Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baseball from a different perspective

I tend to look at baseball from the international angle mostly, but I like baseball outside the mainstream. One area I haven't really paid a lot of attention to is the Independent Leagues in the states. Now, obviously living in the UK makes following the independent leagues a little harder, but it's not impossible. Thanks to a great web site:

IndependentBaseball.net

The site covers all things independent. There are tabs on the teams, managers, players, scheduling, standings and statistics, as well as:

Easy-to-find links to specific information on independent baseball team and league websites

Up to date independent baseball news across all leagues and the industry in general

Resources to help those who want to join the industry

Resources for independent baseball alumni (players, managers, staff, executives, announcers, umpires, etc.)

Links to the third-party statistics services which many teams and leagues use (these links are not widely known by most fans)

Ability to quickly and easily listen to independent baseball games

Ability to find archived online broadcasts in case you want to listen to a previous game

Ways to collect unique independent baseball merchandise and memorabilia

Useful content throughout the site which will give you tips and advice on specific content

(upcoming) Exclusive interviews with players, former players, and industry insiders
New features will be added based on your feedback and that of fellow website visitors
I wasn't aware that there are actually 8 independent leagues operating right now, featuring anywhere from 6 - 12 teams. And they pretty well have the country covered, as well as a presence in Canada.


AMERICAN ASSOCIATION
ATLANTIC LEAGUE
CAN-AM LEAGUE
CONTINENTAL LEAGUE
FRONTIER LEAGUE
GOLDEN LEAGUE
NORTHERN LEAGUE
UNITED LEAGUE


The Northern League features the Kansas City T-Bones, a team I have never watched play, but many of my family members and friends have.

I did make the mistake of comparing independent ball to A ball, but I have been corrected on this, and have been told by many people that it is AA level, at a minimum. I'll trust the words of those who have seen, and not just those who write.

There is also a daily blog that needs to be checked out. You can easily spend a couple of hours or more going through the site, finding out where the teams are at, former major leaguers playing, and checking the stats.

It's not major league baseball, but it is baseball. Check it out. It's well worth the time.

Bass 'fishing'

Having played sports in high school (where we didn't have much to celebrate) and in the Army (where we did), I can understand the joy of wanting to celebrate any kind of victory. In the states, we tend to do the dogpile, and as much fun as winning is, being at the bottom of it isn't. In Japan and South Korea, tossing seems to be the cultural equivalent of 15 guys jumping on top of you and trying to bury you somewhere near the pitcher's mound.

But as with any good thing, there is always something bad that can happen:
At the Kyoraku Cup in Okinawa, Japan, last week, Korean women golfers went from heaven to hell in an instant.

They were reveling over winning the Korea-Japan team tournament for the first time in three years, 29-19. While tossing team captain Lee Ji-hee into the air in celebration, players saw the smiles on their faces abruptly disappear.

Lee’s waist hit the edge of the winners’ steel rostrum. Shocked, she began showing symptoms of vomiting and was rushed to a hospital.

To the players’ relief, a medical exam showed that she sustained a simple bruise. The players, however, pledged never to toss anyone after a victory again.

And never let it be said that the media misses any kind of scoop:

The incident also made headlines in Japanese media.
However, lest you think that there will be an uproar over the tradition, I don't think so:

Getting tossed into the air after a victory is the dream of every Korean or Japanese athlete and coach. Those who have been tossed say the feeling is indescribable until experienced.

Kim Kyung-moon, who led the Korean national baseball team to the Olympic gold medal in Beijing last year, was tossed after his squad won the championship game. “I’d still be happy if I fell to the ground and died,” he said.

Shin Chee-yong, whose pro volleyball team Samsung Fire and Marine Insurance won its 10th championship this season, also said, “You simply cannot be happier.”
So I think tossing is here to stay in the two countries. I can't see some 'legislating' it out of practice. It's just too common. The article goes on to talk about the psychological effects of tossing, how it is spreading around the world, and just general information about the event itself.

There is one practice, however, that is a fairly decent innovation, as using the real thing could lead to serious injury:

When the Japanese pro baseball team Hanshin Tigers won the Central League championship in 1985, excited fans tossed a Kentucky Fried Chicken mannequin resembling Randy Bass, who won the league’s batting Triple Crown, into a river.
Which is good. Trying to toss the real Randy Bass into a river. Bad

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The International Draft

Just some of my thoughts on the international draft, such as they are.

Craig, over at Circling the Bases is doing a series on the draft, as reported by MLB.com. Go ahead and check it out.


As for me, I'm for the international draft. Mostly because the game has become international. The WBC has shown that, and in my opinion, the fact that the game is out of the Olympics shows that. Baseball has gotten too big globally, and team sports such as soccer and basketball, as well as the traditional staples such as track and field, and swimming, are more than happy that baseball won't be around to steal any of the spotlight. Because baseball is an international sport, and players from all over the world are coming to the states to play, it's only right that there be an international draft.

That being said, the draft needs to be somewhat limited as too which countries are involved. The United States, Canada and Puerto Rico (hey, I don't get it either) are already part of the draft process.

Other countries that should be part of an international draft: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Dominican Republic, Mexico,

Others that could be: Panama, Columbia, Nicaragua, Venezuela


These are all countries that routinely put players into the majors, and have viable leagues themselves. Additionally, they have high school and college programs that give the players needed experience and exposure for the draft.

Other countries that don't have leagues or school programs should not be subjected to an international draft, as of now. They are still in the club/semi-pro stage, and need more time to develop. It could be considered a coming of age, that when your country becomes part of the draft, then you've arrived as a baseball nation.

Alongside an international draft for MLB, however, is the idea that American players should be allowed to be drafted by other (foreign) leagues. This would seem only fair. It's a little bit of hubris to assume that MLB is the only game in town. Granted, it is for most Americans. Witness the WBC. But that's not true, by a long shot. If we can draft foreign players, why can't they draft ours?

One of the big problems with any type of international draft is the same problem that affects true free agency. The Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese and Mexican leagues don't want to be taken over by North American and Caribbean players. They want to maintain the hegemony of their own leagues, which is understandable. They don't want to be relegated to minor leagues and training teams for MLB clubs. That's the main reason they limit the amount of foreigners allowed to play each year, and there are gentleman's agreements about the posting system and signing free agents.

There aren't necessarily problems with that. Major League teams aren't going to start raiding the foreign leagues of their players. What it will do, is give the Major League teams a chance to draft some of the better players from those countries to come to the states to play. If they want to. Some of the players might decide to stay home for the first few years, then become free agents. That might provide a better opportunity for them than playing Rookie and A ball, and getting cut.

An international draft, a true one, might give some of the better North American and Caribbean players a chance to go play right away, instead of the taking the same route through the minors. And does anyone really think their will be a mass exodus of players from the US to Japan, Mexico and South Korea. It won't happen. But if we can draft their players, why shouldn't they be allowed to draft ours. Whether or not anyone ever goes.

One of the biggest complaints against the draft is the restraint of free trade. I personally don't get that, because no one has the right to play baseball. They have the right to work, sure, but play baseball. I don't know. But I'm probably not the guy to have long discussions with about that.

But an international draft, a true one, would create an open market and give all the players more of a chance. I'll use Aaron Crow, of the Royals as an example. He was drafted by Washington, but didn't want to sign, or couldn't agree to a contract. So he ended up sitting out a year, and pitching in the independent leagues, which are A ball at the best. Then, after a year, he went back into the draft and was picked by the Royals. There doesn't seem to be as much of an open market there, even though there is. He had a choice.

But why he couldn't he have also been drafted by the Japanese league, or the Mexican league. Both of which are above AAA level, if not major league level. What if he signed a 2-year contract with one of them, and got 2 years of experience pitching against better competition then he was. He would then be treated like any other draft choice. Any where. His contract could be traded, to any team in any league, or he could pitch the duration of it, and become a free agent. That would seem to work, at least to me.

It's not like all of our top-tier prospects are going to run off to other countries, and we're not going to draft enough players from other countries to hurt their leagues. But it moves the game into the international arena, where it belongs, as well as giving players a truly open market.

The only two drawbacks I see are the Players Association being afraid to take a chance, and the other leagues rejecting the idea out of hand. Without them, all that will happen is the kids from Europe, Africa, South America, Oceania and other countries without viable leagues will be subjected to the draft, while players who develop within a more structured system will be left out. And that's not a good idea. Those countries are much better having working relations with individual teams, as happened in the Caribbean for years.

So, to me, the international draft is a good idea. Within reason. And using a little common sense.



Sorry, this was a little quick as I wanted to get it in, and it seems rushed. Because it was. I'm hoping to get back to this every day, and will try to spend a little more time polishing posts in the future.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ichiro and the Iron Horse

From East Windup Chronicle comes footage of Ichiro as a highschooler. And showing some power!!!

He probably would have won the homerun derby this year. Remember, those were hit in a major league, albeit somewhat smaller, stadium. Anyone remember the story about Lou Gehrig hitting one out of Wrigley as a highschool player? Kind of the same thing here.



Nothing to add, just interesting.

Let them play

Baseball is baseball, and anyone playing it is always a good thing. And as the games grows in stature around the world, it's important that players in different countries get the opportunity to play. South Africa has been playing baseball for a few years now, competing in the first two World Baseball Classics, and having had several prospects sign with minor league teams in the states. It's an emerging program, and the sport is becoming more popular all the time in the country.

But it's being done a little differently in South Africa right now, as they are developing a girls game:
There has been Girls Baseball in South Africa for the last six years. This is done primarily at school level and Youth Divisions.

For the school competitions we have 9 States/Provinces who send 14 participants in each of the Under-13;Under-15; and Under-17 . Giving us a total of 378 girls who represent their state/province.
I'm all for anyone playing baseball who wants to play baseball, and this is a good thing. I've said many times before that it's been proven that kids (from whatever country) who participate in after school sports/programs tend to have better grades and fewer discipline problems. So getting these girls involved is a great idea.

I have to wonder why baseball, however. I'm not knocking it, by any means. They do play softball in South Africa. I'm not going to be so sexist as to assume women should only play softball, and not baseball. But reality is what it is, and at the professional/older levels, men play baseball and women play softball. If the girls want to play baseball, that's great. But I would think eventually they will end up switching to softball at a later date, unless there are plans for a woman's baseball league.

There are some inherent problems, as there always are in poorer countries:
Fewer girls participate in the Youth Divisions because of the cost of travel and accommodations. The reason for this is the closeness of the two championships to each other and the majority of our girls coming from disadvantaged communities.
A donation of equipment by some organization in the states that plays a similar sport and has a few million spare dollars sitting in the bank would be an ideal way to promote the game on an international level.

But when the boss of that organization is a used car salesman, you learn quickly that there are no guarantees.



Thanks to the IBAF for the link.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Basketball isn't the only sport they play

As the game of baseball continues to expand across the globe, except in the mind of Bud, (who just doesn't get it), we have another first. One more country has joined the list of nations represented in professional baseball in the states. Lithuania, one of the Baltic states, and not a Balkan one, has had their first player sign a professional contract to play minor league ball in the states:
For the first time in the history of Lithuanian Baseball, one of its own has signed a professional contract with an MLB squad. On July 9th Dovydas Neverauskas, a 16 year old pitcher from Vilnius, Lithuania, agreed to terms of a professional contract offered by the Pittsburgh Pirates, making him the first player in Lithuania's history to do so
What I like about this the most is the fact that Dovydas is an actual Lithuanian prospect. He's not someone who was born in Lithuania, then moved to the states or another baseball playing country. He's not a native-born Lithuanian who moved to the states to play high school ball. No, he's an actual Lithuanian, born and raised in that country.

The most important fact about that is that Lithuania has established enough of a baseball program to have prospects. And prospects who have actually signed professional contracts. It's a legitimate program, and a legitimate baseball-playing nation now. Lithuania is a small-ish country, but they are a legitimate international basketball force. Anyone remember the 2004 Olympics. If they put the same effort into baseball that they put into basketball, they will be winning major championships soon.

And it's not just a one-off signing:
Also receiving attention from several MLB Clubs was Edvardas Matusevicius, a hard-throwing RHP and outfielder who has also been invited to this year's MLB European Academy in Italy. Matusevicius has opted to pursue baseball and studies in the U.S., and will be attending high school at Islip High School in Long Island, New York this fall.
It's also interesting, at least to me, that he signed with the Pirates. The same team that recently signed two Indian pitchers. Even though that was something of a publicity stunt, Dovydas is a legitimate prospect. However, it's nice to see Pittsburgh looking outside the box for players. They aren't good, and haven't been for awhile. Anyplace where they can find quality prospects should be exploited.

Most teams have operations in Latin America, and many of them are developing programs in Asia now. But Pittsburgh, in the Baltics; Kansas City in South Africa; and Atlanta in the Atlantic and non-Latin Caribbean countries are making the effort to get out there and find players in new places. I think MLB should be doing much more to promote and advance the game on an international basis, but it isn't happening. Fortunately, some of the teams are stepping up and making the effort.

Good luck to Davydas. I can't wait to hear McCarver try to pronounce his name, and give us some inane story about Lithuania.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Asian Championships

The Asian Championships are being played right now, and the Final Four is set after the completion of the first round. The teams that have been able to advance might look familiar:

Japan
South Korea
China
Taiwan

If they do look familiar, it's because of this:
Round 1 - Pool A

China
Chinese Taipei
Japan
South Korea
Yup, the same match-up from the World Baseball Classic this spring. Back then, I predicted the final standings:

The final results:
Japan 3 - 0
South Korea 2 - 1
China 1 - 2
Chinese Taipei 0 - 3

I was right in having China win a game and Taiwan getting blanked. I also had Japan beating South Korea. What I didn't have was South Korea beating Japan in the finals of the pool.

Even though that happened, I don't see a reason to change my original picks. I'll still stick with Japan to win it all, over South Korea. Just like the finals of the classic.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Back in the saddle

Obviously, those of you who do come here to read my ramblings postings have noticed that I haven't written for awhile, at least before today. A new job, working nights has got me out of sync, and sleeping 4-5 hours a day has left me too tired to sit down and try and be somewhat coherent.

I think I've gotten my body into some sort of routine and am feeling a bit more rested. Of course, now, in the interest of making enough money to buy a car and move into my own place, I will be working extra shifts and doing about 12 straight days, or nights, as it may be.

However, I feel confident that I can get back into this and do at least 1 post per day, if not more. Since my days off are Tuesday and Wednesday (nights), that means I might be posting over the (your) weekend. But I haven't disappeared, and won't. With the World Cup of Baseball just around the corner, I should have a lot to say.

One man understands

A few days back, I wrote about the Iraq having a national baseball team. What I wrote wasn't actually so much about baseball or the team itself, but more of the situation they are in. Maybe it was a little political also, but I'm not concerned about that. The fact that the Iraqi's play baseball is great, and that they will be competing in tournaments is even better. If we all harken back to our Little League days, we can remember when we were issued our first uniform. I don't care if you were the star or the scrub, getting that uniform was still my single best baseball moment. Getting to wear it for the first time in an actual game was great.

Since the original story came out (not by me), it has been picked up by the main-stream-media. To be fair to them, they didn't turn it into a circus or political issue, but reported it on competently and eloquently, as far as I can tell. The main gist of the stories was the fact that the Iraqi team didn't have any uniforms, and very little equipment with which to play. So a true fan of the game, and someone who was willing to show a little charity at the expense of his own business has stepped forward to help out:

SEATTLE - When MSNBC host Rachel Maddow talked about the plight of the Iraqi National Baseball team on her show, Seattle’s Jerry Cohen jumped into action.

Maddow said, according to the McClatchy news service, the Iraqi team shared one baseball jersey, a five-year-old bat, three baseballs and nine gloves.

"I dashed off an e-mail saying we’d be happy to make the uniforms for the team and donate them," said Cohen, president of Ebbets Field Flannels, makers of vintage baseball uniforms.

Although the Iraqis just asked for jerseys, Cohen says he’s throwing in the pants, caps and socks.
I think is fantastic. Things like this happen more often than we ever hear about, and it's great that any company would be willing to donate their product to a worthy cause. I've bought Ebbets Field Flannels before, and you can bet I will again. This is a quality company, with a quality product, and they are well deserving of our support, if for no other reason, because of their support of people who want to play baseball.

As I've said many times before, I've lived and visited a few countries in my life. I've posted quite a bit about countries starting up baseball federations and just places simply trying to get teams started. In a lot of them, there is very little equipment, usually no uniforms, and no decent fields to play on. Here in the UK (which is a slightly different story), our home field is the best I've seen so far, and it's a converted soccer field. But at least it's level. Mostly. I've been on other fields where there was a discernible slope. If a G8 country like the United Kingdom can't get decent baseball fields built, how are countries like Iraq, Nigeria, and Cambodia supposed to get it done.

Bud, you've hooched the pooch again. I can't believe that MLB can't do something more for developing countries that want to play baseball. Where is the equipment? Where are uniforms? Where is help, if not building the fields, at least securing a decent enough field that one can be laid out? Is baseball broke?

Where's the international involvement, Bud? Yeah, a lot of teams are doing it individually? Is the league office so broke that it has to pass this over to the teams to do instead of running it collectively? Why are you wasting every opportunity to advance the game on the international level? How about some answers?

And some people might point out that MLB does run some programs to help, but they don't. Not run programs, at least. They use charitable opportunities for free advertising, but don't do nearly enough. And yes, maybe Ebbets Field Flannels is getting some free publicity out of this. But the difference is, they aren't the ones who are supposed to be doing it. But they are.

They're stepping up to the plate, Bud. Why are you and your boys still sitting in the clubhouse?


Link via King5.com.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't it make you want to go home?

I came of baseball age in the early to mid-70's. The style of game that was played then, and the players who played it, were the ones who gave me the love of the game I still have today. The first World Series I really remember as being the World Series was in '75. That was a great one to start with, and it's only gotten better since then. I don't remember a lot about that particular series, to be honest. I remember Armbrister's bunt, and Dewey's catch, but not Fisk's homerun. I was probably in bed by then.

One person individually I did remember was Luis Tiant. I don't know why. I know I had his '74 baseball card, and it was probably the windup. But I knew who El Tiante was. And for some reason, he was always a favorite of mine, even though I didn't particularly care about the Red Sox, and even after he joined the Yankees. He was one of the dominant pitchers of my childhood, and always fun to watch.

Now he's having a documentary made of his life:

The career of legendary Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant comes alive again in Jonathan Hock's new documentary, "The Lost Son of Havana," part of Martha's Vineyard Film Festival's Summer Series, playing Wednesday, July 8, at the Chilmark Community Center. Along with producer Kris Meyer, executive producers Bob and Peter Farrelly, Vineyard summer residents, will field questions after the 8 pm screening.
Obviously, this is a localized event, but maybe it will get released on DVD soon, because I would love to see it.

There is a lot of difference between Luis Tiant, Tony Oliva and Tony Perez (all guys who left Cuba in the early 60's) and the new way of defectors that have been making their way to the majors recently. Tiant, Olivia, and Perez all had to spend their time in the minors, and there was no guarantee they would make the big leagues. And it probably wasn't about the money, as the salaries at that time weren't what they are today. The Cuban defectors leaving today play in competitive leagues at home and internationally, and now they are looking at million dollar contracts as soon as they sign. I don't blame any of them for leaving, but it is a different situation today.

Tiant spent time in Mexico, and the minors before making his debut:

Tiant left his native Cuba in 1961 at the age of 20 to play in Mexico. Already named 1960 Rookie of the Year in Cuba, the pitcher was drafted by the Cleveland Indians. Forty-six years passed before he could set foot in Cuba again.

The film captures Tiant's return - including visits with relatives, friends and fans - when he is invited to coach a goodwill exhibition game between Americans and Cubans. (Americans are still not legally allowed to visit.) There is a comic bureaucratic twist when the Cuban government requires even the camera crew to play in the game.
As someone who has lived all over the world most of my adult life, and now is an ex-pat in the UK, I know what it's like to be away from home. The difference is, Tiant didn't have the option of going back. I can always leave at any time, and never spent more than 3 years at a time without getting back to the states. Not being able to go home is rough. Not being able to go home for 47 years is unimaginable.

But Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. And Tiant was able to finally do that:

As his remarkable story unfolds, the film builds rapport with the pitcher's family, friends and former colleagues in Cuba. The grim economics of living in Cuba become clear when one family member admits, "We're living on cigarettes."

A modest hero, Tiant, offers non-prescription medicine, toothpaste, and cash. "This is my country," he says. "I don't care about politics. If I die, I die happy."
I always say I don't care about what happens off the field. It's the game that counts, and the players personal lives and personalities don't matter to me. Mostly because it's always negative and judgemental. But fortunately, there are no absolutes in life, and this is a great, if somewhat bittersweet, story. Even guys like me should care something about this.

"The Lost Son of Havana," Wednesday, July 8, 8 pm, Chilmark Community Center, South Road, Chilmark. Preceded from 5 to 7 pm by Cinema Circus for children. Tickets, $12 for adults, $5 for children ($6 for MVFF members).

Original story from Brooks Robards at The Martha Vineyards Times

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kind of a brave new world

If Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, do sabermetricians cry binomial numbers? The world of technology took a blow recently when the Korean Baseball Organization outlawed the use of electronic devices from dugouts. While their use had already been outlawed by the league, it was a still a common practice that nothing much was said about. Oh, those pesky ballplayers, flaunting the rules. Who would have thought it?

The league has until now overlooked the use of electronic communications devices - including notebooks, cell phones and walkie-talkies - even though they are prohibited in dugouts under KBO rules.

Since 2003, teams have spent substantial amounts of money equipping their dugouts with sophisticated software that allows them to keep track of real-time statistics during games and analyze scouting reports on opposing teams.
I'm not going to pick on the saber crowd here, as there are a lot of uses for computer technology in the dugout. Watching video of your last at bat, watching the pitcher for signs that he's tipping his pitches, all things that can't be done by coaches actually watching the action instead of a computer screen.

The sight of grim, rather stiff baseball managers staring hard into notebook screens during games has been rather amusing. They receive data from scouts who sit directly behind home plate and record every pitch. Instead of conferring with coaches and veteran players, managers squint at their computer monitors.
And I'm not against the use of sabermetrics by managers and coaches to help make certain decisions. In fact, it only makes sense nowadays for a manager to have printouts of match-ups, left/right splits, and late inning situations. But having computers in the dugout just seems wrong to me. It's still a game played by human, watched by humans, and controlled by humans. Are we really ready for the Jetsons?

And this just seems wrong to me:

Some teams have been accused of watching instant replays on Internet broadcasts of their games before arguing with umpires over disputed calls.
I'm not anti-technology, and I'm not anti-sabermetric. But those are tools that use to help make decisions, not the decision-making process itself. I wholeheartedly agree with the banning of technology, not because it isn't helpful, but I want the manager and coaches of my team to be watching the actual game action, not a computer or video screen.

And when you get into the lunacy of having cell phones and walkie-talkies in the dugout, you just create too many problems. It gives to many self-righteous people the ability to complain about stealing signs and other nefarious deeds. And unless it's made mandatory for all teams to have it, you'll always have the issue of who says they can afford it and who can't. Which is probably the reason it's outlawed to start with. Because there is a correlating:

Kim Sung-keun, manager of the two-time defending champs SK Wyverns, is apparently computer illiterate. But that hasn’t kept him from devouring stats. His only son, Kim Jung-jun, has been the Wyverns’ chief statistical analyst since 2003, also the year when KBO teams started installing notebooks in dugouts.

SK’s success has likely pushed other clubs to reach into data even deeper. The Wyverns are in first place again, poised for a three-peat.
So the use of technology works. But please, can we leave it in the clubhouse and not bring it to the dugout. It's baseball, not a rocket launch.


Link from the Joong Ang Daily.

Agree or disagree as you like. References to hot android sex with Sean Young always welcome.

All Star Series


The 37th Annual USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series will take place in Japan from July 12-16. I don't know a lot about this series, but you have to wonder how good this thing will really be. Right now, all the best American college players have went through the draft, and most of them are in the process of signing, or have already signed and reported to their minor league team.

Except those guys, the best American college players, won't be participating:

The US National Team was selected after ten days of trials that included intersquad games and practices. The team consists top non-draft-eligible college players in the United States including 1 junior, 14 sophomores, and 7 freshman players including Trevor Bauer (UCLA) and Kolton Wong (University of Hawaii), who were on the Freshman All-America Team.
As I said, I don't know a lot about this series, but I'm curious as to why the draft-eligible players aren't participating. Some of them, most notably, Stephen Strasberg, haven't signed yet. And if you're going to have an All-Star team, shouldn't a guy who is supposedly the greatest pitcher of all time be part of the team.

I guess it could be the eligibility thing, and the fact that a lot of these guys either have been drafted, or weren't good enough to be drafted. But if they aren't signed, aren't they still amateurs? Or is it because they have graduated? Considering this:

The stars of the Japan national team is junior right hander Yuuki Saito (Waseda University) and senior Kazuhito Futagami (Hosei University) who was the MVP in the recent All Japan University Tournament. Seven seniors, who will be eligible for the upcoming draft, will be included in the squad.
If the Japanese team is using draft eligible players, why isn't the U.S.?

Anyhow, here's the schedule:

July 12th: Botchan Stadium (Matsuyama),12pm
July 13th: Tokyo Dome (Tokyo), 6pm
July 14th: Kleenex Miyagi Stadium (Sendai), 6 pm
July 15th: Tsuruoka Dream Stadium (Tsuruoka), 6pm
July 16th: Meiji Jinguu Stadium (Tokyo), 6pm

Updates as they happen.



Thanks to NPB Tracker for the link.

Friday, June 26, 2009

BaseballGB - a hub for the best British baseball writing

The latest interview is with Matt Smith, of Baseball GB, a site/conglomeration of the best of baseball writing in the UK. Matt is one of them of 6 that keeps the site going.

They have regular features every week:

My Sunday column: ‘Weekly’ hit ground ball,

Our ‘Weekly BST guide’ every Monday morning, providing details of games you can follow live at a convenient hour via MLB.com,

A round-up of results and interesting developments from the British league,

‘You are the Scorer’ - a scoring question to think about every Friday lunchtime,

Joe’s ‘Web pick of the month’,

Book reviews - no sport can match baseball when it comes to the sheer quality of books that it inspires. We regularly add to our collection of comprehensive book reviews designed to help British baseball fans decide on their next purchases, covering classics that everybody should own, latest releases and quirky finds that we think you may enjoy as well. If you are a publisher and would like us to review any new offerings, please get in contact.

Full Articles - We do write substantial posts in the normal website format, but when we want to go into a bit more detail, especially with graphs, tables and pictures, we publish them in our BGB Full Article pdfs.
The purpose of the blog:

BaseballGB is a site dedicated to writing about baseball from a British perspective.

There are three broad aims:

to write about baseball in a way that will encourage sceptical (and often cynical) Brits to embrace this great sport,

to be a place where established British baseball fans can enjoy reading posts and articles about the sport written by their compatriots,

to provide an alternative view on the world of baseball, complementing the many other great websites about the sport, that will appeal to all baseball fans regardless of their nationality.
Their history:

BaseballGB began life on the Wordpress network back in February 2006 before moving to this domain in April 2007. Previous posts can be accessed via the Archive page. It started as my own blog about baseball, but I always hoped that other Brits would be encouraged to join in. One year ago, Joe Gray came on board bringing with him great expertise on scorekeeping and baseball in Britain. More recently, Mark George and Russell Dyas have also joined up so that we can offer more regular content and a variety of different viewpoints.
They are also deeply involved with other projects, to include the Great Britain Baseball Scorers Association website (which also has a Twitter feed), including stats for the British Southern League and GB National teams, as well as the Project Cobb site that aims to chronicle the history of British baseball.

What they cover:

While we have our own unique writing styles, what really makes BaseballGB stand out is the mix of baseball topics that we cover.

Major League Baseball is naturally the primary competition that we focus on, but
we also devote a substantial amount of words to the British scene (from the games played in the National Baseball League to off-the-field developments at British baseball clubs), international competition, fantasy baseball and life generally as a baseball fan in Blighty. We write about any news items or stories that capture our imagination as they happen, as well as producing useful resources (such as our Baseball Basics for Brits guides) and the occasional month-long season of articles and posts (such as our Keeping Score Season in February 2009), all alongside a host of regular features.
I'm at the site a couple of times a day or more, and have found out that as much as I think I know about baseball, I can still learn something new every day.

So, now on to the interview:



1. Tell us a little about yourself?

Well, my name’s Matt and I’m a twenty-six year old baseball fan from Norwich, England.


2. What is your baseball background?

I started watching baseball back in 1998 after seeing it in the TV listings one week. I was hooked from the start, in no little part due to Five’s excellent coverage, and have continued watching and learning about baseball ever since.


3. Why baseball vs. cricket/football/rugby?

For me, it’s not a case of baseball versus the traditional British sports. I’m a sports fan first and foremost and enjoy watching all four of those listed as well as others. I remember reading an article in the Sunday Times last year where a columnist was praising a baseball writer (can’t remember who unfortunately) and saying how wonderful they made the game sound, but that we (i.e. Brits) already have cricket: the implication being that we therefore don’t need baseball. I don’t understand that attitude for a second. Why settle for one great bat-and-ball game when you can enjoy two?


4. Can baseball coexist with those other sports and succeed?

I think the main point here is what is meant by “succeed”. I very much doubt baseball will ever match the popularity of those traditional British sports, but I certainly think it can live alongside them at a more modest level. There is a protectionist attitude in all established sports which can make them weary of others (like baseball) invading on their patch, but I think we now live in a society where people expect to have greater choice. Even if only a small minority of people want to be involved in baseball, it should be possible for them to have access to facilities to do so. If that means only having 59 football pitches in one area instead of 60, with the other space given to baseball, that should be achievable.


5. What is the biggest obstacle to baseball in Great Britain?

There are many factors that come into play, particularly logistical ones such as lack of funding and facilities, but it all comes back to the standard preconception many Brits have of baseball. Most just see it as a silly American game (‘glorified rounders’) and dismiss it without even giving it a chance. That’s probably the biggest frustration I have. There will always be a majority of people who decide that the sport is not for them, and that’s fine, but I’m sure that there are people out there who would get a lot of enjoyment out if it (watching, playing etc) if they would only look past their prejudice against the sport and give it a try. However, changing preconceptions is a difficult task.


6. What is causing baseball to move forward in Great Britain?

While I think BaseballSoftballUK does a decent job of pulling things together, it seems to me that the sport’s development still varies greatly from place to place. What moves baseball forward here is a group of people in any one location who have the dedication and ability to build up a successful club. Herts Baseball Club are a great example of this. They are gradually developing some very good facilities, they have built up their player pool so that they can field senior teams at all levels of the British league system and they run a well-organized Little League. Their efforts could well create a sizeable core of people in Herts who stay in baseball for years to come (as players, senior coaches, little league coaches, encouraging their friends/neighbours/children to take part etc). There are other clubs out there doing the same great work and it is they who will take baseball forward at a local level. If enough are able to do it, then the national scene will gradually go from strength to strength. It’s not easy and a lot of hard work is involved, but it’s possible to build up the sport here.


7. How much is not having baseball in the London Olympics going to hurt the game?

It is a massive blow for the game in this country. The benefits of baseball (and softball) being part of the 2012 Games would have been wide-ranging. Team GB would have automatically qualified for the tournament, which would in itself have been great for British eligible ballplayers. It would have been a way to showcase the sport to people in this country, helped in obtaining funding and sponsorship and possibly resulted in the legacy of a dedicated baseball/softball stadium in the capital (this was the plan originally, although some of the legacy facilities now seem to be under threat due to budget constraints so that might not have happened ultimately).


8. In 2008, Great Britain didn’t send its baseball team to the Olympics (even though they finished 2nd in the European Cup – I have to check those facts unless you know) because the committee said it couldn’t afford the £25,000. What do you want to say to that?

[Note: Team GB finished second in the 2007 European Baseball Championships, meaning they qualified for the Final Olympic Qualifying tournament – only the Euro winner, in this case the Netherlands, qualified automatically for the full Olympic tournament. The cost of attending would have been around £40,000-50,000]

It was yet another very disappointing development, following the de-selection of baseball from the Olympic programme. Team GB had performed brilliantly in the European Championships and had fully earned the chance to take part in the Final Qualifier. To have that opportunity taken away due to lack of funds was a great shame and the feelings of some of those involved were recorded in several Q&As we published at BaseballGB with Team GB representatives over the recent offseason.

The British Baseball Federation did all they could to try and raise the funds, even getting some media coverage in the national press (The Daily Telegraph covered it for one), but the sport’s low standing in Britain made it a very difficult task. Apparently it was considered unlikely that Team GB would qualify for the full Olympic tournament, and particularly to win a medal when they got there, so funding wouldn’t be released from most of the likely channels. Both assumptions were probably fair enough, but making the Final Qualifier itself was a big step for the sport in this country and it was very sad that this was not recognised.


9. What American team do you support, and why?

Oakland A’s. They were one of the first teams I saw on TV (may have just been on the highlights rather than a featured live game) and I was instantly caught by their uniforms, which included green and gold. My local football team, Norwich City, play in green and yellow and as I had no other reason to pick an MLB team, that seemed as good as any!


10. What British team do you support and why?

I’ll be smarmy and say I support them all.


11. Who is your favourite player?

Not sure I’ve got one really. I guess Tony Gwynn would be up there for retired players that starred when I started watching. He was a great hitter and genuinely seemed like a good guy who just loved playing baseball. I remember watching a feature on him talking to Ted Williams about hitting, which was absolutely fascinating. As for current players, the A’s don’t have anyone that stands out at the moment so I think I’ll go for Albert Pujols.


12. What is you first baseball memory?

I remember watching a game on Five during my first season back in 1998 when Randy Johnson was on the mound (I wrote about this on BaseballGB recently). The combination of his name and unique appearance (very tall, ‘mullet’ hair style etc) immediately caught my attention but it was one pitch that he kept throwing that really grabbed me. The announcers kept referring to his ‘slider’ and at the time I was only beginning to learn about the game, but I knew just how devastating that pitch could be after that game had finished.


13. What is your best baseball memory?

Seems strange to say this as an A’s fan, but seeing the D-Backs win the World Series in 2001 would probably be the top memory. I had seen three World Series up to that point and all had been won by the Yankees. To see Arizona finally break the run was a great moment. That was a classic series.


14. What is your all-time line-up?

I’ll limit this to players that I’ve watched since 1998 (not necessarily the best players, but the ones I’ve enjoyed watching)

C: Ivan Rodriguez
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Craig Biggio
3B: Eric Chavez (when not injured!)
SS: Omar Vizquel
LF: Manny Ramirez (recent drug-taking allegations aside!)
CF: Ken Griffey Jr
RF: Tony Gwynn

Pitchers: Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Johan Santana, Barry Zito (the Cy Young version!), Mariano Rivera.


15. How did you get involved in the blog?

I’ve always been a keen writer so it was probably inevitable that I would end up writing about baseball at some point. I started a blog in March 2006 designed to be a forum for my own views on the latest news and to write about life as a British baseball fan, but I always intended for it to turn into something much broader, with other British writers coming on board. Like most ventures, it started with me looking for something, not finding it and deciding to do it myself.


16. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

My aim is to make BaseballGB a website that touches on all parts of baseball that may interest a British fan, all in one place, whether they are new to the sport or have been following/playing it for years. We write about MLB, British baseball, European/International baseball, fantasy baseball, baseball coverage in the UK, life as a baseball fan in Britain and much more. Over the last year, the site has developed with the additions of writers like Joe Gray, who is heavily involved in British baseball, and Mark George, who plays in the British league and is also an experienced fantasy baseball manager.

Although it’s run on blogging software, it’s now rather un-blog like in the sense that we have regular features (weekly columns about MLB every Sunday, a guide to ‘early’ MLB games every Monday, ‘You are the Scorer’ every Friday lunchtime etc) and other resources (longer articles, book reviews, my ‘Baseball Basics for Brits’ series).

Baseball is very much a minority sport here and I think encouraging the growth of a baseball community is also extremely important. Five’s MLB coverage was instrumental in this, as are other websites such as the UK MLB Supporters Forum and the FantasyBaseballUK competition. Hopefully BaseballGB also plays a part in building up that community, with British baseball fans being able to read British baseball writers. If we can in any way help fellow Brits to enjoy the game, and particularly to encourage inquisitive newcomers to the sport, we’ll be happy.


17. What is the future of British baseball?

It’s difficult to say. There have been many false dawns over the years and the lack of Olympic funding will continue to count against the sport. I do think there is a place for baseball in Britain though and it’s up to those of us that enjoy the sport to do all we can to help it grow.


18. A European league: fantasy/reality/necessity?

It sounds a good idea in theory but, like anything, it depends on exactly how it is organized. Having some regular baseball that brings together the best players in Europe would be a good thing both for the development of the players and as a drawing card for fans. Maybe even Eurosport would support it? The sticking point would be, as ever, financing the competition and the logistics (where would it be played? over what time period? etc).


19. What is your opinion of Channel 5 not showing baseball this year due to ‘financial’ reasons?

It’s terrible news. Not only does it mean that the sport has no presence on free-to-air TV in Britain (making it very difficult to draw new fans to the game), but the previous coverage was fantastic and is greatly missed.

Five’s decision came as a shock in some respects as they have backed baseball (and other North American sports) for many years. However, we’re all aware of the impact that the current economic climate is having on broadcasters (advertising plummeting etc) and if baseball and the rest of the sports didn’t pull in many viewers, you could understand why they were cut. It’s much cheaper to run rubbishy repeats at two in the morning rather than pay for a studio, presenters, production crew etc. Personally I feel cutting some of the few pieces of unique coverage in your portfolio is a false economy, but there we go.



Matt, many thanks for taking the time to do this. It's very much appreciated. Good luck with everything, and my personal thanks for keeping me entertained, and on my toes, with the information.

I would like to point out, again, that another all-time team has no DH. Life can be sweet at times.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One more programming note

No posts today. A friend who runs a hotel asked me to help paint the bar and I was there until 5:30 this morning.

I just woke up and the last thing I want to do is write anything.

On the bright side, I have cash in hand and the bars are open. Life is sweet at times.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another myth busted

They say that hitting a baseball is the hardest single action in the sporting world. Outside of bull riding, but that's an entirely different story. But we've all heard the numbers. Even the best player is a superstar if he succeeds 40% of the time, and the average player succeeds less than 30%.

I've played baseball. I just played a semi-pro game last month. My first actual baseball game in about 2o years. 2 walks and a strikeout. I did hit 3 foul balls, so I feel I was successful. But it was hard. It is all about the timing.

However, a Japanese samurai seems to have the opinion that hitting a baseball isn't all the hard. Because he can do it with his sword.

I don't care what anyone says, that's impressive. Remember, his sword is sheathed and he has to pull it and still make contact. And it's a flat blade that has to make level contact to slice the ball, not a round bat. There is very little margin for error on this.

For those of you who don't think this is that hard, please go buy a sword and a pitching machine and try this yourself. I'll call the emergency room.

After I stop laughing at you.


Link from Sports Rubbish.com

The interleague MVP

Again, under the headline of you learn something new every day, the Japanese professional leagues have just completed their 5 weeks of inter-league play. That's not unusual. Both the US and Japan, with two leagues each, participate in inter-league play, whether or not it's a sign of the apocalypse. It's become a common event, and most people don't question the two leagues playing each other. In fact, some revel in it and think they're the only games worth watching throughout the year. I kind of feel the World Series is the perfect example of inter-league play, but no one is really listening to me.

What is unusual, at least as far as the US leagues is concerned, is the naming of an MVP:

Softbank Hawks left-hander Toshiya Sugiuchi was named interleague MVP on Wednesday after helping the team have the best interleague record for the second straight year.
I tried doing a search of MLB players to see who would be the US inter-league MVP. Oddly, it's almost impossible for someone like me to find this stuff. Sure, it's out there somewhere, but it's not easy to find just doing a casual search. However, I don't think there is much doubt that after what Albert did last weekend in Kansas City that he would have to be the unanimous choice.

Anyhow, the inter-league MVP isn't something that happens in the States yet. But I'm willing to bet it will catch on soon. If only for this reason:

Sugiuchi, who was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in six starts, won 2 million yen in prize money after five weeks of interleague play.
2 million yen is approximately $21,000. How much longer before some agents finds out about this and starts getting it written into a player's contract. With all the other incentives added in these day, this can't really be that far off. The fact that it isn't an official award and not knowing who would vote on it probably isn't a drawback.

Somehow, this seems to be a perfect advertising tie-in with some smart company out there.

Some people might laugh about that comment, but give it 5 years and lets see what happens?


Link from JapanBall.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A trivia contest

Another one of those slow days, when there wasn't really a lot out there.

So, Kevin from the DMB Historic World Series Replay is offering up a trivia contest, with an actual prize and everything.

If' you remember, I interviewed Kevin here about 2 months ago. Go check it out.


Here are the rules for your chance to win this one of a kind piece of Baseball Americana:


1. Correctly answer the trivia question in the comments section.

2. The 1st correct answer is the winner.

3. One guess per person.

4. No googling……I’d like a gentlemen’s agreement that your answer will be strictly based on a guess.(I…….state your name…….promise to guess and only guess the answer to this trivia question)

5. Tell a fellow baseball fan(or several) about this blog, and have them submit a guess. (Again….I’m trusting you on this one)

6. The winner will be announced at the end of the 1889 World Series.

7. The winner will have to contact me via email with your address, and the ball player(s) that you would like displayed on your label.

8. The answer to the trivia question is based on my research, so there is a slight chance my research could be flawed. Hey…mistakes happen !!

9. In the event that nobody gets the correct answer, the person closest to the actual answer will be the winner.

THE QUESTION:

If you’ve been following this blog, then you know I have a thing about the high percentage of mustaches on the 19th century ball player. So of course this question has nothing to do with mustaches, but it does have something to do with beards.

There are 286 plaques hanging in the Hall of Fame, a lot of which have the person displayed with a mustache, some with glasses, some with a full beard, and one displaying a female(Eppa Manley).

How many people are wearing glasses?(if any)

How many have a full beard?(if any)

When placing your guess in the comments section answer the question like so:

Glasses-(#)

Beard-(#)

Your Name


Remember these are only people that have plaques: players, executives, pioneers, and umpires.

This does not include writers or announcers.

Good Luck……No Googling……..and tell a friend

Monday, June 22, 2009

2009 All-Europe baseball team

I've written about high school baseball a few times, as related to Europe and Asia. Not Europeans and Asians playing high school ball, but American service kids living in those areas attending Department of Defense schools. I think it's great that DODDS finally got baseball in as a school sport, and not just the posts running them as youth activities. The kids have it rough at time over here, and it's nice to see they can get a slice of home now.

DODDS Europe has just completed it first season of high school baseball, and crowned its champions. To top it off, they named 24 players to the 2009 All-Europe baseball team:

The 24 players selected for DODDS’ first All-Europe baseball team might well have left lasting marks in their sport.

Of the 12 selected for the first team, five batted .400 or better, four surpassed .500 and two, senior Jimmy Drago of SHAPE and junior Matt McDonald of Ramstein, hit safely better than 60 percent of the time — Drago hit .618 and McDonald, a pitcher, went 20-for-32 for a school-system best .625.

On the mound, eight of the 12 first-team selectees who pitched were just as productive.
But it wasn't all just hitting or pitching:

Buffington, a catcher and third baseman when not anchoring the Vicenza staff with a 1.96 ERA, had just three errors or passed balls all season according to his coach, Mike Wilson. Drago booted just three chances during his stints at short and second base, reported SHAPE coach Kenneth Goff, while Tucker made just five errors in 66 chances at shortstop and catcher. His .974 fielding percentage cemented his leadership position with a young Bitburg club, according to coach Matt Lawhun.
Pretty good defense for some high school kids. And there is will always be something special about this year's selections:

Even if their numbers are erased in future seasons, the 2009 All-Europeans will retain forever the distinction of being the first.

"The first time for anything," Patch second-teamer Quinton Austin said, "is really special."
The 2009 All-Europe baseball team:

First team

Jack Buffington
Vicenza
Jr.
P/C/3B
1.98 ERA, 51 K in 27.1 IP. .572 BA, .666 in tourney.
“Every coach we played against commented on his prowess.”

Cavan Cohoes
Lakenheath
Soph.
SS/P
.419 BA, 2 HR.
“Captain, led team on and off field. Well-balanced defensive player with impressive BA.”

Jimmy Drago
SHAPE
Sr.
SS/P/2B
.618 BA, 10 doubles. 26 K, 2 BB, 5 saves in 12 IP.
“Team captain, astute leadership abilities. 3 errors all season.”

Tyler Hall
Vilseck
Jr.
2B/3B/C/OF
.468 BA, 10 RBI, 10 SB.
“Our spark plug. We went as he went – 13-4 season record.”

Kyle Krajcovic
Vilseck
Jr.
P/SS/OF/C
5-1, 1 save. .488 BA, 10 RBI, 2 HR, 15 SB.
“One of best pitchers in Europe. Beat Phelps. Held Ramstein to 1 hit.”

Matt McDonald
Ramstein
Jr.
P/SS
2-0 with 30 K in 13 innings. .625 BA, 3 HR, 13 doubles, 9 SB.
“Matt is the complete baseball player.”

Justin Phelps
Patch
Jr.
P/CF/SS
3.13 ERA, 44 K, 14 BB in 31.1 innings, 1 no-hitter. .553 BA, 2 HR, 27 RBI.
“Led team in every offensive category.”

Jamal Pope
Heidelberg
Jr.
P/C/1B
.493 BA, 8 RBI.
“Undeniably the best pitcher in Europe. Powerhouse of a team player.”

Andre Porterfield
Ramstein
Soph.
P/SS
22 K in 15 IP, 8 H, 4 BB. .463 BA, 16 SB.
“Go-to guy in tourney. Fastest, smartest runner I’ve seen this year.”

E.J. Ruiz
AFNORTH
Jr.
P/C/SS
3-1, 2 saves, 1.56 ERA, 58 K in 27 IP. .533 BA, 15 RBI.
“Could basically shut down any offense in DODDS-Europe.”

Josh Sloan
Ramstein
Soph.
3B
.556 BA.
“Strong arm from 3B, very few errors. Second-leading batter on our team.”

Tyler Tucker
Bitburg
Sr.
P/C/SS
3-3, 1.91 ERA, 60 K in 33 IP.
“Spellbinding performance in tourney. Fanned 29 of 55 batters faced. .416 BA.”


Second team

Quinton Austin
Patch
Sr.
P/OF/1B
.313 BA, 26 RBI, 2 HR. 5-2, 40 K in 23.2 IP, 2.66 ERA.
“Def. Vilseck twice, shut down Lakenheath in tourney semi.”

Kaden Baum
Vilseck
Jr.
1B/OF/P
.421 BA, 18 RBI, 7 SB. 4-1, 1 save.
“Ended season as our best individual player. 2-for-2 in tourney semifinal.”

Matt Benoit
Mannheim
Sr.
SS/P
.540 BA, 16 RBI, 10 SB. 4 wins, save.
“Best player on team. First time he’d played baseball in 8 years.”

Cameron Henry
Rota
Soph.
SS/P
.571 tourney BA. 2-0 as starter in tourney. Batted .444 vs. D-I pitching.
“Supportive of all players on field.”

Nick Holba
Ramstein
Sr.
1B/P
4-0, 13 K, 5 BB in 13 IP. .333 BA.
“Always in control pitching. Long reach made saves at 1B. Always hustles.”

Matt Less
Bitburg
Jr.
P/3B/SS
18 K in 14 IP. .288 BA, 8 RBI.
“Developed into closer as season progressed, dropping ERA from 9-plus to 4.36.”

Johnnie Mesch
Hohenfels
Sr.
3B/P/C
.442 BA, 23 RBI. 3 wins, save, 3.10 ERA.
“.600 tourney BA, 2 HR, 10 RBI, game-winning 3-run HR in game for 3rd.”

DreShawn Murray
Ramstein
Sr.
1B/P
.390 BA, 10 SB.
“Like a general on the field. Keeps ball in front of him, cat-like reactions, 3.8 30-yard dash.”

Justin Patrick
Heidelberg
Sr.
C/1B
.352 BA, 15 RBI.
“Versatile player who can play any position well, a player that team cannot do without.”

Logan Porchie
Naples
Jr.
P/C/SS
73 K in 8 games, 2 1-hitters. .475 BA right-handed, .600 left-hander. 21 SB.
“Baseball IQ at a very high level.”

Zachary Saunders
SHAPE
Sr.
2B/SS/LF/P
2 CG wins. .468 BA, 21 RBI, 5 HR, 2 grand slams.
“Can be played anywhere on the field and do well.”

Fletcher Taylor
Naples
Jr.
SS
6-for-9 to open season, 16 SB.
“Led team with 29 assists. His hands are as good as they come in the pivot.”


It's not important to know where all these places are, or even who the kids are, but it is important to know that they are getting the chance to play. Again, not to turn this political , but many of these kids have parents caught up in what's happening in an area covered by my first blog of the day.

My first school was the DODDS school in Vicenza, and I remember my older brother playing youth league baseball there in the '60's. It's taken 40 years since then for the kids to be able to play high school baseball, but it's there for them now. Congratulations to all of them and I wish them the best of luck in the future.



Link from The Stars & Stripes

Keeping the devil out of Japan

With the amateur draft recently concluded, and all the speculation and anticipation surrounding the new picks, and the prices they will command, a lot of the focus of the media and blogosphere has been spent on the agents. How they are great for players, how they are the scourge of the game, and how the game is better/worse because of them. I have my personal opinion of agents, but I'll choose not to share that today.

However, something interesting that I didn't know (and see, we can all learn something new every day, even if we don't want to) is that agents are not that prevalent in Japan. Like most topics, it was something I just never thought much about. I would have assumed that they had 'invaded/become part of' the game just like in the states.

But they really haven't:

On the other hand, in NPB, player agents are still a fairly a new idea and agents are known as Dairinin (representative). One agent that comes to mind, having received national attention is Don Nomura (the son of Sachiyo Nomura, and step-son Rakuten Golden Eagles manager Katsuya Nomura). He was involved in negotiating a minor-league deal for Mac Suzuki and was a big part of Hideo Nomo crossing the Pacific.
That would make sense that an agent would be involved with any player headed to the states. It's pretty much automatic, and the days of players representing themselves at negotiations are far and few in-between.

But it still isn't that common in Japan yet:

Players were still hesitant to embrace the idea of using agents, as only 2.2 % (14/633) of the players answering the surveys stated they would definitely like to use one.
Probably the biggest deterrent to agents/the saving grace of the game is this:

The biggest difference in the role of agents between MLB and NPB is that an agent can only represent a single player. This restriction reduces the appeal to become a player agent as not many people will be able to live off of the five percent commission from one player.
That would make it much harder for agents, as they are obviously having their earning potential reduced. That would actually seem to me to be a 'restraint of trade' issue, but I'm not a lawyer or a business person, so I don't know the specifics of how that works. Of course, the fact that the Japanese leagues can limit the amount of foreign players shows they don't want to/have to/need to follow the rules most Americans are used to dealing with.

It's not happening right now, but the idea does seem to be growing:

However in recent years with agents being well-known for representing players negotiating for major league deals, the idea of agents is gaining ground with the players. A new development we’ve seen is established lawyers adding player representation to their resumes. “Lawyer Kitamura Joining the Baseball World” is
one famous recent example.
It will interesting to see what happens in 5 years. As more Japanese players go to the states, there will be more of an effort to keep them at home playing. Which will probably lead to higher salaries and bidding wars. Which are all tailor-made for agents. And who will be involved.

I can see the Japanese excluding American agents from the league, when it does become more prevalent. Better the devil that you know (insert your own Steve Boras joke here).


Link from NPB Tracker.

Is the media mis-leading us?

Not to turn this into a political blog by any means, but it always interests me when I read stuff about Iraq. According to most press and media stories you hear, the country is filled with chaos, every other person is a suicide bomber, and nowhere in the land is there peace and happiness. Not at all. Not anywhere. It's complete anarchy and the US is all to blame for what ever has happened there.

But according to my friends who are there, that just never seems to be the case. They tell me that in a few places like Baghdad and Mosul, it's still dangerous at time, and everyone should always be watchful. But according to the boots on the ground (soldiers), Iraq is about 95% peaceful, guys are doing okay, beyond missing thier families, and life isn't really that bad in the country.

So it always amuses when I read stories like this:

Eighteen athletes will represent Iraq in the upcoming West Asia Youth Baseball-Softball Tournament, which will take place in Pakistan in September 2009, the head of the Iraqi central federation for the game said on Saturday.

“The tournament will start on Sept. 1 and end on Sept. 9, 2009,” Ismail Khalil al-Qaisi told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.“The team will have a 20-day training camp in Arbil city – Iraq, preparing for the competition,” he said.“Also, there will be a three-week training program for the team in Iran,” he added.Al-Qaisi pointed out that the federation, in coordination with the team’s coach, will name the 18 athletes.
I mean, seriously, if Iraq is the quagmire that the press lets it out to be, how is that anyone has time to play baseball. Safely. Unless the park and practice is being guarded by battalions of soldiers to ensure their safety, I would have to assume it's safe for these guys to get together and play games and practice. Which would be strange, because what would be a better target for the insurgents than the locals playing an 'American' game.

Unless the situation isn't as bad as the media is making it out to be, and there is actually peace and tranquility in the country. But that couldn't be true. The media would never lie or mislead us. And all those guys on the ground over there seeing it every day. They must be mistaken.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of the situation. Our soldiers are still there, it is still dangerous in spots, and some Iraqi's are still having a lot of problems. But it would seem to me that if the Iraqi's can field a youth team and practice for tournaments, something good must be happening.


Link from Aswat al-Iraq.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Way Back and Gone - a historical baseball blog

The next interview is with tHeMARksMiTh, the author of Way Back And Gone, a historical baseball blog.

Mark's reasoning for the blog:

Way Back and Gone is intended to be a blog dedicated to baseball history, but it will be occasionally transported to the present when the author, who is obnoxiously referring to himself in the third person, feels the need to rant about the Braves or another preposterous event in modern baseball. The blog, however, will mainly go Way Back in history and uncover or recover or discover what is seemingly Gone -- baseball history. One must remember, and this is crucial, that history has never really left the present and continues to influence it both overtly and covertly.
Mark runs a few regular features, such as Sunday Frivolities, This Day in Baseball History, and Rounding the Bases. He also does regular biographies of Hall of Famers and pioneers of the game, as well as whatever strikes his fancy.

He hits the modern aspect of things from a historical view, covering the draft and the College World Series recently. For someone like me, who studied history in school, and baseball every where else, it's worth taking a look.

The interview:


1. Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Mark Smith, and I am a history student at the University of Kentucky. I've been a big baseball fan since I was old enough to swing a wiffle ball bat. Honestly, I'm a big sports fan overall. Football probably comes second and college basketball third (I do go to UK). I play golf and wish I bowled more. Outside of sports, I like video games, watching House and Chuck, and going to awful movies (Crank 2!) with my friends. What else do I have to do? Study?


2. What got you interested in history of baseball?

As I said, I'm a big baseball fan, but before, I had mainly been interested in what was going on in today's game. But as a history major and baseball fan, I decided that I should know more about baseball history.


3. Which team is your favorite team, and why?

I am an Atlanta Braves fan and have been since 1994 or 1995. TBS made it easy to follow them, and Chipper Jones was my favorite player since his rookie season (the second one). Now, I use MLB.TV to yell at Francoeur when he swings at a bad first pitch and Bobby when he makes inexplicable bullpen moves. But I still love them, like you still love your kids when they do something stupid.


4. Who is your favorite player, and why?

Chipper Jones is my favorite player. I started really paying attention to baseball around 1995. When he had his official rookie season, he stood out because he was different by switch-hitting. After Hideo Nomo won the Rookie of the Year Award, I found myself defending Chipper, and I became a fan of his. A Hall of Fame career later, I still love him. He's a good player, teammate, and leader, always putting the Braves first.


5. What is your favorite ball park, and why?

I'm a little biased. I like Turner Field. But I really don't have too much to choose from. I've been to Wrigley Field and the old Busch Stadium, but I don't really remember them too well. Other than that, I really only have the Cincinnati ballparks, and those aren't the greatest. Cinergy was awful, but GAB is pretty good. But I like Turner Field better.


6. What is your all-time team?

Team?
This will be fun. Starting Lineup:

C - Joe Mauer (I think this guy will be an all-time great by the end)
1B - Lou Gehrig (Pujols makes me think twice, but Gehrig was just a tad more unbelievable, just a smidge though)
2B - Nap Lajoie (I did a post on him vs. Hornsby, and it wouldn't be right for me to go against it now)
3B - Mike Schmidt (You want me to say Chipper, but I can't ignore the 10 Gold Gloves)
SS - Honus Wagner (And I'm not sure it's terribly close, though Mr. Cub is a nice option)
OF - Babe Ruth (Duh)
OF - Willie Mays (One of the best center fielders ever, and I would almost say he's the best baseball player ever)
OF - Hank Aaron (Gosh there are a lot of good outfielders)

Bench:

Barry Bonds (Steroids and all, he was an amazing player regardless)
Ted Williams
Ty Cobb (Bad temper and all, he was an amazing player)
Mickey Mantle
Johnny Bench (Hard to sit him on the Bench)
Rogers Hornsby (All my middle infielders can play anywhere)

Starting Rotation: (not necessarily in any order)

Pedro Martinez (Circa 1997-2005)
Walter Johnson (Would have loved to see him pitch)
Lefty Grove
Mordecai Brown (What could he have done with 5 fingers?)
Cy Young (Decent fifth starter. Eats innings)

Bullpen

Roger Clemens (Coming out of the bullpen? Yeah, baby.)
Randy Johnson (See Clemens)
Christy Mathewson
Sandy Koufax
Bob Gibson

Mariano Rivera (You need a closer, right?)

On second thought, this was really hard. Had to leave out a lot of good players.


7. Your all-time Kentucky team?

C- Me (I was pretty good. Honestly, I just couldn't think or find anyone)
1B- Don Hurst (he was good for a while)
2B- Dan Uggla (I'm looking for some pop)
SS- Pee Wee Reese (duh)
3B- Travis Fryman (I loved this guy)
OF- Earle Combs (One of the few Hall of Famers)
OF- Jay Buhner (life will be more interesting)
OF- Pete Browning

SP- Jim Bunning (pitcher, not politician)
SP- Brandon Webb (I still cheer for him, hoping wins still count so that he gets some Cy Young's) SP- Paul Derringer
SP- Carl Mays
SP- Jesse Tannehill

RP- Scott Downs


8. Why did you start the blog?

I started the blog for a lot of the reasons in question 2. In my opinion, writing is the best way to learn something. You have to read about it, comprehend it, write about it, make an argument, and then read it over while digesting the material. I figured that I might as well let everyone else learn while I am.


9. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

I just want to learn. If it helps others learn, then that's just a bunch of cherries on top (the number depending on how many people learn). I like readers, but I know that I probably won't change anyone's life or make a lot of money from it.


10. How long do you anticipate doing this?

Don't know. As long as I want. I've gotten a few more readers and, especially, commenter's lately, and that helps with the motivational part. As long as that continues and I have time, I'll do it.


11. What is your first baseball memory?

Playing wiffle ball. My brothers played it, and I would go out to watch and play. When I and my friends were old enough, we would play out in my front yard. In all my years of Little League, those days in my front yard were the best.


12. What is your favorite baseball memory?

Favorite? Hmm, I lost so much. I guess it would be catching the final out in the one championship I ever won. Ground ball to short, and I caught the ball at first. We lost the first game of the series, and we came back to win as underdogs.


13. Why is the history of the game important for those of us watching today?

People often look at history as a bunch of names and dates, but those aren't what's important. The evolution of the game and the reasons they occurred are what's important. The influence of the game on American society (and vice-versa) is what's important. Without history, we wouldn't be who we are today. Baseball wouldn't be what it is today. Baseball would look a lot different if Alexander Cartwright came to watch a game today, and history explains how we got here. To be a true fan of the game itself, you should know about all of it, even the stuff that happened a long time ago, because it still very much influences what happens today.


14. What is the most interesting thing you have found out about baseball looking at the history of it?

The most interesting? I don't know that I can point to one thing. I would love to go to a game in the early 1900's. What a different experience it would have been! All the changes to the game is just amazing. We call games played then and now by the same name, but they are quite different. How we got to now is really interesting to me.


15. What historical aspects of the game would you like to see in today’s game?

I can't think of anything right now. But I have to say that I like the game the way it is, even with its imperfections, and the changes are just a necessary evolution. I guess I'd like to see the All-Star Game go back to being an exhibition, no DH, and four man rotations, but I don't have to have any of them back.


16. A lot of people downplay the importance/greatness/ability of early baseball, for many reasons. What do you have to say to those who discount the history of the game?

I'd say you better be glad it was so awesome. Without its early success, it wouldn't be around today. Maybe it would be like soccer and no one would really care. Because of its ability to capture the American imagination, it became the great game it is today. It's no longer the American Pastime, and in some ways, I think it still lives a little bit off of the gigantic success that it had in the early years. Go ahead and ignore history if you want, but you're ignoring a lot of great players, people, and teams. Don't be a mindless drone. Learn why things are the way they are. It makes everything make so much more sense.


17. You’ve focused on early 20th century/deadball era history a lot, but not much 19th century baseball. Was that a conscious thing, and if so, why?

It's not really a conscious thing. I started doing a lot of the Hall of Fame posts, and most of the other random posts were off-shoots of that. Because of where I am in those posts, a lot just happens to be in that area. Be patient. The blog is just a few months old. There's plenty of time to get to everything else. I only have so much time, and I don't want to run out of topics. Seriously, I will get to other things, but right now, I find this stuff really interesting and worth exploring.


18. The statistical/sabermetric revolution of 21st century baseball doesn’t do justice to the early players, and we can’t evaluate them the same way. Does not being able to evaluate them statistically lessen their greatness/legends because we can’t put a number to it?

I think it does in some ways. We are more scientific now, and we like concrete answers. It's hard to compare Lou Gehrig and Albert Pujols. We can see Pujols and use all of these metrics to value him, but we can't with Gehrig. How do we measure his defense? How do we evaluate how much a different ball or different rules affected him? It's hard. But if we know history and understand the differences, we can put things into context. If we can put things into context and have an open mind, we can, indeed, make proper evaluations. But not being able to make them makes older players into "legends". Babe Ruth seems more like Paul Bunyan than an actual player. We want to look at his numbers and assume that they were the result of people not being able to keep track. "They must have been exaggerating or not paying as much attention." Context and understanding, people. Context and understanding. Sabermetrics is good, but it's not perfect yet.


19. If your commissioner for a year, what changes do you implement?

1) All-Star Game becomes an exhibition again.

2) Playoffs condensed (no days off during the series) and World Series games start at 6:30.

3) Create own awards, and put the coaches, players, beat writers, BBWAA, and other selected, revered journalists in charge of voting.

4) Put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame as a player.

5) Stop the unbalanced schedule and change Interleague Play. Playing the same teams 18 times a season is stupid. As for IP, the games are spread out, and no "rival games". You play 1 team from each division, and the other 2 or 3 teams are decided from how we predict the other teams will play in order to even things out.

6) Call for immunity for all steroid users before 2007. I want to know what happened and when, but you won't be punished. I won't even tell anyone you told me or that you used. Closed door meetings at the All-Star Game, World Series, and certain other games "when I happen to be in town". I want to know how it happened to prevent it in the future.

7) Those suspended cannot play in All-Star Game.

8) Suspensions for PED's become one year for first offense and life for second. I'm not messing around. This is a clean sport, and you need to take all precautions. There are no excuses. If the call system for players is broken, we'll figure out how to fix it. Know what you put in your body. The team has medical professionals. Ask them, or pay the consequences.

9) MLB Network needs to be available to everyone.

10) My suspensions for players are appropriate. Pitchers will lose position player equivalent. 15 games for what would be three game suspension for position player, for example.


20. What else would you like to say, on any baseball subject?

Steroids occupies our news and minds, and we think it's the end of the world. It's not. Baseball is around 150 years old. Don't you think it's seen its share of scandals? It made it through those, and it will make it through this. After another 15 years, this one will be relegated (perhaps unfortunately) to the pages of history. It won't kill the game. It will make it evolve. If you know history, you understand that this is what will happen. Make the changes that need to be made and continue forth. When you look back at the statistics, don't put asterisks. Remember. Teach. If you and your kids know baseball history, they'll know to take what occurred into context. We do it for the Dead Ball Era. Why can't we for the Steroid Era?


This blog is a must-read for me each day. I know a lot about the history of the game, but I learn new things each day.

Mark also runs a trivia contest of sorts each day. Open to all readers.

Mark, thanks for taking the time to do this.

I would just like to point out that once again, there was an all-time team with no DH listed. Yup, spreading the gospel, one convert at a time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When bad things happen to good people

The first women pitcher in Japan has suffered her first professional loss. I still think it's a publicity stunt more than anything else, and not a serious attempt to actually have a a woman play the game.

But regardless, she is on the team, and she's had to go out and pitch. I've played a game or so of semi-pro recently, and it's still not an easy game. So you have to wonder if the loss was because she's a side-arm knuckleballer or because she just can't physically get it done:

Eri Yoshida, a 17-year-old who throws a sidearm knuckleball, took the mound in the ninth inning with the score tied 2-2.
While she did throw a wild pitch to allow the winning run to score, that's not unusual for a knucleballer. Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield, and the Niekro's had it happen to them. She also recorded a strikeout, so I would venture this isn't a good indication of whether she's actually a good pitcher.

The reason I think it's a publicity stunt:

The 5-feet, 114-pound Yoshida has appeared in only three of the Cruise 9's 22 games this season.
Of course, her size and her age may very well have something to do with her limited appearances. It will interesting to follow this throughout the season and see what she can do.

One thing to remember, however, is that even if this is a publicity stunt, she's has more professional decisions than most of us do. We're reading about it, she's doing it.


Link courtesy of the Honolulu Advertiser.com.

Albert Spalding’s World Tour-1888/1889

Kevin, over at the DMB Historic World Series Replay has a look at Albert Spalding’s World Tour-1888/1889

He's got some pictures, line-ups, results, some interesting facts and trivia, and some additional links.

Straight from Kevin:

This is one of the reasons I wanted to do this blog. This World Tour has been all but forgotten by today’s fan. It’s stuff like this that sets baseball apart from any other sport. It’s history, is really a part of American history.
I still haven't read the book, but I need to get it. Not everyone cares about the history of baseball or the international game. But if you are, it's a must-read.

More than you ever wanted to know about filling a bottle

From CJ Nitkowski, at his blog CJBaseball, is his take on drug testing, filling a bottle, dealing with foreigners, and a bunch of people who want to do anything else.

Normally, like most bloggers, I would cut and paste a few quotes from the blog, but the format he's using doesn't allow that. But it's not a long post and it's worth the time, just because of what's happening in the world of baseball today.

As an aside, having spent 20 years in the Army, I know what this is all about. I've had to fill more bottles than it was possible to keep count of. At one point, we were doing a random 10% test of the entire battalion every week. But everyone had to fill the bottle at least once a quarter, so you could get lucky for awhile, but not for long.

There was nothing worse than standing out in formation, getting ready for physical training, when the 1st Sergeant would grab a soldier out of the hallway, and tell him/her to pick a number out of a hat. Because at that point, if you got called, you were in for the duration. You could drink water, but that was it. No coffee, no soda, nothing that would actually make you go. And of course, this was the first thing in the morning, and what's the first thing you do when you get up?

The difference between the Army and baseball (one of them at least) is that the Army's going to get the sample out of you no matter what you want. They'll give you a certain amount of time to fill the bottle, but after awhile, you're going to the hospital. The threat (and yes, they can do it) of a catheter is enough to get most people to go. Oh, but those poor souls who just couldn't squeeze out enough.

Even worse than having to fill the bottle, I was also an observer. Yes, it means what you think it does. There's nothing worse than getting pulled out of the bunk at 4:00 am to go watch a bunch of swinging, well, soldiers, fill little bottles. And it wasn't here's a bottle, go fill it it in the stall, and bring it back to me. Observe means observe. Oh, the things we do for our country.

Which actually triggered something in my mind, and now I'm curious. We were required to observe, and we always caught people trying to get out of the test, have someone else do it for them, or use 'instruments' to help them. If they were caught, and they always were, it was automatic punishment the same as if you came up hot.

So how come no one is getting punished in baseball for trying to get away with something? And how come so few major league and big name players? Is anyone actually watching them? Are they allowed to 'proceed' on their own and hand the bottle to some who's waiting outside the stall? Are they being checked to see if they have a friends sample with them when they go in? If steroids is such a rampant problem in baseball, how come so few players have actually been caught?

I'm really curious now, and I have to wonder if baseball is as diligent as they claim to be. The Army has a good drug testing system, and a soldier might get away with it for a one-off thing, but prolonged use was always caught. Always. And so were the guys trying to get an edge.

Just looking back at if from previous experience, if so many guys were using, then the number caught should be so much higher than it is. It really should be. Unless everyone went cold turkey, which they obviously haven't, because players are getting suspended.

And I'm here to tell you that sending a guy into a closed stall to fill a bottle isn't a drug test. All that does is collect urine. Either the problem wasn't as serious as it was made out to be, and I doubt that, or something isn't being done correctly. The numbers just don't add up.
Of course, I want to find the technician that's going to put a catheter into Randy Johnson. Because that was a brave man.