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:

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.


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 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.