Ah, The World Cup of Baseball (aka World Baseball Classic)
Bud Selig has finally gotten his dream of a World Cup and he has successfully taken another step to further garner international attention for the best sport in the world. In theory Communism works and in theory, this World Baseball Classic a great idea.
- This will be a 16-team tournament will be held during spring training of 2006
- Player participation will be voluntary and Major League clubs will not be able to block any of their players from participating
- The teams will start play in four four-team pools that will play round-robins in different countries
- Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China are in one pool
- Puerto Rico, Cuba (for now), Panama and likely Italy are in another pool
- The United States, Canada, Mexico and likely South Africa are in another pool
- The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and the Netherlands are in another pool
- The two teams in each pool with the best records would advance to the second round, another round-robin
- The four outright winners of those pools would each advance to a single-game semifinal
- The winners of those games will meet for a winner-take-all
- Special guidelines, to be determined by a tournament committee, will limit how pitchers can be used, probably with rules on specific pitch limits and required rest for both starters and relievers
All this sounds well and fine and they seem to have things in there to appease team owners and the MLBPA, but there are some things that will definitely detract from this series. Specifically, all of the best of the best will not be participating, much like when the Major Leaguers go to Japan to play the Japanese All-Stars, which are their best of the best. Baseball America did a great job musing about what the lineups could theoretically look like, but the chances of all the top tier talents playing is nill. A Venezuelan team missing Johan Santana, a Dominican team without Vald Guerrero, and a Canadian team without Eric Gagne or Rich Harden would just be a disappointment. The players having a chance to play for their home country should lead to a pretty good turnout and a lot of players playing winter ball certainly leads people to believe the foreign teams should have plenty of starts, but only time will tell how well received this will be by the players themselves.
Another problem is when it will be played and the addition of pitch counts and pitch limits. Being played during the spring when a lot of players are still getting into shape and will not have hit their stride, this might look more like an exhibition series than a tournament for world bragging rights. As for the pitch counts/limits, it is a necessary evil in a sport that is more business than game at this point to ensure these pitchers will stay healthy and will not be throwing 120 pitches a game during a time they would be limited to 60 or 80 pitches. How it all plays out will be interesting to see, but if Mark Prior and Johan Santana are deadlocked in a pitchers duel and have to leave at 80 pitchers in the sixth, the game will lose creditably.
All in all, this is a good idea, but the way today's game is the business it has become, it will be tough to play this tournament out like it should played out. I for one am excited about the prospect of an über Dominican team taken on an über American team and watching a possible Venezuelan team with an outfield of Melvin Mora, Bobby Abreu, and Miguel Cabrera with a staff that has Johan Santana, Carlos Zambrano, Freddy Garcia, Kelvim Escobar, and Francisco Rodriguez. Of course this could turn out to be a great idea and better than expected while generating some excitement while every country collectively roots against the US in hopes they fail much like I hope for the Yankees to fail every season, but it could also a water down, over hyped product just the Major League All Star game. For now though, I'll remain optimistic.
Nick (Mission, KS): Do you hope that the Royals will be relocated to Oregon?
Rob Neyer: It's one of my dreams, right up there with world peace and free cookies for everybody.
Paragon (Hoboken): Rob-- Nobody likes you.
Rob Neyer: Mom? Is that you? :-(
Neyer also thinks Danny Kolb days as a closer are numbered. I said it when it happened, but this deal is far too similar to the Kazmir/Zambrano deal with the Braves having giving up Jose Cappellan for Danny Kolb.
"He can't do that. That's for sure," Randolph told reporters. "That's not why I brought him in."
Strickland could be back up soon
After the Mets' relief corps struggled in Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs, manager Willie Randolph commented, "Every day you're learning something new about your bullpen."
What the Mets are discovering is they seem ready for another readjustment, and that could mean the promotion of Scott Strickland. The right hander hasn't pitched in the majors since Tommy John surgery in 2003, and he struggled with both a dip in velocity and the absence of a decent slider in spring training. But Strickland has improved at Triple-A Norfolk, where he was 0-1 with a 1.23 ERA and four saves through Wednesday. Opposing hitters were batting .200 off him, and most importantly, he has been healthy so far.
There also is a deadline looming. If Strickland is not promoted by Sunday, he can opt for free agency, and the Mets have been reluctant to lose pitchers without giving them a two-week test drive first.
While Martinez's good-natured zaniness includes activities like cranking up the clubhouse stereo before Wednesday's series finale at Wrigley against the Cubs and doing a meringue, or maybe salsa, with assistant GM Jim Duquette — see, Willie Randolph's rules do have some flexibility — Beltran's leadership is more likely to include sitting with Jose Reyes and talking baseball.
Most of the others, though, have fared not just poorly, but disastrously. The Tigers' Vance Wilson is hitting .167 in 18 at-bats, the Pirates' Ty Wigginton is at .200 with just two homers and six RBIs and the Rangers' Richard Hidalgo is batting .168 with four homers.
On the mound, the Marlins' Al Leiter is 1-3 with a 6.67 ERA, the Dodgers' Scott Erickson is 1-3 with a 7.26 ERA and the Reds' David Weathers is 2-0 but has a 5.68 ERA.
The Padres, Yankees, Rangers, Astros, and Orioles have shown interest in Mike Cameron. Can someone say bidding war? Being a two year pickup, the Mets can really turn dealing Cameron into a positive. Listen now to offers and let the bidding begin in a month and see how far people take it.
Q: Where's the medal?
A: In a safe deposit box (in Miami). The infamous safe deposit box.
At least he has a sense of humor about it.
The Mets should be able to steal a top tier player in the ninth spot in this upcoming draft, which is much, much stronger and deeper than last year's draft.