Tag Archive | "World Baseball Classic"

World Baseball Classic Grows Game Globally, Boosts Case for Baseball & Softball in the Olympics


Press Release World Baseball Softball Confederation

The 2013 WBC has demonstrated emphatically that baseball is flourishing beyond its “American” origins, and if placed on the Olympic Programme, baseball, along with softball, would significantly enhance the excitement, popularity, universality and experience that an already strong Olympic Games program produces.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Baseball and Softball’s campaign for inclusion in the Olympics received a big boost from last week’s successful staging of the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

“The success and expansion [from 16 to 28 national teams] of the World Baseball Classic highlights the demand for baseball on a global stage and is a major boost for efforts to provide more opportunities for a new generation of young athletes to proudly wear their nations’ jerseys,” World Baseball Softball Confederation co-President Riccardo Fraccari stated.

The WBC, launched in 2006 and only in its third edition, exceeded worldwide broadcast and ticket sales benchmarks, highlighting the potential benefits and attractiveness that adding a bat-and-ball sport to the Olympic Programme could deliver.

Less than half of the teams in the 2013 WBC came from the Americas (39%), while 29% of the 28 qualified teams came from Europe and 21% from Asia. The 2013 WBC has demonstrated emphatically that baseball is flourishing beyond its “American” origins, and if placed on the Olympic Programme, baseball, along with softball, would significantly enhance the excitement, popularity, universality and experience that an already strong Olympic Games program produces.

WBSC co-head Don Porter commented, “We believe baseball and softball can become the next global game and bring the embodiment of sport and Olympic ideals to the lives of millions of young people around the world through baseball, softball and the Olympic Games.”

The 2013 World Baseball Classic surpassed previous WBC records in attendance, licensing, viewership, sponsorship sales and social media activity.

“The impressive figures [of the WBC] clearly indicate that our sport could help further drive the Olympic brand in key and lucrative regions, as well as in digital media, where the baseball discipline has strongholds and continues to thrive and expand,” said Fraccari.

“In 2009, there were professional baseball players from 30 countries; today there are 44 countries represented and we expect this growth trend to continue and accelerate with the inclusion of baseball and softball in the Olympics,” Fraccari stated.

“Baseball and softball leagues around the world have continued to adapt and take the sport to new markets, demonstrating the growing appeal and popularity of baseball and softball, particular among youth in an ever widening range of cultures, countries and continents, “ said Porter.

Baseball and Softball are included in a group of sports that the IOC Executive Board and will have to pass by this key evaluation to go to a final vote before the entire IOC membership in September.

Some Highlights and Figures of the 2013 World Baseball Classic

  • Japan’s opening round game was the most viewed sporting event in Japan for the last 12 months, registering a 22.1 rating and a 43 share.
  • A record-breaking 74% of TV viewers in Puerto Rico tuned in to watch their national team defeat Japan in last Sunday’s semifinal, while the second round game between Japan and Chinese Taipei registered the highest cable ratings in Taipei’s history.
  • The Championship game between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic was the most-watched sporting event in the Dominican Republic of the last ten years, and the most-watched sporting event in Puerto Rico in more than a year.
  • More than 2,100 media accreditation requests were received for the opening pool play round in Fukuoka alone, while fans from more than 220 countries and territories followed visited the official WBC website during the event.
  • The social media following of the official World Baseball Classic Facebook page generated nearly one million likes, comments and shares during the tournament, with posts from the official Twitter feed re-tweeted nearly 200,000 times, showcasing the sport’s appeal to a young and digitally connected audience.

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About the World Baseball Softball Confederation:

Formed under the authority and merger of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and International Softball Federation (ISF), the World Baseball Softball Confederation has been established to provide a unified voice and governance for all disciplines of Softball and Baseball throughout the world.

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World Baseball Classic grows baseball globally with record-setting 2013 tournament


Press Release World Baseball Classic, Inc.

New highs achieved for attendance, television viewership, merchandise sales, sponsorship and social media activity; Championship Game is most-watched sporting event in Dominican Republic in at least the past ten years

The 2013 World Baseball Classic set records in attendance, licensing, viewership and sponsorship sales and social media activity as the tournament continued its mission of growing the sport of baseball around the world. Below are some of the event highlights from the 2013 World Baseball Classic:

Attendance
Overall, the tournament drew a total attendance of 885,212, which surpassed the 2009 World Baseball Classic top total of 801,410 by more than 10%.

• Tournament attendance records were set in Arizona (First Round), Puerto Rico (First Round), Miami (Second Round), and Tokyo (Second Round)

  • The First Round pool in Arizona, which registered 115,183 fans, surpassing the attendance of the First Round pool in Arizona in 2006 by 26%
  • The First Round pool in Puerto Rico registered a total attendance of 95,058, which represents the highest attendance for any of the four World Baseball Classic pools there in the tournament’s history surpassing the previous high recorded in the Second Round of the 2006 event (92,163)
  • The Second Round games in Miami and Tokyo totaled 325,282 fans, a 58% increase over the 206,180 fans that attended Second Round games in 2009

• Several venues registered record numbers for individual games including:

  • The Chinese Taipei vs. Korea match-up on March 5th was played before a crowd of 23,431, the largest attendance ever for a baseball game in Taiwan
  • The United States vs. Mexico game at Chase Field on March 8th attracted 44,256 fans, which was the second most attended World Baseball Classic game ever in North America, trailing only the 2009 Championship Game at Dodger Stadium (54,846)
  • A crowd of 34,366 fans packed Marlins Park for the Dominican Republic vs. United States game on March 14th, the fourth-largest crowd ever at Marlins Park

Viewership
The World Baseball Classic generated massive television viewership around the world, setting records in countries including the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico and Taiwan.

• Tuesday’s Championship game was the most-watched sporting event in the Dominican Republic in at least the past ten years, and the most-watched sporting event in Puerto Rico in at least the past year.

  • In the Dominican Republic, the game averaged an 11.2 rating and 39 share on CDN, peaking at a 63 share towards the end of the game (percentage of available viewers tuned in). The previous high for the tournament was for the Semi-Final win over the Kingdom of the Netherlands the night before.
  • In Puerto Rico, the game earned a combined 39.9 rating on Telemundo, MLB Network and ESPN Deportes, with a 64 share. The previous high was for the Semi-Final win over Japan on Sunday.
  • In both cases, these numbers do not include the massive crowds that gathered at ballparks, movie theaters and other large public spaces for viewing parties.

• Japan’s defeat of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on March 10th was the most viewed sporting event in Japan the last 12 months, registering a 22.1 rating and a 43 share, out-rating all 2012 Olympics coverage and World Cup qualifying matches.

  • Japan’s Semi-Final loss to Puerto Rico generated a 51 share in Japan, tops among all World Baseball Classic games.
  • One-third of all televisions on in Japan were tuned to the World Baseball Classic for the three first Round Games in Fukuoka.
  • Taiwan recorded its highest-rated cable program in the country’s history (15.5 rating) for the March 8th extra-inning thriller between Japan and Chinese Taipei.
  • MLB Network’s six most-watched non-Postseason games are from the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Tuesday’s Championship game averaged 843,000 viewers, making it the second most-watched non-Postseason telecast in MLB Network history and its fourth most-watched game overall.
  • Tuesday’s Championship game was the most-watched baseball game ever on ESPN Deportes and the network’s most-watched live sporting event since August.
  • World Baseball Classic games shown live in Canada nationally on Sportsnet produced a 97% increase in viewership from comparable national coverage in 2009.

Sponsorship
• Sixty-six companies in eight countries sponsored the World Baseball Classic globally or regionally – up from 56 companies in 2009 and 26 in 2006. The roster included four global partners – Brand USA (the new tourism marketing organization for the United States), Delta Air Lines, Konami and MetLife Merchandise

• Through the first two rounds of the World Baseball Classic, retail sales are tracking more than 10% ahead of 2009.

• World Baseball Classic merchandise from the Japan vs. Brazil game on March 2nd set a single-day sales record for the Fukuoka Dome

Online
• Fans from more than 220 countries and territories visited WorldBaseballClassic.com

Social Media
• The 2013 World Baseball Classic generated nearly 600 million social media impressions, according to Bluefin Labs and Radian 6.

• More than 75 different terms related to the World Baseball Classic trended worldwide on Twitter throughout the tournament. At many points throughout the Championship Round, every top trend in each participating country were related to the tournament.

• Posts from the official World Baseball Classic Facebook page generated nearly one million likes, comments and shares during the tournament, and posts from the official Twitter feed were re-tweeted nearly 200,000 times.

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2013 MetLife All-World Baseball Classic Team Announced


Press Release World Baseball Classic, Inc.

Fans Help Select Most Outstanding Players of the Tournament for First Time

World Baseball Classic, Inc. today announced the members of the 2013 MetLife All-World Baseball Classic Team. For the first time, baseball fans from around the globe were able to vote for the most outstanding players of the tournament. Fan voting counted for one-third of the total points awarded to each player, with the other two-thirds coming from international broadcast media and international sportswriters.

Dominican Republic second baseman Robinson Cano was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The following players were selected to the 2013 MetLife All-World Baseball Classic Team:

Position Player Team 2013 Tournament Statistics
C Yadier Molina Puerto Rico .259, SB, 2.88 Team ERA
1B Edwin Encarnacion Dominican Republic .250, tied for team-high with 6 RBI, 3 R
2B Robinson Cano Dominican Republic .469, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 25 TB
3B David Wright United States .438, HR, 10 RBI
SS Jose Reyes Dominican Republic .314, HR, 3 RBI, 7 R
OF Angel Pagan Puerto Rico .364, 2 SB, .447 OBP
OF Nelson Cruz Dominican Republic .303, 6 RBI
OF Michael Saunders Canada .727, HR, 7 RBI
DH Hirokazu Ibata Japan .556, 4 RBI, 6 R
P Kenta Maeda Japan 15 IP, 1 ER, 0.60 ERA, 18 SO
P Nelson Figueroa Puerto Rico 2 Wins, 1.80 ERA
P Fernando Rodney Dominican Republic 7.1 IP, 0 ER, 7 SV

MetLife is one of four Global Sponsors for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and is the Official Insurance Company of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. MetLife, and its brand ambassador Snoopy, have been incorporated into multiple aspects of the event including aerial coverage from the MetLife blimps integrated into the game broadcasts and appearances by Snoopy at the games.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic, which is the third edition of the tournament, is the premier international baseball tournament featuring the world’s best players representing their countries and territories. MLB Network and ESPN Deportes are the exclusive English and Spanish-language broadcasters in the United States and 39 international broadcasters televised games in 14 languages in more than 200 countries and territories. The World Baseball Classic, which is officially sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), was recognized for the first time in 2013 as the official national team World Championship, with the winner crowned the 2013 World Baseball Classic Champion and the IBAF World Champion.

About the World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, and features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories.  More than 1.5 million fans from all over the world have attended the tournament games, held in March 2006 and 2009. Team Japan is the reigning World Baseball Classic Champion, taking home both the inaugural and 2009 titles.

About World Baseball Classic, Inc.
World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) is a company created at the direction of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to operate the World Baseball Classic tournament. The tournament, which is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), is supported by MLB, the MLBPA, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), their respective players associations and other leagues and players from around the world.

About the International Baseball Federation
The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) is the world governing body for baseball, comprising 122 national member federations.  Together with its member federations, the IBAF is dedicated to the promotion, development, and organization of baseball around the world. The IBAF is the sole entity recognized by the International Olympic Committee for overseeing and sanctioning all national team competition. The IBAF headquarters are located in Lausanne, Switzerland.

About MetLife
MetLife, Inc. is a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York, NY 10166.

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World Baseball Classic semi-finals generate massive television viewership in Japan


Loss to Puerto Rico on Sunday Watched by 51% of Potential Viewers in Japan

The World Baseball Classic continues to generate massive television ratings in the competing countries.  In Japan, Sunday’s loss to Puerto Rico earned a 51 share (percentage of available viewers tuned to the game), the largest share for any of Japan’s World Baseball Classic games this year.

That game was also the most-watched sporting event in the past year in Puerto Rico, with the final moments of the game peaking at an astonishing 74 share.  Today, Puerto Rico takes on the undefeated Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic Championship game, which will be available to 440 million households worldwide, reaching more than 200 countries and territories in 15 different languages. In the U.S., the game will be televised on MLB Network in English and ESPN Deportes in Spanish.  In Puerto Rico, the game will also be broadcast by Telemundo WKAQ, while in the Dominican Republic the game will be televised by CDN.

Press Release World Baseball Classic, Inc.

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Dominican Republic Claims First World Baseball Classic Title


Dominican Republic Claims Second World Title

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The Dominican Republic used its patented blend of pitching, athleticism, and timely hitting to shut out Puerto Rico 3-0 in the 2013 World Baseball Classic championship game. The team did so in a record-setting way, winning all eight of their games to become the first undefeated WBC champs. The world title was the first for the Dominicans since the 1948 World Cup.

The game was almost washed out in the early innings, as rain poured down beginning in the second frame and lasting for over an hour. As it was the final contest of the Classic, tournament officials were eager to get in the game, but until the top of the fourth it looked like it would be a rain-shortened game. The weather became more favourable about halfway through the matchup and no delay was necessary.

Sam Deduno, who has only six career big league victories, dominated on the hill for the victors, never allowing Puerto Rico to stage any kind of threat. Deduno gave up a hit to AngelPagan to start the game and he advanced to second on a sacrifice, but Deduno struck out Carlos Beltran swinging and Yadier Molina went down looking.

Giancarlo Alvarado did not look nearly so sharp for Puerto Rico. Jose Reyes greeted the journeyman right-hander with a booming double into the right centre field alley and was bunted to third by Erick Aybar. RobinsonCanóo who came into the contest hitting .517 with a 1.410 OPS, was intentionally walked to put two runners on.

The move turned out to be a mistake by Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez, who had managed so superlatively throughout the Classic. Edwin Encarnacion, who had not connected for an extra-base hit in seven games, crushed a double to deep right centre and both runners scored.

Alvarado then threw a wild pitch, but got two consecutive flyouts to escape without further damage. With a 2-0 advantage, however, Deduno and the Dominicans coasted for the remaining nine innings.

Deduno hurled five innings and gave up only two hits and three free passes. Using his wicked hook and a 93-mph/150 kmh fastball with incredible movement, he mowed down five batters and set down seven consecutive batters are the Pagán’s leadoff safety. He finished the WBC with a 0.69 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Alvarado was done after one, and Rodríguez inserted Hiram Burgos, who had thrown 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the tourney. That move turned out to be the right one, as Burgos immediately got to work, needing only 10 pitches to register a scoreless second.

Burgos, a standout Milwaukee Brewers’ prospect, would match Deduno’s zeroes until the fifth. After his fourth strikeout to start the frame, Alejandro de Aza dropped a clinical bunt single down the third base line and beat the throw by a step. Reyes hit a soft groundball to Irving Falu at second base as de Aza motored to second.

Rather than risk losing both outs, Falú did not try to tag de Aza and instead opted to throw out Reyes. With two down, Aybar roped a two-bagger into the right field corner to plate the Dominicans’ third run of the game. The mental mistake almost certainly added to Puerto Rico’s deficit.

Dominican manager Tony Pena removed Deduno after five, entrusting the three-run lead to his dominant bullpen. Octavio Dotel threw a 1-2-3 sixth, and the Dominicans threatened again in the latter half of the frame.

With two down, Nelson Cruz ripped his fourth double of the tournament, tying him with Canó for the lead in that category. Carlos Santana worked his ninth free pass, tops among all players, and Burgos’ night was over.

Rodríguez inserted Jose de la Torre, who once more impressed. The Red Sox minor leaguer got the third out on strikes to keep Puerto Rico close. An inning later, and it was Xavier Cedeno who worked out of a jam after Reyes blasted another ball to the gap in right field, legging out a triple this time. Cedeño got Canó for the third out.

Puerto Rico had a runner on base in the final three innings, but could do nothing against the shutdown Dominican ‘pen. Pedro Strop got out of a two on, no out jam in the seventh with two strikeouts and a popout to end the only real chance for Puerto Rico, and Santiago Casilla struck out one in a scoreless eighth.

Fernando Rodney came on to pitch the ninth and upped his save records by one with an easy final frame. He recorded two strikeouts to earn his seventh save of the WBC and eighth of his career. The formermark may never be broken in the current format, as the Dominicans are only of only two teams (Japan, 2009) to have ever won seven games in one tournament.

The Dominican Republic finished the World Baseball Classic with an 8-0 record, the most wins in a tournament and the only undefeated record. It is now 14-4 in the tournament all-time, which ties South Korea for second-most victories and sets the mark for best winning percentage. The nation should shoot up the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) rankings about five spots from their current No. 13 ranking.

Reyes and Aybar led the team in the final game with two hits apiece as the team accrued only eight, though five went for extra bases. Canó was tabbed the World Baseball Classic MVP after a performance that included a .469 batting average, .514 OBP, and .781 slugging percentage. He led the tournament in four categories, including hits (15) and total bases (25).

Deduno improved to 2-0, while Alvarado dropped to 2-1. Deduno and the bullpen held Puerto Rico to only three hits after surrendering four the night before. Puerto Rico was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base, striking out 10 times.

Puerto Rico should rise from No. 12 to the ninths spot in the IBAF charts thanks to its 5-4 performance, especially since three of those loses came to the victorious Dominican Republic. Its second-place finish is its best in a global tournament since a silver medal in the 1976 World Cup.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of the 2013 Classic and future editions, including the announcement of the All-World Team, the qualifying rounds for 2017, and much more.

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WBC: Dominican Downs the Dutch; Will Face Puerto Rico in Championship


Dominican Republic Advances to WBC Final

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The World Baseball Classic championship game will have a distinctly Caribbean flavour this year. The Dominican Republic fought off a gallant Dutch side to earn a 4-1 semifinal round victory and advance to the title match versus Puerto Rico. The undefeated Dominicans received a strong start from Edinson Volquez, who teamed up with three relievers on a four-hitter.

The Netherlands struck first in the win-or-go-home contest. Vólquez exhibited his usual first inning control problems, walking Andrelton Simmons and Jurickson Profar to start the game. They advanced on a ground ball and Simmons scored on a tapper to short by Wladimir Balentien.

Diegomar Markwell, who induced a number of key grounders in his last start, also against a power-hitting lineup in Cuba, started off well for the Orange. The southpaw gave up a hit to Robinson Cano in the inning, extending the Dominican second baseman’s streak to seven games, but was otherwise untouched.

Both starters matched zeroes through the next three frames. Vólquez, in particular, looked strong, retiring 11 batters consecutively beginning in the first frame. The streak ended with two outs in the fourth when Andruw Jones had the Netherlands’ first hit of the game.

Markwell was solid, picking off a batter in the second and getting out of the third after Miguel Tejada forgot to check the scoreboard before popping up a bunt with two down. The veteran Dutch pitcher finally ran into trouble in the fifth, though.

With one out, Markwell gave up back-to-back doubles to Carlos Santana and Moises Sierra, who had made a spectacular leaping catch on a fly ball that landed two seats into the stands in left field to end the first inning. Markwell registered the next out, but needed eight pitches to get it and the hurler was clearly tiring by the time he faced José Reyes.

The Dominican leadoff hitter worked the count full before blooping a single just over Markwell’s head that scored Sierra with the second run in the inning. Markwell stayed in to face Tejada, who stroked another hit over second base and the Dominicans continued to rally.

With Canó, a left-handed hitter, at the plate, Netherlands skipper Hensley Meulens pulled Markwell, who by WBC pitch restrictions could have faced the slugger as his last batter. Meulens inserted right-hander Tom Stuifbergen, who threw a wild pitch to score an elated Reyes.

Tejada moved to second, and with first now open, Stuifbergen gave Canó an intentional pass. That set the stage for Edwin Encarnacion to plate Tejada with yet another one-base hit to centre. With two outs, Canó was hustling on the play and tried to advance to third on the shallow single, but Roger Bernadina gunned him down with a perfect strike to Jonathan Schoop at third.

The damage was done, however, and Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena turned the ball over to his dominant bullpen. Kelvin Herrera pumped in 98-mph/158-kmh fastballs in scoreless sixth and seventh innings, working around a double to Balentien in the former.

Peña’s hitters were unable to put together another rally in the game, and with the score still 4-1, Fernando Rodney entered to pitch the ninth. The Classic record-holder added another save to the books with a 1-2-3, two-strikeout final frame and his teammates flooded the mound to congratulate him.

Vólquez earned his first win of the WBC with five innings of one-run ball. He gave up two hits and a pair of walks, striking out five. Herrera struck out three in two scoreless frames and Strop tossed a scoreless eighth. Rodney nailed down his sixth save, a Classic record for tournament and career.

Markwell fell to 2-1 in the Classic and was charged with all four Dominican runs on six hits and one base on balls. He threw 4 2/3 innings and did not strike out a batter. Stuifbergen, Leon Boyd, and Loek Van Mil finished off the game.

Dominican pitching scattered three free passes and four safeties over its nine innings. The Orange struck out 10 times and was hitless with runners on base. The victors collected nine hits and reached base 12 times while only whiffing once. Reyes and Tejada both had two hits for Peña, while Canó reached base in three plate appearances. The club was 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

The Netherlands failed in its bid to defend its world title, achieved in 2011. Still, the fourth-place finish is the best-ever by a European nation in the WBC. The Dominicans also earned revenge after the Dutch beat them twice in the 2009 Classic to prevent the team from advancing out of the first round.

With Japan, the two-time World Baseball Classic champion, also eliminated, this year’s title game will be the first all-Caribbean world title game since 1990, when Cuba defeated Nicaragua. Both the Dominican Republic (1948) and Puerto Rico (1951) last won a world title more than 60 years ago. Those two world championships are the only two times that Caribbean teams have met to crown a champion without Cuba represented in the game.

The Dominican Republic is the first team ever to win its first seven games in a Classic. The only other squad that was undefeated after two rounds, Korea, lost in the 2006 semifinals. Puerto Rico has earned its trip to the final the hard way, staving off elimination in the second round. They are 5-3.

The two Caribbean heavyweights will contest the world championship on Mar. 19 at 8 p.m. EST in AT&T Park in San Francisco. Tune in for all the coverage of the World Baseball Classic’s final game of 2013 and continued analysis after the new champion is crowned.

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Are US Fans Bad? Another Issue Altogether


The second issue at hand after the fallout of Jeff Passan’s article is are US fans bad?

I discuss whether they are boring or not here. A completely separate issues is if they are bad or not. Boring doesn’t necessarily make you a bad fan.

So, are US fans boring? Generally yes. Are US fans bad? Generally no.

Just as we state that we don’t encompass all US fans into the boring column, we have to do the same with the bad column. Generally US fans are not bad. How can you call St. Louis Cardinals fans bad? Believe me I wish I could after Game 6 in 2011. Trust me if I could make the point that Cardinals fans that root for David Freese were bad, I would. But that’s just the anger that is still there from 2011. No matter how bad I want them to be, they aren’t. Believe me I try not to hold grudges, but I am still trying to forgive Lonnie Smith for falling for the fake double play at second base in 1991. One day I’ll get over it, but not today.

Are all fans great? Heck no!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve cheered on the Atlanta Braves. I grew up as a Dale Murphy fan, and he is still my all-time favorite player. I cheered for them when they were the worst team in baseball, and fortunately for me they turned it around and became a dynasty in the 1990s.

So why do I bring up the Braves? It’s their fans. I’ve never lived in Atlanta. I grew up as a fan thanks to TBS like so many others around the US. I wish I had lived in Atlanta during their best years because Atlanta doesn’t have the greatest fans. There were way too many years where there were playoff games that weren’t sold out.

I never understood that. I grew up in Texas. When I got to go to a MLB game it was to see the Texas Rangers, so I always have a place in my heart for them. I saw them struggle for so many years. Most of my best friends back home are die hard Rangers fans who had gone their whole lives with just a short taste of the playoffs. Seeing that while at the same time seeing that my favorite team couldn’t sell out a playoff game didn’t sit well with my friends, or me for that matter.

I’m not here to single out Atlanta, but it reminds me of the US in the WBC. Where were the fans?

In an elimination game against Puerto Rico on US soil the game only brought in 19,762 fans. Now a lot of teams in the Major Leagues would love to have 19,000+ fans each night. But this isn’t some run of the mill, bottom of the standings team. This is Team USA.

Sure they drew over 34,000 against the Dominican Republic, but where were those fans against Puerto Rico?

Now before I get flamed, not showing up doesn’t make you a bad fan but it does contribute to the problem.

The fans that have shown their true colors are those that have come out and blasted the WBC. I can’t count how many Tweets. blog posts, and comments have shown many of the fans hatred of the Classic. That I don’t understand.

Sure I want to see the best of the best play, but why should they if we have a lot of fans blasting the tournament saying how it is meaningless and the players are only hurting themselves by not being in camp?

Why don’t we as fans set the president of what is important by vocalizing it more. If we as a whole, and this isn’t everyone, show the players how much this means to us then they would play. Instead we have national writers and many fans blasting the tournament as a waste of time. If we are telling Justin Verlander it’s a waste of time, we can’t turn around and get angry at him for not playing.

Those are the fans that have missed some of the most exciting baseball to come along in a long time.

Fortunately for baseball, I don’t think they are in the majority. There are so many great baseball fans out there that have followed this tournament from day one and would do so if the US was in it or not. Many of them see the bigger picture for the game and how the growth that the Classic helps on a global scale is worth everything and more.

What happens if Puerto Rico faces off with the Netherlands in the Championship Game? Many people will think it will just show how weak the tournament is. That’s not the case though. It’s just the opposite. It shows how baseball is growing and is becoming a truly global sport.

Of course if you read this blog a lot you know I fully support the growth of the game on a global scale. I feel this only helps the game here in the US, including MLB. So how could this tournament do anything but good for the game?

Fortunately there are people that see the bigger picture, and to those fans I salute you and say thank you. I only wish we had more fans like you.

Why is it that if we slapped the Olympic Rings on this tournament it would be a hit? Maybe I am in the minority in that I can separate my feelings for players from teams I like and dislike when they are playing for their home country. I won’t mix words here but I hate the Mets. Being a Braves fan I want to see them lose every single game they play. But even so, I was pulling for David Wright as much as I was Craig Kimbrel. Why? It’s not the name on the back that matters. It’s that name on the front.

I definitely might be in the minority in that I will watch and root on any sport that the USA represents. Call me a homer, a fool, or any other thing you want but I want the USA to win everything, even if they are playing tiddlywinks. Thankfully, I am not alone.

Those are the fans that make this game great, and thankfully for baseball they come from more countries than just the USA. Baseball, and the WBC for that matter, is going to be okay because of those fans worldwide.

Thank you fans of Italy.

Thank you fans of the Netherlands.

Thank you fans of Mexico, Canada, Dominican, Puerto Rico, Brazil, etc…

That goes for every team that was in the WBC and those in the qualifiers.

I know I’ve gotten off track a bit from the initial point, but it can’t be understated how great many of the fans are out there from the US and everywhere else.

Too many times the negative outshine the positive. I know because it happened to me when I ranted about the WBC after reading the comments on Jeff Passan’s article. There are a lot of closed minded idiots out there. Fortunately for the game and the US, they are in the minority.

Sure there are some things that need to be changed to make the WBC better. Let’s not forget thought that it’s still in its infancy. Despite Bud Selig, sorry not a fan, this tournament will continue to be a success because of the fans.

So are there bad US fans? Yes, but they are in the minority.

It’s easy to get carried away and mix the two thoughts, boring and bad. But one doesn’t necessarily make the other a reality.

So with all that being said, let’s all enjoy some great baseball while we still can.

I love this game!

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Just leave a comment below or email us if you wish.

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WBC: Dominican Republic vs Netherlands Pitching Match Up


The Dominican Republic is looking for a little revenge on Monday night in the World Baseball Classic. In 2009, the Netherlands bounced the Dominican out of the first round after upsetting them twice. This go around the teams are much different. But who will they both be starting on Monday?

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic will give Edinson Volquez the start. He has made two starts so far in the WBC. His first start came against Venezuela where he only pitched one inning due to a 50-minute rain delay. His next start came against Italy. In that start he pitched 4.1 innings but struggled at the start.

In the first inning against Italy, he walked the first three hitters. He would go on to give up four runs in the first inning but settled down after that.

He will look to have a strong start in this game against a very good hitting Netherlands team.

Netherlands

The Dutch are starting their top starter on Monday, Diegomar Markwell.

Markwell has won both of his starts and pitched a total of 10 innings so far. Over those 10 innings he has giving up one run for an ERA of 0.90. He has done a great job getting ground ball outs and keeping the ball in the park. He will need to do more of that on Monday if he hopes to keep the Dutch in the game.

The left-handed pitches is the cousin of teammate Andruw Jones. After spending a few years in the minor leagues, Markwell has done quite well in the leagues of Europe.

In 2012, he pitched in the Dutch Major League as was brilliant. He compiled an 11-1 record and an ERA of just 1.34 pitching in just over 80 innings for the Neptunus Rotterdam.

So far he has beaten South Korea and Cuba and now turns his sights toward the Dominican Republic.

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World Baseball Classic Finals Preview: Dominican Republic


In our final preview of the semifinal teams, we take a look at what many may consider to be the favorite in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic

WBC History

In 2006, the Dominican Republic rolled through the first round undefeated. In Round 2, they finished 2-1 and continued onto the semifinal round where they lost to the eventual runner-up Cuba. The next Classic in 2009 was a complete different story and a huge disappointment. They were bounced out of the 2009 Classic after losing twice to the Netherlands in Round 1.

This go around they are back stronger than ever looking for their first title. So far in 2013, they have gone undefeated. Now they have a chance at revenge for the pair of losses the Netherlands put on them in ’09.

The Hitters

This is an absolute stacked lineup full of MLB All-Stars. Robinson Cano has led the team and has simply been on fire. He has posted a ling of .519/.519/.889 so far including two home runs.

Joining Cano in the lineup are Carlos Santana (.313/.542/.688) and Nelson Cruz (.360/.385/.480). Not everyone in the lineup is hitting well though. Jose Reyes (.259), Hanley Ramirez (.176), and Erick Aybar (.278) might not have put up great numbers so far, but they have come through with some clutch hits and anyone of them is capable of getting hot and carrying the team.

The Pitchers

This is where the Dominican has really shined. Not only are they the only undefeated team, but they are the best pitching staff. Through six games they have a staff ERA of 2.17.

The starters have been quite good as well including Wandy Rodriguez (2-0/0.96) and Sam Deduno (1-0/1.13). Edinson Volquez is the only starter without a win. He struggled with his control early on against Italy giving up four runs in the first inning, but then he settled down and pitched well. He will get the start on Monday night.

As good as they starters have been, the bullpen has been just as good. Pedro Strop, Fernando Rodney, Octavio Dotel, Santiago Casilla, and Kelvin Herrera have combined for 20 scoreless innings.

The Outlook

This has to be one of the best teams to play in the Classic. If their pitching continues like it has so far, they will be extremely difficult to beat. Then again that is what people thought in 2009 when they faced the Netherlands.

They might be the most well rounded team top to bottom in the semifinals, although Japan would have something to say about that. The question now is can they get revenge for the two losses in 2009 on Monday night?

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World Baseball Classic Finals Preview: Netherlands


Going through our previews of the teams in the 2013 World Baseball Classic we come to the pair of teams that play in the semifinals Monday night. First, let’s start with the Netherlands.

Netherlands

WBC History

The Netherlands didn’t make it out of the first round in 2006 finishing 1-2 in the pool play. In 2009, the Dutch were the talk of the WBC. They defeated the Dominican Republic twice in the first round to advance for the first time. The bowed out quickly in Round 2 losing to the US and Venezuela. Then came 2013.

To get to the Championship Round, the Dutch finished second to Chinese Taipei in Pool B in Round 1 where they upset the 2009 runner-up South Korea. In Round 2, the Netherlands defeated Cuba twice to make their way into the semifinals.

The Hitters

The Netherlands feature a lot of really good young talented position players. They are led by the young Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons who has proven to be a force in the Classic so far. In addition to hitting two home runs, Simmons has posted a .370/.400/.704 line.

But Simmons is not alone. Newly signed to a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins is first baseman Curt Smith who has put up solid numbers as well. Smith, second on the team in hits, has one home run and a .375 average. Not to mention Jonathan Schoop (two home runs), and Andruw Jones (.348/.467/.391).

One player that has struggled is Washington Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina who is hitting only .111 so far.

Plus the Dutch are adding another young bat to the lineup with the addition of Jurickson Profar. Profar, the top rated prospect in baseball, will join the team in San Francisco. He is expected to play second base and bat second in the lineup.

The Pitchers

Monday nights starter Diegomar Markwell has been the ace of the staff so far this Classic. He has started two games, winning both. In ten innings, he has posted an ERA of just 0.90. He has done a great job getting ground ball outs.

The other starters have struggled at times including Rob Cordemans, David Bergman, and Tom Stuifbergen. However, some of the relievers have done quite a good job. Leon Boyd has allowed just a single run in 5.2 innings of relief. Orlando Yntema has pitched good in relief tossing three scoreless innings.

Loek Van Mil has also looked good in relief. He has pitched three innings, finishing three games, earning one save.

The bullpen was bolstered by the Los Angeles Dodgers Kenley Jansen. The hard throwing righty was one the starting catcher for the Netherlands back in 2009. He was converted into a relief pitcher later that year and has turned into a formidable presence in the bullpen striking out 99 batters in just 65.0 innings with Los Angeles in 2012.

The Outlook

The Dutch are facing one of the toughest teams in the Dominican Republic. But these two teams have history. The Netherlands upset them not only once but twice in 2009, and this years team is much better. It will be a huge task to down the Dominican again, but don’t say it can’t be done. This might turn out to be a match for the ages.

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World Baseball Classic Sets Ratings Records In Taiwan and Japan


World Baseball Classic Game is Most Viewed Program in Cable History in Taiwan

Tournament Game is Most Viewed Sporting Event in Japan In Last 12 Months

As the competition of the 2013 World Baseball Classic heats up on the field, the tournament continues to set ratings records around the world.

The March 8th extra-inning thriller between Japan and Chinese Taipei registered a 15.5 rating in Taiwan making it the highest rated cable program in the country’s history.

Japan’s defeat of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on March 10th was the most viewed sporting event in Japan in the last 12 months.  The game registered a 22.1 rating and a 43 share out-rating all 2012 Olympics coverage and World Cup Qualifying matches.

The ratings are a percentage of viewers, ages 4+, out of the total television universe.  The share is the percentage of viewers, ages 4+, out of all people that were watching television.

Press Release World Baseball Classic, Inc.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Ousts Two-Time Defending Champ Japan


Ríos, Puerto Rico Shock Defending Champs Japan

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Edwin Rodriguez, manager of the underdog Puerto Rico team, put together a game plan against the two-time defending World Baseball Classic champions Japan and stuck to it, and Alex Rios hit a two-run homer to give Puerto Rico a 3-1 win in the WBC semifinals. The loss by Japan eliminated them from the competition and ensured that there will be a new world champion.

Kenta Maeda, Japan’s star pitcher, did not allow a run in either of his starts in the first or second rounds, but struggled with the feel of his pitches early in the game. Maeda shook the rosin bag after almost every pitch, polishing the ball in hopes of improving his release.

Maeda clearly felt uncomfortable in a rocky first inning, walking Irving Falu and Carlos Beltran with one out to put a runner in scoring position for the heart of the order. He struck out Molina on three pitches, the last a beautiful slider, but could not get Mike Aviles for the third out.

Aviles stroked a base hit to centre field, and Falú turned on the wheels and raced home to give Puerto Rico a 1-0 lead. The RBI-single tied Aviles for second among run producers, one behind David Wright.

That was all in the inning for Puerto Rico, as Maeda settled down with a grounder from Álex Ríos, and journeyman right-hander Mario Santiago took the hill for Rodríguez. Puerto Rico’s skipper had drawn up a strategy that Santiago and five relievers executed perfectly: pitch quickly and avoid letting the Japanese hitters find their rhythm.

Santiago did just that in the first, needing only about 12 seconds in between pitches to deliver the next toss and, as the game wore on, it was clear that the plan was working. As is common in Japan, the Samurai lineup has complicated batting stances which involve multiple moving parts, and Santiago mowed down the first 10 batters he faced.

After the first, Maeda matched Santiago’s zeroes, using a double play to end the second and start the third inning. Maeda was not nearly as efficient as his opponent, though, exiting after the fifth inning having thrown 80 pitches.

Santiago had to leave in the fifth after injuring himself in the previous frame fielding a groundball. José de la Torre entered with Hayato Sakamoto on second and one out, and gave Japan its first rally by walking Sho Nakata. The Boston Red Sox’ prospect recovered, showing off his impressive arsenal by striking out the next two batters swinging.

Atsushi Nohmi got three outs in the sixth and Japan once more sent a runner into scoring position in the bottom half of the inning. With two out, Seiichi Uchikawa tripled to left centre when Angel Pagan misjudged his base hit and let it go by him to the wall.

Southpaw Xavier Cedeno came in to face Japan’s cleanup hitter, Shinnosuke Abe, and struck out the lefty on four pitches. Cedeño used the same approach as Santiago had, firing in pitches before Abe was comfortable in the box.

Puerto Rico took advantage of Japan’s inability to push runners over in the previous two frames in the seventh. Aviles stroked his second hit of the night to right and Ríos took Nohmi’s 1-1 offering deep into the night, watching in disbelief as the longball landed about a dozen rows in the left centre field bleachers.

The upstarts continued to threaten against reliever Tadashi Settsu. With two out, Jesus Feliciano walked and Pagán laced a safety to right centre to put runners on the corners. Toshiya Sugiuchi got Japan out of the jam, but the damage had been done and Puerto Rico had a 3-0 lead.

Cedeño continued to deal in the seventh, ending the frame with his second K, and Puerto Rico was six outs away from the improbable victory.

The Puerto Rican offence, which had struggled for most of the Classic, almost added another insurance run in the eighth, loading the bases with one out on an error, a nine-pitch walk to Aviles, and a single to Ríos, but Tetsuya Yamaguchi got the final two outs to keep Japan’s deficit at three.

Takashi Toritani made use of AT&T Park’s spacious alleys to rip a triple to right centre. Hirokazu Ibata, the MVP of second round play in Tokyo, blooped a single to right to plate Toritani, and Japan finally showed some life. Uchikawa rapped a one-base hit to right with one out to put runners on first and second, and Rodríguez dipped into his pen for J.C. Romero.

Romero, who closed out Puerto Rico’s victory over the United States only two days’ earlier, entered to face Abe. Japan ran into trouble before the at bat was complete, though, as Ibata missed a double steal sign and only Uchikawa took off for second.

Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico’s catcher, ran out almost all the way to second base to tag Uchikawa, and the Samurai now only had one out to plate the runner. Romero would deny Abe the chance to play hero with a ground ball to the far right side for which Rodríguez had Falú positioned perfectly. The second baseman dove into the hole behind first base, snared the ball, and threw with his back to the ground to nail Abe.

Despite two Ks from Yamaguchi in the ninth, Japan could not narrow the gap against Romero and Fernando Cabrera in the latter half of the frame. Puerto Rico mobbed the field to celebrate its victory in its first-ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

Santiago, who pitched last year in Korea, earned the victory, giving up only two hits in 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out two and failing to issue a base on balls. De la Torre and Cedeño both hurled 1 1/3 scoreless frames, while the run was charged to Randy Fontañez. Romero got three outs and Cabrera the final two, earning his third save of the WBC in the process.

Maeda dropped to 2-1 in the Classic despite surrendering one run on four hits and two free passes in five frames. He struck out three to augment his tournament-leading total to 18, six more than the next closest. Five other pitchers toed the rubber for the losing side.

Ibata and Uchikawa both had two hits for the Samurai, who mustered just six hits and two walks off Puerto Rican pitching. The team struck out eight times, left seven on base, and were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Abe, the most highly regarded hitter in the lineup, was 0-for-4 and left three runners stranded.

Puerto Rico banged out nine hits and earned four free passes in its victory. Aviles reached base three times and had two safeties, joining Ríos and Pagán as the leader in that category. The team struck out only six times against Japan’s vaunted pitching staff.

Japan will have to wait until 2017 to avenge their loss in the semifinals and finishes 5-2 in the 2013 WBC. They are 17-7 in the three editions of the Classic, the most wins by any team. Puerto Rico now has 13 victories in the tournament, fourth most all-time.

Rodríguez and his men will await the results of the other semifinal matchup between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic and have a day off to set his pitching staff. Puerto Rico will play in its first championship game, with first pitch scheduled for 1 a.m. GMT on Mar. 20.

We will have news and analysis of the final two games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, so check back for all your coverage.

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WBC: Are American Fans Boring?


I’ve followed this World Baseball Classic all over the web reading article after article and tweet after tweet. And there is one thing that seems to stand out, which Jeff Passan said best, “Major League Baseball promotes the WBC as an entity to spread the game internationally. Turns out we’re the ones with a thing or two to learn.”

Passan wrote an article calling American fans boring. I couldn’t agree more.

Let me preface this by saying I’ve spent the last three years living in baseball crazy South Korea. Here they dance, cheer, sing, and beat their thundersticks (which they came up with) no matter what the score is in the game.

Throughout the Classic there has been a lot of, as Passan puts it, “bellyaching and bitching about the horns and flag-waving and general enthusiasm that emanates from the fan bases of Latin American teams” And it’s not just the Latin American fans. You could include the Asian Fans in that as well. The US fans just haven’t seen them in person yet.

But why are we “bellyaching and bitching”? We should embrace it and take from it, not just that it’s okay to actually cheer, that it’s okay to have fun. So much of watching a game back home in the US is either yelling at your own guys because they did something wrong or yelling at the other team because, well, they aren’t your team.

Baseball is more than that. We usually sit and wait for the big play to stand up and cheer. Why? Why can’t we stand up and cheer at any point in the game? It not only breeds excitement in the stands, but it breeds excitement on the field and the players feed off of that.

Our society as a whole is too worried about ‘showing someone up’. When you stand at home plate and admire a long home run you are showing someone up. When you are cheering for your team and you show emotion you’re not.

Maybe it’s not considered ‘politically correct’. I’m here to tell you that being “PC” will be the downfall of the West.

Baseball is an emotional game. So let’s see some of that emotion. Don’t hold it in. Let it out.

And why are so many people not on board with the WBC? Time after time I’ve seen from a so-called “baseball fan” and even a lot of reporters that cover the came that they just can’t get into it. I don’t get it.

This has been some of the most exciting baseball played in a long time. There are so many interesting story lines, upsets, Cinderella stories if you will, yet so many people can’t get behind it at all.

They say it’s boring. That just means you haven’t watched any of it.

They say the games don’t matter, yet worry about their team in spring training. I can’t even begin to point out the irony there.

I think we would all like to see the best players in the tournament. But if we are all sitting here saying it doesn’t matter, why should they play? We need to express just how much it does matter to them. Then they will be more inclined to play. But we are never going to get there with all of the negative talk about why this thing doesn’t matter.

Just read the comments of Passan’s article. They complain about him, baseball, the tournament, and the players. Some of them are so misguided it’s not even funny. Since when does football have “unrelenting action”? You watch a football game for three hours and they actually play for what 15 minutes? Since when is that “unrelenting action”?

Of course most of the ones that make the really bad comments can’t even post under their own name. There are a lot of trolls on the internet. But there are a lot of fans that seem to be misguided and that is not good for the game.

If so many people are concerned about their team, why can’t they see the bigger picture? This tournament helps the game AROUND THE WORLD! In return that only helps the big leagues. Do you really think that this tournament doesn’t matter to places like Italy or the Netherlands? Baseball got some much needed exposure in those countries which only helps in the long run.

Perhaps that’s the problem with US fans. We are too concerned about what is happening right now to even see the long term effects of the tournament. We are a society that needs instant gratification, but if the fans could only see that this tournament helps their Dodgers or Yankees or Red Sox in the long run maybe they could support it a little more.

As a fan of the game, and a fan of growing the game worldwide, it’s frustrating to see so many fans, and at times writers, bash the tournament and say it is meaningless. They just don’t get it, but hopefully one day they will.

Keep up the good work Jeff Passan. Even if you write things that many American fans can’t stomach.

Edit: I wanted to clarify two points that I have seem to blend together here. Here is point #1

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WBC: Puerto Rico vs Japan Pitching Match Up


The 2013 World Baseball Classic semifinals are here, and it all kicks off with Game 1 between the two-time defending champion Japan against Puerto Rico. So before the game gets going, let’s take a look at the starting pitchers.

Puerto Rico

Mario Santiago gets the start for Puerto Rico today. Santiago spent 2012 pitching for the SK Wyverns in South Korea where he pitched in 18 games posting a 6-3 record and a 3.40 ERA.

Prior to 2012, Santiago bounced around the minor leagues getting as high as Triple-A with the Kansas City Royals organization in 2011. He is not a strikeout pitcher averaging just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings over his seven minor league seasons. In 2012, he struck out 49 in 95.1 innings.

In the WBC so far Santiago has made one start. He has pitched 4.1 innings giving up three runs on five hits. He took the loss against Team USA in both teams first game of Round 2.

Japan

Getting the start for Japan is easily their best pitcher so far in the WBC, Kenta Maeda. Maeda has started two games winning both. He has pitched 10 innings in those two starts striking out 15 and giving up just two hits.

Maeda had a great year in 2012 for the Hiroshima Carp. He posted a 14-7 record with a 1.53 ERA tossing over 206 innings. He has won 10 or more games the past three seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

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World Baseball Classic Finals Preview: Japan


We took a look at one semifinalists, Puerto Rico, earlier. Now let’s take a look at who they will play on Sunday night in San Francisco, Japan.

Japan

WBC History

Japan has won the first two Classics. In 2006, they beat Cuba to take home the first title. They followed that up in 2009 with an extra-inning win over rival South Korea. So far in WBC action, Japan has posted an impressive 17-6 record.

They made it to San Francisco by winning Pool 1 in Tokyo. In Round 1, they finished 2-1 with the only loss coming to top-ranked Cuba. In Round 2, Japan showed its pedigree by defeating a hot Chinese Taipei team and then crushing the Dutch twice.

The Hitters

Japan is led by current NPB Central League MVP Shinnosuke Abe. Despite not starting in the first game, Abe has shown why he is the star everyone talks about. He leads the team in home runs with two and has posted a line of .316/.350/.684.

In addition to Abe, Hirokazu Ibata has been great at the plate posting a .571/.684/.643 line to lead the team in average and on-base percentage. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda has been one of the best hitters in what is a deep lineup with both power and speed.

Of the remaining teams, Japan leads in batting average, home runs, runs scored, and stolen bases. Plus through six games, the defense has only made one error.

The Pitchers

Japan features a nice pitching staff to compliment the good hitters. Getting the start in the semifinal game is perhaps their best pitcher at the moment, Kenta Maeda. The right-hander won 14 games for Hiroshima in 2012 and has been lights out in the WBC. Through two starts Maeda has pitched 10 scoreless innings giving up only two hits and striking out 15.

Also featured on the staff is the Rakuten Eagles Masahiro Tanaka who has struck out 12 in seven innings of work. Tanaka, who won 10 games in 2012, won the Sawamura Award (Cy Young equivalent) in 2011.

For the most part, the bullpen has been impressive with only a few hiccups here and there.

The Outlook

Japan once again looks really strong. They have shown power, speed, and pitching. They like to play small ball so look for them to use the bunt with great effectiveness. Being the two-time defending champions, they are the team to beat. It won’t be an easy task for any team.

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World Baseball Classic Finals Preview: Puerto Rico


With the semifinals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic fast approaching, we thought we’d take a look at the contestants one by one.

Puerto Rico

WBC History

Puerto Rico is making its first appearance in the semifinal round of the WBC, but they are no stranger to winning. In each of the first two WBCs, Puerto Rico went undefeated in the first round. However, each time they have fallen short in Round 2. In 2009 after run-ruling the USA 11-1 in the opening game of the first round, Puerto Rico dropped two straight games including a rematch with the USA. They have posted an 8-4 record in the Classic, so they are no stranger to winning.

The Hitters

Despite featuring some valid Major League talent, some of the higher profiled players have struggled a bit. The lineup has only hit one home run so far. Angel Pagan has been great doing everything he can to help out the team with a line of .360/.448/.520. Mike Aviles has been the RBI man leading the team with the only home run. Catcher Yadier Molina has done well  too at .368/.368.400. However, they have gotten no production out of second baseman Irving Falu, outfielder Alex Rios, or first baseman Carlos Rivera. Even Carlos Beltran has really struggled hitting just .192.

The team will have to manufacture runs. Manager Edwin Rodriguez will have to make due with a thin bench. The team is second only to Japan in stolen bases with six, and so far they have done a good job of manufacturing runs when needed.

The Pitching

The only starting pitcher to pitch in the majors is Nelson Figueroa, who had the big win against the USA. Mario Santiago will get the start against Japan on Sunday, and he has been the weakest of the bunch that includes Figueroa, Orlando Roman, and Giancarlo Alvarado.

The bullpen has a mixture of big league and minor league arms that have been doing the job so far. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the pitching, and sometimes overlooked, is that of Molina behind the plate. He shuts down the running gave of the opposing team and helps the young pitchers with pitch selection.

Outlook

Puerto Rico has been the underdog all along, and that hasn’t stopped them yet. They will be underdogs again going up against the two-time defending champion Japan in the semifinals. The team doesn’t have a lot of power, but they do have speed. They will look to run any chance they get, and have several players, including Molina, who will steal a base if they are ignored.

The pitching will need to be in top form to get past Japan. Molina will provide the leadership on the field that is needed, and he will help control the running game of Japan.

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WBC: Santana Blasts Dominican Republic Past Puerto Rico; Earns No. 1 Seed


Santana’s Blast Leads Dominicans in Shutout Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Carlos Santana broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with a monstrous solo home run and the Dominican Republic shut out Puerto Rico, 2-0, to win Pool 2 of the World Baseball Classic. The victors will face the Netherlands in San Francisco and be joined by Puerto Rico, who will take on Japan.

Both teams continued to exhibit the impressive starting pitching that has carried them through the Classic. Wandy Rodriguez toed the rubber for the Dominicans and did not allow Puerto Rico to put multiple runners on base in his six innings. Orlando Román was nearly as strong, giving up just two hits over five frames.

Neither country threatened until the third, when Carlos Rivera led off with a hit for Puerto Rico. Rivera exited with a strained muscle and Irving Falu pinch ran for the burly first baseman. Falú took off for second and stole the bag successfully, but Carlos Santana’s throw went into centre and Puerto Rico had a runner on third.

Rodríguez buckled down against Andy Gonzalez, who hit what turned out to be a game-winning double to defeat the U.S. the night before, and struck him out looking on his signature curveball. Jesus Feliciano was the next batter up, and Rodríguez induced a ground ball to shortstop. Falú was sprinting with the crack of the bat, but Erick Aybar ranged into the hole and threw a perfect strike off balance to home to nail Falú as Santana applied the tag.

With a runner now on first, the Dominican southpaw got Angel Pagan to fly out and the scoreless tie remained.

Román faced his first threat in the bottom of the inning. Santana walked to start things off and moved over on a single by Moises Sierra, who was making his first start of the WBC. Román got a huge strikeout for the first out and then got Jose Reyes to fly out. A grounder by Aybar ended the frame.

Puerto Rico almost capitalised on the plucky hurling of Román in the fourth. Luis Figueroa doubled with no outs, but Rodríguez continued to use his curve effectively, striking out Beltrán, getting the clutch-hitting Mike Avles to fly out, and after the runner advanced on the fly, bearing down on Álex Ríos for another K.

Neither side got another hit until the fifth, when Santana started the inning with his own rally, crushing a changeup well over the right field fence for his second four-bagger of the Classic. The solo shot travelled 427 feet, one of few balls that Marlins Park was not able to hold in the six games played there.

Román finished the frame with ease, but his afternoon was done after five innings. He took the loss despite allowing two hits and one walk, striking out four.

Rodríguez went six frames, finishing under the 80-pitch restriction for the second round. He retired the last nine in-a-row that faced him, whiffing four. He scattered two walks and a pair of hits for his first World Baseball Classic victory.

Efrain Nieves continued Puerto Rico’s strong pitching effort in the sixth and seventh, working around a baserunner each time. Jose Veras and Santiago Casilla matched his zeroes with one inning apiece of their own.

Aybar once more made a big defensive play to get Casilla out of trouble in the eighth. The Dominican reliever walked Martin Maldonaldo to start the frame and gave up a sacrifice Falú. González rocketed a ball at Aybar with one out, and the shortstop gunned won Maldonaldo advancing to third. Casilla put another run on base via a free pass, but finished with a ground ball.

The Dominicans struck against Ñieves in the bottom of the frame. Aybar reached on a one-base hit and moved to third on Robinson Cano’s first hit of the day and Puerto Rico’s manager, Edwin Rodriguez, went to his ‘pen. Randy Fontanez got the second out, but Canó created an extra run for the Dominicans with his baserunning.

With Francisco Pena, a defensive replacement and son of Dominican manager Tony Pena, batting, Canó took off for second. Peña stroked a hard-hit ground ball to the right side and Falú, forgetting there were two outs and racing instinctively to cover, was too close to second to field the ball. Aybar scored on the RBI-single.

Fontañez escaped without giving up another run, but had a scare on the third out, as Nelson Cruz discharged a line drive to the warning track in left centre field, but Eddie Rosario chased the ball down for the third out.

Fernando Rodney came on for the ninth and earned his fifth save of the tournament despite giving up a double to deep left field to his nemesis Aviles. Aviles is 4-for-8 in his big league career against the closer, but Rodney preserved the shutout and entered the record books for his efforts. Rodney, already the record-holder for most saves in a World Baseball Classic, saved his fifth game, setting the career mark in his first WBC appearance.

The Dominicans mustered only six hits and three walks, with Santana the only hitting star. He finished 1-for-1 with two walks. Canó improved his WBC hitting streak to six games. Puerto Rico had only three hits against Rodríguez and the three relievers and was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Dominican Republic became the second team to go undefeated through the first two rounds of the WBC. The last was Korea in the 2006 tournament, though they would lose their next game, 6-0 in the semifinals to eventual champions Japan.

The Dominicans avoided a meeting with Japan with the victory, though they will put their winning streak on the line in the single-elimination semis against the Netherlands on Mar. 19 at 1 a.m. GMT. The Netherlands upset them twice in the last Classic to eliminate them in the first round. Puerto Rico will have to travel to San Francisco without an off day as they face Samurai Japan on Mar. 18 at 1 a.m. GMT.

Stay tuned for coverage of the two semifinal games and the championship match, as well as all your World Baseball Classic news and analysis.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Eliminates USA; Advances to Championship Round


Figueroa Pitches Puerto Rico Past U.S., Into Semifinals

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Puerto Rico scored a run in the first inning and Nelson Figueroa made it stand it up with six scoreless frames, and the team withstood a late rally from the United States to qualify for the World Baseball Classic semifinals. The 4-3 decision eliminated the U.S. from the WBC almost exactly four years to the day after the Americans sent Puerto Rico home in the second Classic.

Angel Pagan showed why he is considered the sparkplug of the Puerto Rican offence with a game-opening single up-the-middle off U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong. The San Fransisco Giants’ pitcher got two quick outs, but Puerto Rico staged a two-out rally.

With the infield playing toward the middle, Yadier Molina drove a pitch the other way and reached on a single through a big hole on the right side of the infield. Mike Aviles then stroked a ball between first and second to score Pagán from second. The single drove in his eighth run of the tournament, tied for third-best.

Vogelsong denied Alex Riíos a chance to drive home the runners on the corners with a popout, but Puerto Rico had a 1-0 lead.

Nelson Figueroa took the hill in the bottom of the first and worked around an error by Aviles, inducing a double play by Ryan Braun with one out to end the frame. Neither starter allowed a hit in the second.

Puerto Rico had another chance in the third. Pagán worked a free pass to start the inning, by Jesús Feliciano grounded into a double play. The 3-6-1 twin killing would save a run, as Carlos Beltrán ripped his only hit of the ballgame into the right field corner for a double. Yadier Molina popped the next pitch to third to keep the U.S.’ deficit at one.

The fourth and fifth innings were quiet as the two nations received good innings from their hurlers. Vogelsong would leave with two outs in the fifth inning after nearing his pitch limit, and Vinnie Pestano took over with Beltrán on first after a walk.

Pestano gave up a single to Aviles and then loaded the bases on a base on balls to Ríos, hitting only .156 in the Classic. With left-handed hitting Carlos Rivera due up, Greg Maddux, pitching coach for the Americans, visited the mound and left the righty Pestano in the game. Despite Jeremy Affeldt, a southpaw with World Series experience, warming in the pen, Pestano was allowed to pitch to Rivera.

The Mexican leaguer earned a walk on six pitches, scoring a second run for Puerto Rico. Pestano was allowed to remain in the game and, after working an 0-2 count on Andy González, left a slider in the zone. González crushed the pitch into the left field corner for a two-run double, and Puerto Rico’s lead grew to 4-0.

U.S. manager Joe Torre finally yanked his struggling reliever and sent in Affeldt. The lefty got a one-pitch groundball from Irving Falú and the nightmarish inning was finally over.

Figueroa remained on the hill for the sixth. He gave up the second hit of the game for the red, white, and blue, but then struck out Brandon Phillips, who reached in every other plate appearance in the game. Molina finished the inning by throwing a laser to second to erase Jimmy Rollins, who was trying to steal.

Affeldt stayed on for a scoreless seventh, though Pagán reached on a bouncer to the left side and created havoc at first base until Affeldt retired the side. The U.S. would finally score their first run in the bottom of the frame, the longest it had ever taken the team to plate a run in a WBC game.

Joe Mauer stroked a triple into the gap in right centre with one out, and Giancarlo Stanton sent him home with a single to left off reliever Giovanni Soto. He was forced out on a grounder, but Eric Hosmer rapped a single to centre to put two runners on. José de la Torre, who pitched Puerto Rico out of a jam against Italy two days earlier, got Adam Jones to strike out looking for the third out.

Heath Bell kept Puerto Rico off the board in the eighth, and the American offence kept clicking after another de la Torre strikeout of Shane Victorino. Rollins singled to right and Phillips beat out a slow roller to shortstop to put two runners on.

Braun ripped a two-bagger into the left field corner to plate Rollins, and the U.S. had narrowed the score to 4-2. Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez summoned Xavier Cedeno to face Mauer, but the star catcher worked a six-pitch walk.

Fernando Cabrera was next out of the bullpen for Rodríguez and got the second out from Stanton on an eight-pitch at bat. Cabrera then walked Zobrist on four pitches, forcing in a run and narrowing Puerto Rico’s lead to one.

Rodríguez continued to work the lefty-right matchups and brought in southpaw J.C. Romero to face Hosmer. With right-handers Jonathan Lucroy and J.P. Arencibia on the bench, Torre left in Hosmer, who was 1-for-31 against left-handed relievers in 2012. The pitching substitution worked magic for Puerto Rico as Romero generated an easy tapper to second, and the game moved to the ninth with the score 4-3 in Puerto Rico’s favour.

Craig Kimbrel, who took the loss after a brutal outing the night before, pitched the ninth. The red, white, and blue closer worked around a leadoff hit to hold Puerto Rico scoreless, giving the U.S. hitters one final chance to tie the game.

Romero stayed on to close and looked extremely good. The veteran pounded his sinker low in the zone, mixing in the occasional changeup and slider and got Jones to strike out on six pitches. He turned up the heat on Victorino, catching him looking for a three-pitch strikeout.

Rollins then flew out to Pagán, who waited just long enough for the ball to settle in his glove before jumping in celebration as the Puerto Rican bench mobbed Romero on the mound. The victory was the biggest upset in recent memory for Puerto Rico, ranked No. 12 in the world, in recent memory.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic is over for the second-rated U.S. team, continuing their streak of disappointment in the tournament. Puerto Rico joins a semifinals that does not include the top two teams in the world, though it does feature two-time defending WBC champions and third-ranked Japan, No. 7 Netherlands, the most recent world champion, and a loaded Dominican Republic team.

Rollins and Phillips both had two hits for the losers, who had eight hits and drew three walks. The Americans left seven runners on base. The bottom five in the order was 2-for-22, struck out four times, and left 11 men stranded.

Pagán raised his WBC average to .391 with a 2-for-3 day, scoring once and drawing a walk. Aviles joined him with a brace of hits and the team struck out only twice against U.S. pitching, drawing four walks and collecting nine hits.

Vogelsong was the hard-luck loser, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks, whiffing one in 5 2/3. Figueroa improved to 2-0 in the Classic, lowering his ERA to 1.80 with six scoreless innings. He surrendered only two hits and a base on balls, striking out two. Romero earned his first save of the tourney.

Puerto Rico will have only a few hours to prepare for their final game of the second round. It takes on an undefeated Dominican Republic side to determine the seeding for the semifinals. The contest starts at 6 p.m. GMT on Mar. 16.

Check back for news and analysis of that game and the championship round of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Dominican Republic Downs USA; Secures Spot in Championship Round


Dominican Republic Upsets USA, Advances in WBC

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

In a game that truly earned the title of World Baseball Classic, Erick Aybar delivered a pinch hit, go-ahead single in the ninth inning to lead the Dominican Republic in a 3-1 victory over the United States. The dramatic victory qualified the Dominicans for the semifinal round and pushed the U.S.A. within one loss of elimination.

Both teams featured dominant pitching throughout the game, with neither nation able to mount a consistent offence. Despite the absence of ‘Captain America’, David Wright, the U.S. struck in the first against Samuel Deduno, who otherwise had a stellar performance.

Deduno, coming off a strong showing against Spain in the first round, looked shaky to start the game. He gave up a one-out single to Brandon Phillips before getting Ryan Braun swinging. Joe Mauer stroked a one-base hit off Deduno before Giancarlo Stanton bounced a ball up the middle that was stopped by a diving Jose Reyes. Reyes could not get a strong enough toss to second for the forceout and the U.S. had the bases jammed.

Deduno briefly lost control of the strike zone against Eric Hosmer, who took a four-pitch free pass to push across the first run for the U.S. The Dominican hurler followed with a full count against Adam Jones, but dropped a curveball down the heart of the plate to catch Jones looking. It was the last time that the U.S. would have multiple runners on base.

R.A. Dickey started for the United States and had a better feel of his knuckleball than in his first WBC start, but after retiring the first four Dominican batters, left a knuckler in Hanley Ramirez’s wheelhouse. Ramírez crushed the ball to the walkway in left centre, striking the ‘427 foot’ sign with the ball.

Dickey almost ran in to trouble with two outs in the inning after a single by Carlos Santana, sending him to second on a wild pitch. The right-hander got out of the frame with a groundball to keep the score level.

J.P. Arencibia led off the bottom of the second with a single against Deduno. After the runner advanced to second on a sacrifice, Deduno bore down, striking out Jimmy Rollins looking and getting a grounder from Phillips.

The Dominicans got two hits in the third, but Dickey once more battled out of the jam, and the two starters traded zeroes through the fourth. Deduno hit his pitch count after four, but struck out seven while scattering seven baserunners. The U.S. had a runner on base in all four of his frames, but Deduno worked around it every time with a tight curveball to compliment his 92-mph/148-kmh tailing fastball.

Dickey lasted five frames before exiting at the pitch limit. After a booming double by Nelson Cruz with one out in the fourth, Dickey sent down the final five batters he faced. He struck out four, walked one, and surrendered five hits.

From the bottom of the fifth onward, it was a battle of the bullpens. Both teams were up to the task, with each registering only one hit between the fifth and eighth innings. Kelvin Herrera was particularly impressive in relief of Deduno, working through the heart of the US order in the fifth and sixth, allowing no hits or base on balls.

Luke Gregerson, Tim Collins, and Steve Cishek worked the sixth through eight innings for U.S. manager Joe Torre. Cishek hurled an impressive 1-2-3 inning in the eighth against Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, and Ramírez, catching the latter looking on strike three and leaping off the mound with a triumphant fist pump.

The U.S. got only their sixth hit of the game in the eighth, but Pedro Strop was not troubled by the Mauer safety, striking out Giancarlo Stanton looking and getting a fly ball from Eric Hosmer to send the game to the ninth.

Torre sent in his closer, Craig Kimbrel, with the game tied at one and the 6-7-8 hitters due up for the Dominican Republic. Cruz torched his second double of the game, this time sending it to the opposite alley from his first two-bagger.

Stanton, the rightfielder for the Americans, made a nice play to cut off the ball, diving to catch the ball off one bounce and throwing a laser into second, just behind Cruz. Kimbrel gave up only one double in all of 2012 while finishing games for the Atlanta Braves.

Santana bounced out slowly to second, and Cruz was off with the pitch, making it to third without drawing a throw. With Ricardo Nanita, the only member of the Dominican lineup without big league experience due up, Dominican skipper Tony Pena sent in pinch hitter Erick Aybar.

Aybar took a called strike two on a horrendous call by the home plate umpire, bounding out of the box in disbelief, but ripped the next ball to shallow right field. Cruz came racing home with the Dominicans’ first run since the second inning, and Aybar had a RBI-single as the well-represented Dominican fans erupted into pandemonium. The dugout for the visitors erupted as well, and Cruz was battered with praise as he made his way to the bench.

Peña’s men were not finished with Kimbrel, as Aybar took off for second on the next batter, stealing second base and putting another run in scoring position. Kimbrel got out number two on a strikeout, but Reyes struck a single to left field and Aybar sprinted home to make it 3-1. By this point, both the players and fans for the Dominican Republic were in an absolute frenzy as the U.S.’ fans looked on helplessly.

Torre had finally had enough from Kimbrel, who had a 1.01 ERA in 2012, inserting Mitchell Boggs. Boggs got a ground ball to put an end to the rally, but the Dominican Republic had firmly taken the momentum.

Fernando Rodney entered to close out the game and did just that. Peña’s stopper got a 1-2-3 inning, striking out one for his fourth save of the Classic, tied for most all-time. Strop improved to 3-0, setting WBC records for most wins in a tournament and eclipsing the previous mark for career victories by a reliever.

While Aybar may have been the player of the game, Cruz and Santana each notched two hits to lead the Dominican. U.S. pitchers struck out nine of their opponents and held the Dominicans hitless with runners in scoring position until Kimbrel’s implosion.

Kimbrel suffered his first loss for Team U.S.A., ruining a night that had seen the Americans hold the powerful Dominican bats to six hits until the ninth frame. Mauer was the sole hitting star for the U.S., collecting a pair of safeties to raise his average in the tournament to .444.

The red, white, and blue certainly missed the contributions of Wright, who came in hitting .438 with a Classic-leading 10 RBI. The team was only 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and struck out nine times while leaving eight runners stranded.

Wright will be questionable with a sore back for the Americans’ next game against Puerto Rico. Torre will only have a day to regroup before facing intra-national rivals in Marlins Park. Game time is scheduled for 7 pm. EST on Mar. 15. The loser will return home, while the winner will join the Netherlands, Japan, and the Dominican Republic in San Francisco.

Before flying across the country, the Dominicans will have one more game to determine whether they will face the Dutch or the Japanese in AT&T Park. The 1 p.m. EST game on Mar. 16 will pit them against the winner of the U.S.-Puerto Rico contest.

Stay tuned for coverage of the final two games of the second round and the single-elimination finals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Wright Pulled from USA Lineup; Might be Out for Good


David Wright was pulled from Team USA’s World Baseball Classic game on Thursday with the Dominican Republic due to a rib injury. Captain America, as he has been named due to his earlier WBC heroics, will miss the rest of Round 2 and possibly the rest of the WBC if Team USA advances.

Wright has been one of the catalyst to get the USA to this point in the Classic. He is hitting .438 (7 for 16) and is leading the WBC in RBI with 10. However, it doesn’t appear he will get to improve on that.

Manager Joe Torre doesn’t expect to have Wright back in the lineup and has replaced him with Willie Bloomquist.

It was a team decision involving Team USA and New York Mets medical staffs to sit Wright. He really wanted to play and wasn’t pulled until just before the first pitch.  However, Wright understands why the decision was made.

Wright knows the first priority is to be ready for the New York Mets Opening Day game, so now is not the time to play through an injury even if it isn’t very painful to play with.

Unfortunately for Team USA, Wright cannot be replaced at this point in time. The only time a roster move can be made mid-round is if a catcher gets hurt or there is a family emergency. He can be replaced if the team makes the Championship Round in San Francisco. All that is needed for that is a win against Puerto Rico on Friday night.

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WBC: USA vs Dominican Republic Pitching Match Up


One of the most anticipated match ups has finally arrived. The USA will face the Dominican Republic on Thursday night in Miami to see who will get the first bid from Pool 2 into the Championship Series in San Francisco.

Both teams have been on a roll of late and feature two of the hottest hitters in the Classic. The Dominican’s Robinson Cano is leading the tournament in hits (12), doubles (4), and total bases (22). Plus he is hitting .632 with a pair of home runs.

David Wright might not be leading the Classic in hitting, but he is have a great tournament. He is hitting .438 with two doubles and a home run. And he has had some huge hits leading the Classic in RBI with 10.

But who will be getting the start on the mound? Let’s take a look.

USA

The USA will be starting the reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. Dickey didn’t have a great start in the opening game against Mexico. He gave up four runs in four innings. He didn’t walk a batter, but he did give up six hits.

Dickey will look to get his knuckleball tumbling on Thursday. He will be facing a strong Dominican lineup.

Dominican Republic

Sam Deduno will get the start for the Dominican. He started 15 games last season with the Minnesota Twins going 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA.

The 29-year old has spent most of his career in the minor leagues compiling a 45-45 record over 169 games (140 starts). He has struggled with his control in the big leagues walking 53 batters in 79.0 innings in 2012. However, over eight minor league seasons he has averaged 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

The winner of the game will have a ticket to the Championship Round in San Francisco. The loser will face Puerto Rico in an elimination game on Friday March 15.

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WBC: Jurickson Profar Joins Dutch Team in San Francisco


The World Baseball Classic features the best talent in the world, and now it features baseball’s top prospect, Jurickson Profar.

After declining the Netherlands invite to be included on the roster in order to fight for a spot on the Texas Rangers Opening Day roster, Profar will replace the injured Yurendell de Caster.

The Netherlands made it through the first two rounds and are the #2 seed from Pool 1 heading into the Championship Round in San Francisco. They will face the winner of Pool 1 in the semifinals.

Profar, widely thought of as the top prospect in baseball, has been participating in spring games in Arizona with the Rangers. The infielder has played in 16 Cactus League games. Over those games he has 36 at bats picking up eight hits (.222 avg.) with seven walks and ten strikeouts.

Profar will add an additional bat to the Dutch lineup that has played well so far during the WBC making it to the semifinals.

The Netherlands play next on Monday March 18 at 9 pm EST. They will face the winner of Pool 1.

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World Baseball Classic Sets Ratings Records In Taiwan and Japan


World Baseball Classic Game is Most Viewed Program in Cable History in Taiwan

Tournament Game is Most Viewed Sporting Event in Japan In Last 12 Months

As the competition of the 2013 World Baseball Classic heats up on the field, the tournament continues to set ratings records around the world.

The March 8th extra-inning thriller between Japan and Chinese Taipei registered a 15.5 rating in Taiwan making it the highest rated cable program in the country’s history.

Japan’s defeat of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on March 10th was the most viewed sporting event in Japan in the last 12 months.  The game registered a 22.1 rating and a 43 share out-rating all 2012 Olympics coverage and World Cup Qualifying matches.

The ratings are a percentage of viewers, ages 4+, out of the total television universe.  The share is the percentage of viewers, ages 4+, out of all people that were watching television.

Press Release World Baseball Classic, Inc.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Rallies Eliminating Italy


Puerto Rico Eliminates Italy, One Win from Semis

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

It was a different night but the same story for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. After taking the lead on a big hit, this time by Anthony Rizzo, Italy wasted the efforts of an intrepid starting pitcher and allowed its opponent to come back late against their bullpen. Once more, their experienced closer, Jason Grilli, sat idly in the bullpen as a more experienced opponent chipped away at the lead before taking it for good.

This time it was Puerto Rico who was the beneficiary, as it took advantage of sloppy play by the Italians in the late innings to claim a 4-3 win. In the process, Puerto Rico narrowly escaped elimination and is now one win away from qualifying for the semifinals of the WBC. Italy finished 2-3 in the 2013 Classic.

Both starters were effective in the early innings. Italy sent Alex Maestri, the country’s top Italian-born hurler, to the mound. After a leadoff double to Ángel Pagán, Maestri set down the next nine hitters, five by ground ball, working low in the zone with a tight high-70s/mid-120s curveball and slider combination, mixing in a fastball that hit 90/145 consistently.

Giancarlo Alvarado was nearly as effective for Puerto Rico. Relying heavily on a high-80s/low-140s cut fastball that he located well, the right-hander gave up a hit in the first three innings, but got out of each inning unscathed.

Puerto Rico’s best threat early in the game was the fourth. Irving Falú worked a seven-pitch walk and went to third on a one-out single by Yadier Molina. Maestri threw a wild pitch to move Molina into scoring position, but the righty got Mike Aviles and Álex Ríos on outs to the left side of the infield.

Alvarado started to wear down in the fifth. Anthony Granato stroked a single to right with one out and went to second on catcher interference by Molina. Nick Punto reached on the play. Chris Denorfia had a one-base hit to load the bases, and Alvarado exited the game.

Xavier Cedeño came in with the sole purpose of getting out Anthony Rizzo, the Azzurri’s top hitter, but grooved a fastball that the first baseman ripped to the gap in right centre. All three runners crossed home, and Italy had a 3-0 lead.

José de la Torre, who struck out the side with a runner in scoring position only one night before, came in to face the dangerous combination of Alex Liddi and Chris Colabello, and a ground ball and a strikeout to escape the threat.

Maestri left the hill after getting into a jam in the fifth. Chris Cooper relieved with runners on first and second and one out, and got Pagán and Falú out to preserve Italy’s three-run advantage for another frame.

Hiram Burgos was the new pitcher for Puerto Rico and got three quick outs. Cooper gave up a hit with one out to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the sixth. He advanced to second on an error by Granato at shortstop and, with two down, another miscue by Granato gave Puerto Rico its first run. Cooper finally acquired the third out to keep the score at 3-1.

Neither side threatened in the seventh as Burgos and Cooper turned in strong innings, though Italy nearly struck against Burgos in the eighth. The Milwaukee Brewers’ minor leaguer gave up two hits with two outs, but stopped the rally with a ground ball out.

Cooper would not be so fortunate in the bottom of the inning. He was pulled after walking a slumping Carlos Beltrán, who went to third on a hit by Molina. With Grilli still not warming, Marco Mazzieri, Italy’s manager, elected to bring in veteran change-up specialist Brian Sweeney to face Aviles and Ríos. He got Aviles to erase Molina on a force out, but then allowed a RBI-single to Ríos to make it a one-run game.

Pat Venditte relieved and got the second out at a price, inducing a fly out to centre that score Aviles with the tying run. Italy’s centerfielder, Chris Denorfia, threw the ball home from deep centre, and Ríos went to second on the throw.

Andy González bounced a ball deep into the hole at shortstop and it eluded a diving Liddi, the third baseman. Jack Santora, who had entered as a defensive replacement for Granato, made a nice play to snag the ball, but the long throw to first pulled Rizzo off the bag, and Ríos sprinted from second and score untouched.

Italy’s mental mistakes continued after a hit to Eddie Rosario, as Santora threw to third on a grounder by Pagán. The toss was high and González slid in safely to load the bases on the Azzurri’s third error. Venditte bore down and got Falú for the third out, but all the air had been visibly sucked out Italy’s collective lungs.

Burgos stayed in for the first two outs, both retired by strikeout, though the first was on a 3-2 count to Punto, who thought it was ball four and ran all the way to first before someone told him he had been ruled out. Southpaw J.C. Romero came in to get the left-handed Rizzo. Rizzo walked, but Fernando Cabrera got Liddi to go down swinging for the first out.

Italy out-hit Puerto 9-8, but its three errors were the death blow to its chances of advancing in the bracket. Denorfia had three hits and Rizzo reached base three times, but the team and was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men stranded. Liddi and Colabello, both of whom had key hits earlier in the Classic, were 0-for-8 with four strikeouts, leaving seven men stranded. Italy struck out 11 times.

Molina had a three-hit day for Puerto Rico, who also left 10 men on base, hitting .067 with runners on second or third. It received strong pitching from Alvarado and Burgos in particular. Puerto Rico’s starter went 4 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and a walk while allowing two earned runs. Alvarado whiffed four.

Burgos, who earned the victory, threw 3 2/3 scoreless frames, striking out four. He allowed three hits and issued two free passes.

Maestri toed the rubber for 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out three. He surrendered three hits and two walks. Cooper was solid, allowing only a hit and a walk in 2 1/3, notching one K. Sweeney took the loss, giving up Puerto Rico’s final run and getting only one out.

Italy will return for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while Puerto Rico will take on the loser of the matchup between the Dominican Republic and the United States. That game will take place on Mar. 15 at 7 p.m. EST.

Stay tuned for all the news and reviews of the final six games of the World Baseball Classic.

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