Tag Archive | "World Baseball"

Tis The Time For Bold Predictions

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In the last week, the sports world has seen its fair share of bracket fever and the only cure is more predictions! The World Baseball Classic bracket tournament concluded with the Dominican Republic being crowned champions after going undefeated throughout the tournament. Congratulations to them. Also this week, the office pool of all office pools, the NCAA basketball tournament has tipped off with everyone and their mother filling out a bracket. Some brackets are filled out with knowledge and expertise; others are filled out with hopes and sheer guesses. But no matter what, the spectacle is a fun and exciting time.


Being in the prognosticating zone and Opening Day just over a week a way, it is a good transition to some Major League Baseball season predictions. This week will be the American League 2013 preview.

Starting in the American League East, I am anticipating this division being the best division in baseball this season. All five teams will be ultra strong and all have visions of the post season. Sadly, one team will finish in last and it may be the New York Yankees turn. Injuries and an older roster may finally catch up to the Bombers and bring up the rear in the East. The Baltimore Orioles may also have a set back year compared to last year, finishing fourth and the Tampa Bay Rays, while pesky, in third. The Boston Red Sox will have a bounce back year (hard to have a worse year), and finish in second. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are pitching great thus far this spring. The new Toronto Blue Jays will be division champs this season. The roster is fully balanced after off season moves and will narrowly come out on top.

In the Central, the Detroit Tigers will repeat as division champions. In the division they have the best pitcher and best position player that should keep them on the top line of the standings. The Chicago White Sox will be runners up again but compete for a wild card spot. Both the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are improved and could be major thorns in the sides of other clubs. The Indians were well represented in the WBC that could lead to an improving campaign and the Royals made one of the boldest off season trades this past December trying to spark the franchise. The rebuilding Minnesota Twins will finish in fifth.

Out west, the Los Angeles Angels are heavy favorites and will win the division by the widest margin of any of the six division winners. That will be aided by playing the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros several times during divisional play. Houston is making their inaugural season in the American League and on paper appears to be heading toward a difficult season in the wins category. The Texas Rangers lost a lot of fire power this off season and are not quite the same team that has had recent playoff success. They will finish in second while the Oakland A’s will finish in third. Oakland, like Baltimore will fall back a bit after a surprise 2012 season. In fourth, will be the Seattle Mariners, who while trying to make some improvements still cannot quite compete for a full season compared to the other ball clubs and the Astros will be a distant fifth place.

Come October, the Wild Card match up will feature the two Sox teams – Red versus White. Winning the one game playoff will be Boston and advancing to the Divisional Round.

In the Divisional Round, the Red Sox will show some fight but in the end be defeated by the Angels while the Blue Jays will take down the Tigers. The American League Championship will showcase the high power offenses of the Angels and Blue Jays. In five games, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and company will put the Jays into a halo effect and advance to their first World Series since winning it back in 2002.

Come awards season, the American League Most Valuable Player will be the man who was runner up a season ago. Mike Trout has all of the talent and the ultimate protection to post video game like numbers for the second straight season. The CY Young, boldly will be handed to Jon Lester. Lester has CY Young talent and perhaps with a new coaching staff in place, this will finally be the year he puts it all together. The Manager of the Year will be awarded to Robin Ventura of Chicago. I believe he should have won the award last season, but with a possible second solid year in a row, this could be his. With the line up and high expectations, Mike Scioscia of Los Angeles may cancel himself out. Finally the Rookie of the American League will be Dylan Bundy of Baltimore (not Polk High). A young talent on the mound, Bundy will see a lot of innings and post good first year numbers.

Next week, predictions on the National League. May your brackets be good to you!

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My predictions for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) have been so wrong, for so long.

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My predictions for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) have been so wrong, for so long.

Posted on 17 March 2013 by Trish Vignola

My predictions for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) have been so wrong, for so long. I think I’m just going to stay quiet now.


The WBC is finally wrapping up and I can go back to other things I’m terrible at…

…like my Fantasy Baseball team.

As Japan bids to maintain its solitary grip on the WBC championships, the Semifinals begin tonight at 9 p.m. ET showdown. Puerto Rico will be bidding to replicate its dramatic triumph against Team USA on Friday night in Miami. Japan looks to three-peat.

The second semifinal will be Monday night. That matches the Kingdom of Netherlands, the Cinderella of this Final Four, against the Dominican Republic at 9 ET. The WBC culminates in its finale on Tuesday night, after which I can go back to watching “Intentional Talk” at its regularly scheduled time.

MLB.com reports on Team Japan this morning. “With baseball,” Koji Yamamoto (manager of Team Japan) said through an interpreter, “anything could happen until the game is over. In that sense, the WBC has incidents of seeing such strong teams falling off, so I don’t want to give or speak in favor of other teams. I’ve been just focusing on how to win. So, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s really exciting.” Japan has won the first two Classics with dominant pitching — Daisuke Matsuzaka and Koji Uehara in 2006, Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish in 2009. Matsuzaka, in Indians camp right now, was the WBC MVP both times.

MLB.com reports that Sunday’s match will favor Japan. Japan puts its ace, 24-year-old Kenta Maeda, against Mario Santiago. Maeda has worked 10 scoreless innings in the WBC. He struck out 15 while allowing just two hits and a walk. Santiago took one of Puerto Rico’s three losses in the WBC. He yielded three runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 7-1 decision by the U.S. As reported by MLB.com, “This is my first international match, such a great experience,” Maeda said. “The next match will be the biggest for me.”

In the second semifinal, southpaw Diegomar Markwell, nephew of Andruw Jones, will take the ball for Team Netherlands on Monday night. Markwell is a 231-pound native of Rotterdam. He is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in the WBC. The unbeaten Dominican Republic will counter with Edinson Volquez, veteran right-hander for the Padres. Volquez has a 6.75 ERA in 5 1/3 innings, starting twice in the WBC. MLB.com reports, if the Dominicans reach the title game, Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno (1.13 ERA, eight innings) will be manager Tony Pena’s starter.

With Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios faltering, Mike Aviles has been the Puerto Ricans’ primary run producer. The third baseman has eight RBIs in seven games, batting .292 while delivering the team’s lone home run in the WBC. Japan, by contrast, has had 8 home runs in six games. Seven players are hitting .316 or higher, led by Hirokaza Ibata. The second baseman is hitting .571 with an OPS of 1.327. However, how will Japan deal with the time off?

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It’s all fun and games until Greg Maddux teaches you his pick-off move.

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It’s all fun and games until Greg Maddux teaches you his pick-off move.

Posted on 08 March 2013 by Trish Vignola

Ok, my prediction that Barry Larkin will get some serious notice when the managerial carousel begins this season is pretty much on the mark. Everything else I said regarding the World Baseball Classic? Not so much. In an attempt to save face, I’ve decided to turn my attention to another pool of countries. Let’s look at one I actually know something about.

Hello Team USA!


As the clock ticks down to Team USA’s first official game, Greg Maddux walked out to the mound to visit Derek Holland. This time though it was as a pitching coach and not an ace. However, every time Maddux went to the mound to pitch in his career (22 seasons and 355 major-league victories), he was doing it as a pitching coach…kinda of.

Take that Eric Gagne! (He was the pitching coach for Team France which failed to qualify.)

Are you surprised though? Greg Maddux was always a lesson in “what to do” for pitchers in both dugouts. He was and is a constant reminder of the lethal properties hiding in an 88 m.p.h. fastball.

Ask folks like R.A. Dickey.

Joe Torre, Team USA’s manager, said he contacted Maddux before any other potential member of his coaching staff. The belief that working in the WBC “imperils arms” demanded a reassuring presence, especially because pitchers in the WBC are expected to be ready faster. “I just felt it was important to have a pitching coach who knows what it’s like to go through spring training, and he was playing, what, four years ago?” Torre said to MLB.com. “It’s a security blanket for a lot of the pitchers here.”

Probably for a fair amount of General Managers as well.

Maddux took a day to answer Torre’s request, clearing the idea with his family. “I wanted to do it the minute I hung up,” he said. “But you’ve got to take care of the other side of your life.” Maddux spent the last three seasons as a special instructor for the Cubs and Rangers. His responsibilities have been limited, allowing for a normal family life relative to his years as a player.

Maddux hadn’t studied the effect of WBC participation on arms, but he committed to running the staff exactly as if it were prepping to start a full MLB season. “I know the intensity of the games is a lot more,” he said. “But the physical load of it’s going to be no different from what they’re accustomed to this time of year in spring training.”

Maddux has to defer to some pretty strict WBC ground rules (no more than 65 pitches per appearance in this opening round) and the concerns of his pitchers’ regular coaches. But he’s free to coach in the most important ways, advising on technique or massaging a pickoff move. More than free, actually. “That’s one of my obligations,” he said.

It might also have been one of Torre’s recruiting tools.

“I think it made a lot of… managers comfortable (about pitchers leaving spring camps for the WBC),” he said, “because let’s think about it. Their pitchers have a chance to spend these weeks with Greg Maddux. That’s pretty good tutoring.” Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants’ postseason ace of 2012, didn’t hesitate when asked what he most wanted to learn from Maddux: “The backdoor two-seamer to a righty. I have my first bullpen session with him tomorrow, and we’re going to dive into it.”

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Why Does Baseball Not Respect Team USA Like Basketball Does?

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Why Does Baseball Not Respect Team USA Like Basketball Does?

Posted on 17 January 2013 by Trish Vignola

Derek Jeter has been the face of American baseball for nearly two decades. When the World Baseball Classic (WBC) came knocking, he played not once…but twice. Jeter batted a combined .347 in the 2006 and 2009 tournaments.


Jeter will not play in this year’s WBC. It’s barely six weeks away, and he’s still recovering from a broken ankle. Otherwise, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reports, he would play. Morosi reports that the decision would be based heavily on the fact that his mentor Joe Torre is managing Team USA.

Team USA’s roster will include young, charismatic stars including the Orioles’ Adam Jones. However, what’s shocking is who is not there. Are they getting pressured from their teams? Are they considered with injury? Morosi reports that MLB research shows there were more April disabled list assignments, by percentage, in ’06 and ’09 for players who did not play in the WBC than for those who did.

We haven’t done well in the tournament. Team USA’s WBC performance has, to date, is 7-7 with zero appearances in the title game. Shouldn’t we want redemption? Who cares that you’re in your walk year?

For every other participating nation, the opposite is true: Players offer an immediate yes unless they are injured. Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval were the first players to commit for Team Venezuela. They will be joined by ace Felix Hernandez, who is as close to free agency as Kershaw and Verlander. The later two are still wavering about joining the roster. What are they waiting for?

Morosi presents a theory. “How about we lend greater legitimacy and profile to the event by sending the best of our best, the way the other countries have, and then accept the results as they are?”

We present to you USA Basketball. After a highly disappointing 2004 Olympics, they have a 16-0 record and two gold medals. How did that happen? They demanded it. Kobe and LeBron got an edict, and they came through.

Is it time for baseball to demand more? Morosi calls for a LeBron-type figure to emerge as a “Captain America.” It’s not going happen in 2013.

So, we’re due for another ho-hum WBC. Why should we fully invest if they don’t? It’s probably easier to take the loss that way. America, when it comes to our national pastime, the world is catching up to us.

Yes, the US remains the technical center of the baseball universe. It still produces more than 70 percent of current major-league players. It also serves as the base for 29 of its 30 teams. Nonetheless, game is more diverse than it’s ever been. This is positive.
Nonetheless, because of how the history of our nation is intertwined with the history of the sport, Morosi feels that the US bears a unique responsibility to grow the WBC as the sport’s premier international tournament. I agree. I also agree that a big part of that obligation is showing up.

It would also be nice to win.

For more on Jon Paul Morosi’s work, check him out on Fox Sports.

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – Fourth of July cards

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – Fourth of July cards

Posted on 04 July 2012 by Tim Danielson

While it is certainly possible to research what games have been played on the 4th of July, it is much harder to verify what photos for baseball cards were taken at those games. I decided to take a different approach and look for cards that were patriotic in theme. There has to be a reason why we have the phrase “as American as Baseball and mom’s apple pie,” right?

I was a little surprised to find how few patriotic cards I had, or least knew about. There are a lot of cards that have stars or banners on them. These are mostly All-Star cards or insert cards. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. However, I hope you enjoy Bike Spokes And Shoe Boxes visual addition to the 4th of July.



1997 Bowman Chrome International Refractor – Sean Casey

2002 Fleer base – Sean Casey
This is the back of card, the front has red and blue stripes, but the flag is more noticeable on the back. Plus I think it interesting that Sean Casey was born on July 2nd.

2002 Studio Base – Rickey Henderson
Both Fleer and Studio went with the flag theme for their 2002 releases as a tribute of sorts after the World Trade Center attack in 2001.

Other patriotic cards that I can think of include any Team USA cards and USA National Team from the 2009 and 2009 World Baseball Classic, any Year Bowman International parallel cards, or Team USA Olympic cards. The World baseball Classic cards have a graphic of the United States flag on them. If you have any cards that are patriotic please post them here to share and show your pride in the good ‘ole U.S of A.

Until next week, keep collecting, collect for the joy of the hobby and collect for the fan in all of us.


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