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:

South Korea

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

Chinese Taipei
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

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.