters of St. Paul were amazing. You have the great Bill Murray who in my book is one of the funniest men of all time. You have Darryl Strawberry who is there trying to make his way back to the Major Leagues by showing that he is now a good guy. Then you have Mike Veeck the president and co-owner of the Saints who had been blackballed from Major League Baseball for things that happened years ago. Not to mention there is an outfielder with no legs, a pig that delivered baseballs, a blind announcer, the first woman player and a nun who gives massages at games.

It’s a cast of characters that would make any story interesting, and Karlen does a good job of writing about this. But what I didn’t like is how Karlen kept inserting himself in the story. As a reader I want to read about the Saints, not how the writer was burned out and didn’t love baseball anymore.

With that being said, the book is still very good. The people of this town and team make this book. Everywhere you turn there seems to be someone just as interesting as the last. You get a taste of what life is like in the lowest of the low minor leagues where people are working and playing for the love of the game.

Mike Veeck’s “Fun is Good” motto really shows through in the writing and you can imagine the fun that people had at the games. And even though the book was written about a time that is now more than 15 years ago, it’s still a great read.

The ballplayers, former MLB guys and career minor leaguers alike, are interesting, funny, and you even finding yourself rooting for some of them even though all this happened nearly two decades ago. There are just a lot of likable people that you will be looking up on Google and Baseball Reference to see how they performed after the time of the book.

So get past the part of the writer inserting himself a little too much into the story, in my opinion, and give this a read because it’s definitely worth it. It’s been out for some time so you should be able to find a cheap used paperback copy somewhere.

Posted in Interviews/Reviews0 Comments

Final Rosters Announced for 2013 World Baseball Classic

The final rosters for the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic were released today.

The rosters feature seven past MLB MVPs, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, and 45 former MLB All-Stars. The teams are full of talent in all of the pools, and the world’s biggest baseball tournament is ready to kick off with some exciting match ups.

In addition to all of the MLB talent, there is a great deal from other leagues as well including two former Pacific League MVPs and the current Central League MVP from Japan. Eleven players from South Korea’s runner-up squad in 2009 are back as well.

Find more info here…

 

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Can you name the rulings for a batter to reach first base in baseball?

I have come to love the trivia site, and iPhone app, Sporcle. With its many categories, I thought I’d introduce one each week to see how our readers do.

This week we will start off with a baseball quiz. Click the link below to play. You don’t have to register to play. Leave a comment below and let us know how you did.

Can you name the rulings for a batter to reach first base in baseball?

If you want to challenge us, you can find me under the ID of esbynum.

Let the games begin!

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Today in Baseball History – February 21

February 21, 1951

The South Carolina House issues a resolution to have Shoeless Joe Jackson reinstated after being banned as part of the BlackSox Sandal of 1919. He still hasn’t been reinstated.

February 21, 1969

After retiring at the end of the 1960 season, Ted Williams returns full-time to baseball as the manager of the Washington Senators. In his first year at the helm, Williams leads the Senators to an 86-76 record finishing fourth. It would be his only winning season.

He led the Senators for three seasons before becoming the first manager in Texas Rangers history in 1972 after the team moved to Arlington. He retired after the 1972 season.

Born on this day:

1958 Alan Trammell

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International Players on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects List – Numbers 91-100

Today we start a series taking a look at the international players on the Baseball America 2013 Top 100 Prospects List. Today we will take a look at the bottom 10 of the list from 91-100 and see which players were born and raised internationally.

So here we go with the first few:

Leonys Martin, of, TEX – #97

Martin was born in Cuba and signed by the Texas Rangers in 2011 as a free agent. He has been a top prospect in the minors for a few years now appearing on the 2012 edition of the Top 100 the previous season at #79.

He has spent two seasons in the Rangers farm system and has had a little taste of the Major League level as well. In the minor leagues he has done quite well. In 124 games, at all levels, he has hit .323 with 16 home runs and 29 stolen bases. However, he has struggled in his short time at the MLB level. He has appeared in 32 games garnering 54 at-bats hitting just .204.

The upcoming season could be huge from Martin though. With the absence of Josh Hamilton in the Rangers outfield, Martin looks to get a lot of playing time perhaps in a platoon with Craig Gentry in center field. He will get a lot of playing time this spring as they will look for him to be a contributor at the big league level.

Bruce Rondon, rhp, DET – #95

Bruce Rondon is from Valencia, Venezuela and was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent in September 2007.

This is the first time Rondon has cracked the Top 100 List, but he is only 22. Last season he pitched at High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A doing quite well at all levels. He is a closer in the minor leagues already picking up 65 saves in five years in the minor leagues. In 2012, he picked up 29 saves in the minor leagues. He is a strikeout pitcher averaging more than one per inning in his career so far, but he has had control problems in the past walking 5.10 per 9 innings over his career.

He has a lot of upside and his future is now. The Tigers didn’t resign closer Jose Valverde and are looking for Rondon to open the season as the Detroit Tigers closer if the passes the audition this spring.

Daniel Corcino, rhp, CIN – #94

Corcino is from Azuna, Dominican Republic and enters the 2013 season at only 22 years of age. He was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a non-drafted free agent in January 2008.

After spending three seasons in Rookie ball or at the Low-A level, Corcino was moved to a starting pitcher and really took off. In 2011, he spent the year at the Low-A level and pitched well for Dayton going 11-7/3.42 in 26 starts. He made the jump to Double-A Pensacola last year and pitched just as well. In 26 starts, Corcino went 8-8 with a 3.01 ERA over 143.1 innings.

Like a lot of young pitchers he has struggled at times with his control. Over his minor league career he has averaged 3.48 walks per 9 innings. He can miss bats at time as well with his career 8.65 strikeouts per 9 innings.

He will once again get to face advanced hitters at either the Double-A or Triple-A level for 2013 to see if he can continue his success and move further toward a spot in the Cincinnati rotation.

Next up we will take a look at the prospects from 81-90.

Posted in Minors, MLB, N. America0 Comments

Today in Baseball History – February 20

February 20, 1943

Chewing gum mogul Philip K. Wrigley creates the All-American Girls Softball League which was quickly turned into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The league would run from 1943 until 1954 and served in the early years to keep the game of baseball in the public eye while the majority of men were away during World War II.

February 20, 1953

August A. Busch buys the Cardinals and promises not to move them from St. Louis.

Busch oversaw the team until his death in 1989. During that time the Cardinals won six NL Championships and three World Series titles.

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UNC Takes Over the Top Spot in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Top 30

Only one team in the Preseason Top 10 dropped out over the first weekend as Stanford dropped 2-of-3 to Rice dropping from #9 to #11. With the wins, Rice jumped from #20 to #10.

Stanford’s top prospect Mark Appel (L, 0-1) took the loss in the opening game pitching five innings while giving up five runs (two earned). He was out pitched by Rice starter Austin Kubitza, a Preseason Second Team All-American, who struck out 12 in the win.

Another change in the Top 10 was the swap at the top as #1 and #2 changed spots with one another.

North Carolina, the new #1, took a pair of games from Seton Hall over the weekend to take over the top spot. They are now 3-0 after a win over Coastal Carolina on Monday. Arkansas, now #2, took 2-of-3 from Western Illinois dropping the third game of the series 7-5. After a double header sweep of New Orleans on Tuesday, the Razorbacks now sit at 4-1.

UNC and Arkansas were the number ones in pretty much every preseason poll as both teams look to have strong seasons on the way to Omaha.

The Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll is the oldest college baseball poll. Its birth took place during the 1957 college baseball season.

(Top 30 Agate Follows)

 

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s

NCAA Div. I Poll (As of Feb. 18, 2013)

www.baseballnews.com

Rank School (Record) Points Previous
1. North Carolina (2-0) 495 2
2. Arkansas (2-1) 493 1
3. Vanderbilt (2-1) 492 3
4. Louisiana St. (3-0) 489 4
5. Oregon (3-0) 486 6
6. UCLA (2-1) 484 5
7. South Carolina (2-1) 481 7
8. Kentucky (2-0) 478 8
9. Oregon St. (3-0) 475 10
10. Rice (2-1) 472 20
11. Stanford (1-2) 471 9
12. Mississippi St. (4-0) 468 13
13. N.C. State (0-1) 467 11
14. Oklahoma (4-0) 465 14
15. Arizona (3-0) 462 18
16. Mississippi (3-0) 460 25
17. Georgia Tech. (3-0) 457 17
18. Florida St. (3-0) 455 19
19. Cal. St. Fullerton (4-0) 454 23
20. Miami, Fla. (3-0) 451 28
21. U.C. Irvine (3-0) 449 30
22. San Diego St. (3-0) 446
23. Arizona St. (2-1) 444 16
24. Florida (2-1) 442 24
25. Texas (2-1) 440 21
26. Louisville (2-1) 438 22
27. Texas A&M (2-1) 435 26
28. Clemson (2-1) 433 27
29. Virginia (2-0) 432 35
30. Southern Miss. (3-0) 429 36

 

LOUISVILLE SLUGGER’S” NATIONAL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

OF Danny Collins, Troy: Collins had a monster week as he went 8-for-14 over four games with 9 RBI as he collected one homer, two triples, two doubles and 17 total bases. During the second game of the season, he hit for the cycle, Troy’s first since 2009. He also scored nine runs and didn’t strike out.

1B/LHP Clinton Freeman, East Tennessee St.: Freeman went 8-for-10 over three games with three homers, one triple, one double and five RBI. He also scored seven runs. In two relief appearances, he struck out three and earned a save in 1 1/3 innings on the mound.

1B Zack Powers, Florida: Powers went 3-for-6 at the plate with two grand slams and 9 RBI for the Gators. Powers hit both grand slams during a 16-5 win over Duke and also collected all 9 RBI as well. He joined Preston Tucker as the only Florida players in history to accomplish this feat in one game.

RHP Trevor Foss, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Foss recorded 15 strikeouts while allowing only three hits and no runs in a complete game shutout of Texas-Pan American. He only allowed one walk.

RHP Buck Farmer, Georgia Tech.: Farmer set a career high with 14 strikeouts in eight dominant innings during a 3-0 win over Akron on opening day. He scattered four singles, and just one runner advanced past first base.

RHP Jeremy Null, Western Carolina: Null struck out a career-high 13 batters in seven innings against Washington State. His 13 strikeouts were the most by a Catamount pitcher since Matt Benedict had 13 during the 2011 season.

Poll and Players of the Week courtesy Baseball Collegiate Newspaper

Posted in College, N. America, News0 Comments

WBC: Prospect Jurickson Profar Decides Not to Play for the Netherlands

Jurickson Profar, the #1 prospect in Baseball, will not play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Profar decided not to participate over the weekend as the Wednesday deadline for the teams to announce their final roster was approaching. Instead, he will stay in the Texas Rangers camp to fight for a spot on the Opening Day roster. There is a utility spot open on the team, and it has not been decided by the Rangers front office if Profar should start the year in Triple-A to play everyday, or to take the chance and use him at different positions at the Major League level.

With Elvis Andrus committed to play for Venezuela in the WBC, Profar could see a lot of time over the next six weeks in the Cactus League.

Posted in News, Tournaments0 Comments

Today in Baseball History – February 19

February 19, 1953

While serving in the Korean War, Ted Williams’ plane, a F9F Panther, was hit by flak during a raid in Pyongyang, North Korea. He and his plane limped back to a nearby Air Force airfield close to the front line where he safely landed.

Williams flew 39 missions in Korea and was finally withdrawn from fight status in June 1953 after they discovered an inner ear infection when he was hospitalized for pneumonia.

 

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Today in Baseball History – February 18th

February 18, 1943

In an effort to keep the fledgling Philadelphia Phillies out of the hands of Bill Veeck, the league orchestrates a sale of the team to William D. Cox.

Ironically, in less than a year Cox would be banned for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for betting on his own team. He became the first non-player, and the last manager, to be banned for life from the game.

Born on this day:

1938 Manny Mota

Died on this day:

2001 Eddie Matthews

Posted in MLB, N. America, Today in Baseball History0 Comments

Jan Esselman New President of Confederation of European Baseball

Esselman wins elections at joint CEB-ESF Congress in Bled, Slovenia

By International Baseball Federation (IBAF)

Jan Esselman (Netherlands), who had served since 2005 as the Chair of the Technical Commission, is the new President of the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB). Esselman won the election(15 to 7, 6 votes were invalid) against Vojco Korosec of Slovenia, the country that hosted the Congress in Bled.

After Massimo Fochi of Italy and Angelo Vicini of San Marino withdrew their candidatures, Peter Kurz (Israel) became the 1st Vice President.

Juergen Elsishans of Germany was elected 2nd Vice President over (14 votes to 12, 2 invalid) Alexander Ratner of Russia.

Petr Ditrich, who had been acting President for the last 11 months, after elected President Miller resigned, becomes the 3rd Vice President with 20 votes over Rod Moore of Denmark (4).

René Laforce (Belgium) was confirmed unopposed as the organization Treasurer. He had presented a 2012 accounting with an advance over 28,000 euros and is hopeful that CEB can breakeven also at the end of 2013.

Xavier Mateu of Spain is the new Secretary General. After Mario De Bono of Malta withdrew, he also won unopposed.

Matts Franson (Sweden), Michael Manning (Ireland), Didier Seminet (France), Monique Schmidt (Switzerland) and Valentinas Bobulis (Lithuania) are the five members at large.

After the winning teams of the 2012 season, CEB also awarded the individuals who had a special year.

The Coach of the Year was Marco Mazzieri, who led Italy to back to back European Championships (2010 and 2012).

The Umpire of the Year was Frantisek Prybil (Czech Republic).

The Scorer of the year was Denis Duin of The Netherlands.

Spain that qualified for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, was named The Federation of the Year.

Bled also hosted the Congress of the European Softball Federation (ESF), that confirmed President André Van Overbeek of the Netherlands, who won the voting (17 to 11) against Giovanni Antonio Sanna of Italy.

Ami Baran (Israel), who was the only candidate after Francesca Fabretto of Italy withdrew her candidature, is the new Secretary General. Eddy Van Straelen (Belgium) was unanimously confirmed as the Treasurer.

Gabriel Waage (Czech Republic) is the new 1st Vice President.

The other five Vice Presidents are Youri Alkalay (Bulgaria), Dejan Jesic (Serbia), John Austin (Ireland), Mette Niessen Jakobsen (Denmark) and Gilbert Tobbak (Belgium).

Posted in Europe, News0 Comments

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