Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going the distance

A few years back, a reality television showed pitted Indian pitchers against each other to see which would get a shot at a major league contract. I don’t remember the details, but two did get a chance to pitch with the Pittsburgh Pirates. One made it for four seasons, with some success, while the other lasted 1+, without much luck. It was mostly a publicity stunt, but well-intentioned in my mind, as it’s great that players from non-traditional baseball countries get a shot.

So you have to wonder if anytime one these guys gets a chance, if it’s for real, or just a favor to a scout and a good-will gesture. Fortunately for Callam Pearce, that isn’t an issue. Because the kid from Glenwood, a suburb of Durban, South Africa, is going to get a real opportunity.
Glenwood boy, Callan Pearce has been selected to play baseball for the Minnesota Twins, a major league American Baseball team.
According to reports I can find, this is a 7-year deal. He’ll live for the states in the spring, after he has finished high school. Fortunately, although he lives on the edge of the Indian Ocean, he won’t be a strange to snow as cold weather, as the Drakensberg range of mountains is just a short ride away.

This is definitely not for show, as no team would give such a long-term contract to a prospect, especially one who hasn’t played in high level competition by his age. This is great news for Callam, great news for South African baseball, and great news for baseball in general. Talented players are always welcome, regardless of the cover on their passport.

When soccer trumps baseball

Some bad news in the world of baseball. And college football. And the NFL. Not that we really care about the other two. But we care about baseball, don’t we. Yeah. It’s the greatest sport, but we always hear about how it’s dying, and no longer relevant. That’s bull, in my opinion. Baseball is alive and well, and has survived many issues that have broken other leagues. 

But to be fair, it is probably not the most watched sport in the world. That would have to be soccer. While baseball is played in most countries nowadays, soccer still remains supreme as the top sport in most of them. Usually because it’s the cheapest to play growing up, and a lack of organized leagues or competitions for many of the other sports.

However, back to the main point, baseball is alive and well, and deep into the playoffs. While college football and the NFL are back, you would think the run to the Series would trump all other sports in television viewership in the states. But it seems it doesn’t. It’s not either of the footballs. At least in some of our major metropolitan areas. It seems soccer reigns supreme in many American cities. According to TV by the Numbers, the FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Mexico and Panama on October 11th, a Friday, outdrew all other sports in the land, regardless of language:

Regardless of language, UniMás was the highest rated broadcast station during the Mexico vs. Panama match (9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET):
·         Among Persons 2+ in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Dallas and Phoenix
·         Among Adults 18-49 and Adults 18-34 in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix and Sacramento
But it wasn’t just sports that the soccer match outdrew. Oh no, that wasn’t enough: 
During the Mexico vs. Panama match (9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET), UniMás stations had higher viewership that the ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX stations combined:
·         Among Persons 2+ in Los Angeles
·         Among Adults 18-49 in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and Sacramento
·         Among Adults 18-34 in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Phoenix and Sacramento
But they weren’t just picking on those poor unfortunate’s of us who only speak English:
During the Mexico vs. Panama match (9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET), UniMás stations had higher viewership that the Telemundo, Azteca, MundoFox and Estrella stations combined:
·         Among Persons 2+ and Adults 18-49 in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix and Sacramento
·         Among Adults 18-34 in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix and Sacramento
And to add insult to injury, it wasn’t just Friday night viewing that got waylaid by the quest for Brazil: 
The Mexico vs. Panama match on UniMás stations was the #1 broadcast program of the day in the following markets:
·         Among Adults 18-49 in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix and Sacramento
·         Among Adults 18-34 in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Chicago and Sacramento
·          Among Persons 2+ in Los Angeles, Miami and Houston
There are some more numbers in the article, so please go check it out. Now, obviously, those cities have a high Hispanic population, and none them save Los Angeles had a team in the playoffs. The Dodgers did open the NLCS that night, and are supposed to have a huge following among the Hispanic population, specifically the Mexicans. But I guess they were more interested in what was going on back home then in the city they live in.

Of the cities listed, these are there rankings in size:

Los Angeles – 2nd
Miami – 9th
Houston – 10th
Dallas – 8th
Chicago – 3rd
San Francisco – 5th
Phoenix – 14th
Sacramento – 24th

So 8 of the top 24. Just to provide as many numbers as possible, here is the percentage of Hispanics in each city:

Los Angeles – 45%
Miami – 64%
Houston – 37%
Dallas – 28%
Chicago – 22%
San Francisco – 55%
Phoenix – 41%
Sacramento – 27%

I don’t think in any way this means baseball is dying out. It does prove my theory that the Mexican population makes up the majority of Dodgers fans in Los Angeles, but that’s an internal issue to them. Baseball is alive and well, and is far from needing life support.

What I do find interesting, however, is that fact that as the Hispanic population goes up in the country, tracking a similar rise in Hispanic players in MLB from all over the hemisphere, you have to question if the audience size is keeping track with the on-field growth. We keep hearing things about how the rise in Hispanic players needs to bring about a new way of marketing the game, or the way we treat players, as well as adjustments by the existing fan base. But is that what is really happening?

The NBA is a game largely played by black players and attended by white fans. The same has been said of the NFL. I don’t have those numbers, and I don’t care. What they do isn’t important to me; it’s just what I’ve heard most of my life. But is the same true of baseball? Will it become a game played by minorities, but watched by white people? Aren’t the growing crowds of Hispanics supposed to be the new gold mine? But if they aren’t watching, will it matter.

I find it interesting that the Dodgers couldn’t outdraw the Mexican soccer team, but having lived in Los Angeles, I’m not actually surprised. The Mexican population, who makes up a vast majority of the viewership of all the channels, as well as Dodger fans, have always been portrayed as looking back to Mexico over anything that happens in L.A. As to the other cities, maybe it’s the same. Baseball is definitely holding its own. Can we say the same for the expected Hispanic market?

Is the Hispanic viewership of baseball a boom or a bust? Obviously not when soccer is on television.

British Baseball Guide

Baseball is a great game, filled with tradition, and history-laden. As such, it has its own unique language; On top of that, the rules of the game are different than most others. Most ball games are played on a field, court, or rink, with the ball going back and forth to set goals. The only sports that provide a diamond-based field are baseball, softball, rounders, and any baseball-derived sport.

As such, the rules are not as simple as many other sports due to the nature of the game. Most other ball games consist of one team trying to score into a set goal, while the other tries to stop. There are variations, and different rules that cover the penalty and movement of the ball, but most all are tied to those two areas. No other sport has anything near the equivalent of a stolen base. 

Also, for those who are new to the game, and want to follow it at its highest level, it can be hard to know how to follow, with 30 teams to choose from. Plus, in today's world, we don't just want to watch, since it's difficult to find the game outside the states. We want to read about it also.

So what is needed for the fan is something simple. A site that provide an explanation of the game to beginners, a glossary of terms, and links to who shows the game, and those who write about it. Too good to be true, you ask? Not all all. Not with the fantastic site of British Baseball Guide

There you can read about the game, learn which team to follow (the Royals or the Cardinals), learn the language of the game, as well as learn where to watch. There are even links to the best of British baseball writers. If you are new to the game, and want to learn more, this is your first stop. Bookmark it now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Down, but not out

My internet is down right now and I can only get to a cafe occassionally. I'll be back up as soon as I have access again.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Perfect Game

One of the great baseball events of the year is always the Little League World Series, held in August in Williamsport, PA. It started as an American tournament, featuring teams from all over the United States. Now it has grown into an international tournament, maybe the only truly "world" championship in baseball. Countries from all continents participate, and the there is an international division to face the winner of the American division. This year, for the first time, an African team will play.

It's not about the contracts, its about the love of the game, and representing your country in a manner that a lot of adult professionals don't understand. More importantly than playing for their home country, however, is the fact that they represent their home town, which in many cases means much more to the players. They haven't yet become jaded about the world, and the quest for money.

This story, though, isn't about this year's tournament. It's about the past, but what a story:
In 1957 a rag-tag, shoeless, poor group of kids from Monterrey, Mexico shocked the world by winning 13 games in a row and the Little League World Series in the only perfect game ever pitched in the Championship. These kids, led by their priest and a down-and-out former major leaguer embark on a journey through the southern US and up into Williamsport, PA for the Championship game.
"The Perfect Game" is the story of the kids, and what they were able to accomplish. Standing out among the players is one who had a unique style, to say the least:
In the final game against La Mesa, Calif, (a team that averaged 5 ft. 4 in., 127 lbs.), Coach Faz tried something far more spectacular than extra sleep. He called on his best pitcher, ambidextrous Angel Macias, a twelve-year-old 88-pounder with a fine assortment of curves and sliders, plus a plain, old-fashioned fast ball under disciplined control. Against Bridgeport, Angel had played a flawless game at shortstop. He can, in fact, play any position on the team—becomes a southpaw on first base, a righthander in the rest of the infield, whatever he happens to feel like when he switches to the outfield. At bat, says he, he is a "turnover" hitter like his hero Mickey Mantle
I haven't seen the movie yet, and I'm impressed.

The 'Bad News Bears' taught us about baseball, and winning and losing, as kids. It was a look at the lighter side, but a honest one. Nothing can get more honest than this.
Back in Monterrey loudspeakers in the public squares reported a running account of the game. For the rest of the year, Angel and his teammates will go back to shining shoes on the streets after school, working in the local foundry for 50¢ a day. Until two years ago, they played baseball barefoot.
If this isn't a baseball movie for the ages, then one will probably never be made again.
H/T to 1-800-Beisbol

A farewell to Tuffy Rhodes?

Tuffy Rhodes is looking for a job, but it probably won't come. After 6 seasons in major league baseball, and 13 in Japan, he doesn't have a job, and probably won't get one. Even though he was productive:
At age 41, he was released in November after finishing his third season with the Orix Buffaloes, batting .308 with 22 home runs, 62 RBIs in 295 at-bats in just 84 games.
Contemplating what his life will be without baseball, Tuffy talked to Baseball Happenings for an in-depth interview.

Tuffy talks about his career, his accomplishments, what it's like to play in Japan vs the United States, and what he has in store for the future.

Tuffy put up some good numbers in Japan:
He played 13 seasons in Japanese baseball, amassing 464 home runs, 1,269 RBIs and 1,792 hits, all of which are the highest totals ever produced by a foreigner in Japan. He became fluent in Japanese, which added to his popularity during his career. He became such a fan favorite that he could not travel publicly without being besieged with autograph requests.
Please check it out, as it is a good interview with a good player, who still wants to. I don't blame him. I would want to keep playing also. Sadly, he won't be able to.

H/T to Baseball Happenings

Hector Espino for the Hall of Fame

Major League Baseball is the premier league in the world. Although there are very good leagues in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Cuba, and Mexico, as well as leagues in countries all over the planet, MLB is the top of the line. Because it is the best league around, this is where most players strive to get to. We assume that those who have come to the states are the best players, and we are generally correct in that. However, we do forget that some of other leagues provide us some outstanding players who never get the chance to play in the states.

Among those players are Martin Dihigo, whom many consider the greatest all-around player of all time, Sadaharu Oh, and Hector Espino. Most of you, I am sure, have heard of Oh, and many have heard of Dihigo. I'll bet a lot of you are asking who the hell is Hector Espino. Well, that's easy:
Who is Espino? Well, here a list of accomplishments for a ballplayer who has been called the “Babe Ruth of Mexico.” And, his lofty achievements compare favorably with many baseball legends who have received baseball’s highest honor.
The achievement:
Batting Titles – Won a staggering 18 batting titles(winter/summer leagues) which is six more than the 12 batting crowns Hall of Famer Ty Cobb captured.

Most years with one team – Spent 24 years with the Orange Men from 1960-85. Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (Orioles) and Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) are tied with 23 years of service in one uniform.

 Oldest man to win a batting title – Espino was 43 years-old when he batted .316 in 1983. Ted Williams was 40 when he hit .328 in 1958.

Most Home Runs – Swatted 481 homers in Mexico, and another 453 in the Mexican League. His 937 home runs are more than Oh and Josh Gibson, Hall of Famer who played in the Negro Leagues, who hit 814 homers.
For those who don't know, Mexico has a summer and a winter league. There might be some who want to downplay his numbers, but how can you? 24 years playing professional baseball. A batting title at 43. And 937 homeruns is a whole lot of homeruns, no matter where or when you play. Anyway you stack it, Hector Espino is a great player.

There are some that call for the Hall of Fame to expand its membership, and include players from around the world, and not just those who played in the states. I agree. The Hall of Fame is a private organization, and is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. If they want to be the premier Hall in the world, they need to recognize the world.

Martin Dihigo is already in as a Negro Leaguer. A lot of people want Sadaharu Oh in. I agree that we need to look at Hector Espino as well. Maybe one day people in the states will realize that baseball might be the American game, but we gave it to the world.

H/T to baseballdeworld