Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Euoprean Baseball League

I think the time for a European Baseball League has arrived. Baseball is played in every country in Europe and most of them have viable professional or semi-pro leagues. This includes Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

That gives 7 countries right there, and Austria and the Czech Republic also have growing leagues. Additionally, Poland and Lithuania have leagues emerging that will continue to get better.

The success of the Dutch and Italian teams at last year's World Baseball Classic showed that baseball is a serious sport here, and the numbers of European players is growing every year.

I would propose a European League with teams in 16 cities. These would start as regional teams, with at least 50% of the players for each team coming from that area. There could also be other limits, such as half the pitching staff and at least one of the catchers. Two divisions, with a championship series after the season. This would mostly likely start as a short-season league, until it becomes more popular.

This would have to be a professional league, with the players being paid (at least for the duration of the season). Travel between the cities would be fairly easy between cities in Europe, and wouldn't be a large issue.

Hopefully, MLB would subsidize this league (as they do in Australia) and be encouraged to send some players, ala the NFL Europe system. I think this could work, assuming some money could be put in. It would still take individual ownership or sponsorship of each team, but it could happen.

Here would be my proposed league set up:

Northern League


Southern League

Nettuno (Italy)

The regional outlines would include the following:

Stockholm (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark)
Frankfurt (northern Germany)
Munich (southern Germany)
Amsterdam (northern Netherlands, Denmark)
Rotterdam (southern Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg)
Manchester (northern UK)
London (southern, western UK)
Warsaw (Poland, the Baltics, Russia)

Paris (northern France)
Marseille (southern France)
Barcelona (northern Spain, Canary Islands)
Madrid (southern Spain, Portugal)
Vienna (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Balkans)
Milan (northern Italy)
Nettuno (southern Italy)
Stuttgart (slice of southwest Germany, western France, Switzerland)

Of course, this are all subjective, and mostly a fantasy at this point. The exact dividing lines for the regions would have to be discusses further. Each team would have exclusive rights to players in their area. They could be traded to other teams, or sign with any team if released by their regional one. Also, after 3 years in the league, a player could sign with any team he wants (free agency, if you will).

There would be a minimum roster, probably 18 players or so. 4-5 games a week, a Designated Hitter (I know, I've sold my soul for this) and many other rules that would need to be worked on.

Again, this is just a hope and a dream. I don't know if this will ever happen, but hey, I've provided a foundation. And if they're looking for a commissioner, I know someone who is available.

So, suggestions, corrections, etc?

The Emerald Diamond

From Planet Baseball comes another documentary on baseball from far away places. This one is on baseball in Ireland, and is another in a series of baseball documentaries.

Some of the reviews for the documentary:
“The Emerald Diamond” restores the innocence of the sport for 90 wonderful minutes, easily ranking as one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year. The Irish National Baseball Team, much like other countries currently building their clubs, is where the heart of the game lies today. I highly recommend this opportunity to live the dream with these hard-working men and their amazing journey.
“Top o’ the batting order to ya!” by Brian Orndorff
January 5, 2007

Time Out Chicago
“Quite charming…Fitzgerald understands, as do the players, that this story has to be told with a sense of humor—during one particularly humiliating outing at a European competition, the team decided to stop obsessing, went out the night before a game and got blitzed, and played better baseball as a result. The film captures the players’ blend of wry self-deprecation and genuine pride. Sounds pretty Irish to us.”
“Dublin Your Pleasure” by Hank Sartin
Issue 105, March 1-7, 2007

And the best possible statement that it's good:

On November 12, 2006, “The Emerald Diamond” won the Critic’s Choice Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival in Cooperstown, NY.

Those who served

There are thousands of baseball-related websites out in the world wide web. There are about 50 that I look at on a daily, or semi-daily, basis. One of the best I've ever encountered is the fantastic Baseball in Wartime. Of course, that's probably the old soldier and history buff in me, but its my blog, so it works for me.

One of the big debates around the sports world lately has been the issue of Shin Sho Choo, of South Korea, and whether he should do his national service. That's not the issue here, and I won't get into it. But it does highlight the issue of service/duty/whatever. During WW I and WW II, lots of players served. Many were wounded, and some never came home. Browse the site for more information.

We all know about Ted Williams serving twice, and Warren Spahn and Eddie Grant. One area of consideration many of us forget to look at was the contribution of the Negro Leagues who served. Fortunately, Baseball in Wartime has provided us a list. By count, there were 119 Negro Leaguer's to serve. Some of the noteworthy ones:

Richard A "Skeeter" Banks Richmond Giants Army Trucking company in N Africa, Sicily and Italy

Elmer Carter Kansas City Monarchs Army In N Africa and Normandy

Dan Bankhead Birmingham Black Barons Marines

Joe Black Baltimore Elite Giants Army

Lyman Bostock, Sr Birmingham Black Barons Army

Willard "Home Run" Brown Kansas City Monarchs Army

Marlin Carter Memphis Red Sox Coast Guard Saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki

James "Bus" Clarkson Philadelphia Stars Army Camp Clarkson, CA and New Caledonia with field artillery unit

Leon Day Newark Eagles Army At Utah Beach on D-Day with 818th Amphibian Battalion

Larry Doby Newark Eagles Navy Was at Ulithi.

James "Pea" Greene Kansas City Monarchs Army 92nd Division, anti-tank company. In North Africa and Italy.

Sammy T Hughes Baltimore Elite Giants Army 196th Support Battalion duri ng invasion of Guam.

Monte Irvin Newark Eagles Army GS Engineers 1313th Battalion

Josh Johnson New York Black Yankees Army Anti-aircraft unit. Red Ball Express convoy system.

James "Red" Moore Baltimore Elite Giants Army Served combat engineer battalion of Third Army

John "Buck" O'Neil Kansas City Monarchs Navy Construction Battalion.

John "Hoss" Ritchey Chicago American Giants Army Combat Engineer in Europe. Also seven months in Pacific.

Joe Scott Birmingham Black Barons Army 350th Field Artillery, 46th Brigade.

Lonnie Summers Chicago American Giants Army 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

Alfred "Slick" Surratt Detroit Stars Army Served at New Guinea and the Philippines.

Henry "Hank" Thompson Kansas City Monarchs Army i695th Combat Engineers. At Battle of the Bulge.

Al "Apples" Wilmore Philadelphia Stars Army 595th Field Artillery Battalion, 93rd Division.

Even though most of these players were denied a chance to play at the highest level, they ended up serving their country at it's highest level. In my opinion. Kudos to these guys for serving, because many of them volunteered, and weren't just drafted. That probably helped when it was time to end segregation in the majors.

If they can fight and die on Okinawa and Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, they can play baseball in America.

Baseball Commissioner AB "Happy" Chandler

Going Dutch

Sadly, the Dutch baseball league, or Honkbal, as they call it, has decided to change it's rules on allowing foreigners to play. I write constantly and consistently about the need for leagues to be international, and not restrict foreigners. At least in the case of MLB and the Japanese leagues.

A lot of the national leagues in different countries do have rules about the number of foreigners allowed to play. Some of this is due to visa requirements. Since a lot of the leagues are not self-sustaining, most of the players have to work to survive. The foreign players get paid for the season, but have to go home for the winter. They are often given housing and food allowances to help out with expenses.

Some of it is due to the fact that the leagues want to give a chance to their local players and make their national programs stronger. That's understandable. If the European leagues could import a lot of Americans, Japanese or Dominicans (among others) to play, it would crowd out the local players. We don't want that to happen either.

Some of the changes for this year:
Starting with the 2010 season, only three foreign players without Dutch passport are allowed to be on the roster, regardless if they are players from the European Union.

Only one of the three foreign players is allowed to be used as starting pitcher during a three-game series against the same team. A second player still can be used as a reliever.

Additionally foreign catchers are limited to start in two of the three games. There are no further restrictions for the other positions.
This further backs up my opinion that catcher is the skill position of baseball, and European catchers playing in the minors have to be good.

For those of you in the know, this is allowed, as baseball is considered an amateur sport in the Netherlands. Therefore, it doesn't fall under those pesky EU employment laws. There is an exception, and a good one:
However foreign players, which have played five years in the Netherlands no longer will be considered as foreigners
The rules make sense, as they are trying to protect the Dutch players and Dutch league. That's a good thing, because the Dutch players need to develop.

However, I'm still in hope of a European league, at AA level, for European prospects or as developmental league. For that to happen, the rules against foreigners will have to change.

That will be good for European baseball. Hopefully it will also be good for Dutch baseball.

Bleacher Boys

BLEACHER BOYS is the story of six men who shared a common dream as boys, the dream of growing up and playing major league baseball. Six men, each of whose dream was dashed at an early age due to blindness, as if the stadium lights suddenly went dark.

Childhood had become a lonely existence until they heard the voices of the play-by-play men on their radios, storytellers who on those warm summer nights brought the boys flashes of light. Through those voices the boys each found friends who would tell exciting stories and magical tales, painting pictures and creating fields of kaleidoscopic visions. Strong relationships were formed as they cradled their radios against their ears to hear the calls of America’s favorite pastime – baseball!

Bleacher Boys is a documentary of six gentlemen who are blind and have a love of baseball. This is why baseball is such a great game. It's a game made for radio (listening) even more than the other sports, and while watching on television or in person is always fun, it just isn't possible for everyone. But lose of sight doesn't mean losing the love of the game. And these six gentlemen have never lost theirs:
Ed Lucas, now a reporter for the New York Yankees. Ed lost his sight in 1959 after being inspired by Bobby Thompson’s famous home run “heard around the world.” He and his friends were so excited, they took to the streets to play a pickup game of baseball. A line-drive hit Ed between the eyes rendering him blind. His dream of playing professional baseball shattered, his steadfast love for the game remains.

Pat Cannon lost his sight gradually. But he, too, continued the struggle to keep his baseball dream alive.

Neal Freeling, born without sight, fell in love with baseball announcer Mel Allen’s voice as his words brought the game to life. Radio voices such as these became Neil’s friends since the boys in his neighborhood shunned him. The game of baseball became his true past time.

Craig Lynch, who has never seen a baseball field in his life, now sits in the bleachers at Wrigley Field reporting on Chicago Cubs games he cannot see.

Paul Parravano, known as the MIT King, has been honored for his remarkable contributions to this prestigious university. His love of baseball motivated him to achieve Massachusetts Institute of Technology greatness.

And since every team needs a “ringer”:

Enrique “Henry” Oliu, a man rendered blind since early childhood, who has overcome the odds and made his major league baseball dream come true. Calling upon his love for sports and an encyclopedic memory for facts and figures, Henry hears the crack of the bat and knows if it’s a single, double, or homerun; he listens for the ball singing into the catcher’s mitt and knows if it’s a curveball, fastball, or change-up. Henry is the color analyst for the Tampa Rays on WMGG Mega Classica 820 radio, the strongest Hispanic station in Florida’s Tampa Bay Market.
Some amazing stories.

Original link from Baseball Digest

World Baseball Hierarchy

I've never been one for fantasy baseball. I just don't like it, and don't participate in it. One thing I do like, and have participated in, are simulation leagues. They use the stats of real players, albeit in teams that never existed, but it's kind of fun. There are a lot of good games out there for simulations, and many of the mainstream sportswriters and bloggers are participating in them. Some write about them, and some don't. Doesn't matter as long as they are having fun.

One main thing about these simulation leagues is that they use historical teams and recreate past seasons. Nothing wrong with that at all, but someone has found a unique way of doing this:
The World Baseball Hierarchy is a fictional baseball league played using Out of the Park Baseball.
It is a promotion / relegation league featuring nations that were involved in the World Baseball Classic of 2006. Each nation league is made up of two divisions of 4 teams each. Each season, the winner of each nation championship is promoted to the nation league directly above, while the worst team in each division is relegated to one of the two nation leagues the directly below.

Currently there are 88 active teams in 11 nation leagues, with plans to expand further in the future.
Now that's different. And to me, as an international guy, completely fascinating. If you play Out of the Park baseball, they are looking for new players. Drop them an e-mail.

The seasons have been running from 2006 through 2017. Yeah, they're into the future. They have a complete listing of season and career stats, and this is a breakdown of the divisions:

United States
Dominican Republic
South Korea
Puerto Rico

They even have AAA, AA, and A leagues. Check out the site, and join up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The further globalization of baseball

I have posted before that I don't think an international series between the champions of Major League Baseball and the Japan Series should take place, as there is no incentive to it for anyone, minus television contracts. It can't really be for nationalistic reasons due to the large number of foreigners playing baseball in the States.

At one time, foreigners in Japan was fairly rare, as only 2 gaijans were allowed per team. Now it's up to 4 per, which is good. It provides for healthy competition, and shows that Japanese baseball is an international sport and not just a Japanese one.

This year, there are 56 foreigners signed to teams in Japan. I won't give a by name list, but it does consist of the following nationalities:

2 - Brazil - this is great that Brazilians are playing at this high of a level
1 - Canada
1 - China - this is good also
1 - Cuba
8 - Dominican Republic
5 - Korea
2 - Puerto Rico
10 - Taiwan
22 - Americans
4 - Venezuela

This shows the true international nature of Japanese baseball, and is a pretty diverse group. Not quite the numbers of the MLB, but it's growing.

Some familiar names:

Aaron Guiel
Craig Brazell
Casey Fossum
Edgar Gonzalez
Matt Murton
Termel Sledge
Alex Cabrerra

Lots of foreigners on the Japanese teams. Who don't have any vested interested in playing an after season series for nationalistic reasons.

Trying to gain respectability

The Chinese Professional League has been having some problems lately. They've been rocked by a gambling/game-fixing scandal that has seen many of the top players expelled from the league. On top of that, the annual end-of-season Konami Cup, which had been a tournament between the champions of the major Asian leagues, decided not to invite Taiwan China last year. Instead, the winners of the Japan Series and the Korean league played a one-game series.

Trying to gain back some respectability for their league, the CPL is trying to get an international series going again:
Taiwan now would like to play the champion of the CBPL versus the champion of the KBO in a three game series. The series would begin November 1. Negotiations for this series are expected in March.
They want a little bit more than that, as far as international competition goes:
Taiwan also wishes to hold the Intercontinental Cup in 2010. Teams that have recieved invitations include the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Japan, Korea, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Of course, there is one problem with this:
The Japanese though may not be sending its professional players to compete in the Intercontinetal Cup because of its potential disruption to their season. So they will be sending an amatuer or industrial league team instead.
If the Japanese don't send their best players, then it really dampens the quality of the competition. Which is one of the reasons baseball is out of the Olympics.

Taiwan also wants to host the 2011 World Cup (not the WBC), and is in negotiations to do so.

The CPL has been devastated by the scandal. However, they are not just sititng back and feeling sorry for themselves. They're trying to do something to get back into the game. Good luck to them.

Original link from my world of baseball

The Ghetto Boys

A group of teenage boys living in the worst slum in Kampala.

They play with a swagger that belies their hardships off the field. They dream of baseball, all while going through the transitions to manhood: from their crushes on girls, struggles with schooling, and finding their places in a world that has been hard on them.

Their coach, George, learned the game largely on his own and recognized the power that sports had to help the kids he saw in dire circumstances. He recruits boys from his slum to form a team: training them on a small patch of grass in the ghetto; scraping together abandoned equipment; organizing games against any other team he
can find.

That is from the excellent, moving documentary "Opposite Fields", about one man's dream to bring baseball to the youth of Uganda.

For a preview of the clip, please see Planet Hardball.

Personally, I've never been to Uganda. But I have been to sub-Saharan Africa, and I've been in the slums, and I've seen young kids just like described in this film. The problem is, I can't describe it here. I wish I could, but there is no frame of reference unless you've been there. I wish I could explain it to you.

I wish I could tell you how in a place where there are no jobs, little education, and most often no hope for anything substantial, anything to provide any kind of opportunity is changing a life. My biggest regret from my time there is that I didn't do what I could have for the kids out in the street.

None of this means that Ugandan kids will start signing minor league contracts anytime soon, if ever. But it does give them something. We all played as kids, and we played for two reasons. Because we loved it, and to get better. We had something to look forward to and something to strive for. Maybe baseball will give the kids something to look forward to beyond their next meal and a place to sleep.

What George is doing is a rare and uncommon thing, no matter what country you live in. He's giving of himself, for the good of others. And for no personal gain.

A lot of people don't care about baseball outside the major leagues. Or don't know it exists outside North America, Japan and the Caribbean basin. But watching kids play the game in an empty lot in a slum in an African city is not different than watching kids play on a local field in a small town in Missouri.

One thing I picked up from the film that I hadn't been aware of :

In 2010, for the first time, teams from Africa will compete for a spot in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. And one of them will represent their continent. It's called a field of dreams for a reason.

Maybe you don't care about kids playing baseball in Africa, and that's why you should watch the film. Because then maybe you will.

And maybe you should.

When idiots are allowed to publish

I love baseball. I love reading. I love reading about baseball. I'll read pretty much any book about baseball that I can find. Whether it's history, biography, statistical, or just anecdotal, I don't discriminate. I also know quite a bit about the game. I've played, coached, and umpired. I have a clue about the game.

Also, in a different life, I spent a few years in the military, in a lot of different countries, and working out in the diplomatic world, at various embassies around the world. I also majored in Political Science in college. I might not be the smartest guy in the world, but I do have a clue about the way the world of government works.

And the thing I now most is that the two don't mix. sure, presidents might throw out the first pitch, and a few of them are legitimate baseball fans. But the government and baseball? No, doesn't happen. I can tell you from personal experience that the State Department doesn't do baseball. In fact, they barely do anything sporting at all, and golf and tennis are used for networking, not actual competition.

So when an author tries to tie baseball to American foreign policy, I'm calling bullshit. Because it doesn't work that way. But sadly, one author is trying to do it.

I'll admit up front that I haven't read the book, and I won't. I won't waste my time or money. For some of these reasons:
Contrary to popular opinion in the U.S., the young Fidel Castro wasn't one of Cuba's best pitchers and was never offered contracts by American scouts. In fact, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy once suggested that his lack of a big-league arm was a key reason Castro came to hate the U.S.

"An aspiring pitching ace spurned," McCarthy said, "can be a dangerous man with a long memory."
So that clears up the mystery. Castro didn't lead a revolution in his land because Batista was a murderous, corrupt dictator who was systematically raping his people and his land. The entire Communist thing was a myth. Marxism meant nothing to him. No, this was all a hissy fit because the "Washington Senators" wouldn't sign him to a contract. Boy, he showed us. He's really sticking it to baseball. And fortunately, all the people in Cuba love him so much that they've supported him in this for 50 years.

Next up:
How Washington-backed Contras attacked truckloads of native hardwoods headed to Nicaraguan baseball bat factories so the Sandinistas couldn't use the game to boost morale
Now, see, this might get me to read the book. Because I need to find out if this was an independent action of the guerrilla movement, or did Ollie North specifically order the attack. I just need to know the answer to this one. Because there is a difference independent action and orders from the top. And when the government (any government) is trying to win the hearts and minds of the populace, I don't see them doing things that break-down their morale. Doesn't really make sense.

Neither does this:
when it looked like the U.S. and Mexico might go to war in 1921, President Warren G. Harding sent big leaguers on a goodwill tour south of the border
I was a double major. Political Science and History. I don't remember this event. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but I've never heard of this before. If it did happen, I'll give the credit for this one. Because it's a terrible thing when a President uses any tool at hand to stop a war. Baseball had no business being involved in stopping a war. Don't they know how un-American that is?

And my favorite one:
During the War of 1812, a game among American prisoners ended in tragedy when a long hit prompted players to enlarge a hole in a wall to retrieve the ball, and English authorities, thinking they were trying to escape, killed seven of them.
Let's see. A war. Prisoners of war. Digging a hole in the wall. The guards reacted badly. Yup, baseball is guilty. An entirely innocent act ruined by the game of baseball. Ever seen 'The Great Escape'? Yeah, Steve McQueen just wanted his ball back.

The most damaging proof that baseball has been at the forefront of the American Empire (forgetting completely that America never had an empire) is this little nugget:
soldiers from the 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees won the "World Series" of U.S. European Theater Operations forces during World War II.
Yeah, that seals it for me. This must be a well-written book that proves the evils of baseball when the government becomes involved. We've all seen from the congressional hearings about steroids how effective the government is when it gets involved in, well, anything.

I hope someone reads this book, so I can borrow it, read the first 10 pages, and then ignore it. I don't doubt the guy researched the book, and he probably believes in what he wrote. But all he's doing is spinning the records to say what he wants them to say, and drawing conclusions that just don't seem to be there. His choice. His right.

I know, that before I criticize, that I should actually read the book. But I won't. I've seen enough to know I wouldn't believe any of it regardless. In the many countries I've been in, I've never seen evidence of the government using baseball to further foreign policy. And the State Department will use anything they can to further their agenda.

As far as the military using baseball, the only time I've seen that is soldiers actually playing the game. Like we did in the states when there weren't any foreigners around.

So I guess the next conclusion is that the military used baseball to influence government policy towards Americans in order to subjugate them. Someone should tell the IRS. I don't think they'll be happy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A different way of playing

Baseball is played in many ways, in many varieties, and in many countries. How, where, and who plays is never the issue. As long as people are playing, that's all that matters. So when people can't participate in the normal way of playing, they will look for other ways to enjoy the game:

In Italy, Cuba and Hungary, they use a drilled baseball containing sleighbells. In Chinese Taipei and the USA, they prefer an oversized ball with an implanted electronic beeper. The Japanese play with an air-filled ball with no sounding device at all.
The question you probably have is, why do they use different balls like that:

The equipment and rules may vary, but one thing is constant: blind and visually-impaired players have permanently adopted the game of baseball.
Yeah, blind people playing baseball. And I'm not making fun of it. I think it's great, and they're playing all over the worl:

Italy's Associazione Baseball giocato da Ciechi (AIBXC) is in its twelfth season and is part of the Italian Federation of Baseball and Softball (FIBS). Chinese Taipei's first team was formed in 1995. In America, the National Beep Baseball Association has been organising tournaments and a World Series (including teams from Chinese Taipei) since 1975. Japan's "grand softball" was developed in the 1990s and, today, there are more than 10,000 active players in that country.
The game is played slightly differently, of course:

The visually-impaired versions of the game are decidedly different from the traditional game in some respects. In Italy, originators spent about two years experimenting with distances, equipment and rule modifications to reach a workable version of the sport. AIBXC teams are made up of five blind players, one sighted player and a sighted defencive assistant. The batter hits the ball out of his or her hand. Only the left side of the traditional field is considered fair, and all outs are made at second base and by the batter only. Runs are scored by crossing a 13-foot line marked behind home plate.
There are other modifications to the game, and specialized rules, but it isn't important. As kids, we've all played the games with rules designed to fit the players and available space. It doesn't have to be exactly the same, and it doesn't have be major league caliber.

What matters is that the people playing this version of the game haven't given up on the love of their sport just because they can't see. They can still participate, and they can still enjoy it.

And that's what the point of the game really is.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snow baseball

Baseball is played in many places, and we've seen picture of it. Pastures in Nigeria, the mountains of Turkey, and places in Israel that are below sea level.

One of the big complaints about the season in the states is that it starts too early, and ends too late. The weather affects games, and there are snow outs every year, bringing cries for the schedules to be changed (or worse yet) the call for more domes.

One place, however, has decided that snow isn't really a problem. In fact, they've decided to use it, and actually play Snow Baseball:

Young players participated in a snow baseball championship in Indian Kashmir.

The town of Gulmarg gets heavy snowfall during the winter and is covered in white for about six months. The town offers an excellent playground for winter sports.
This isn't seen as a one-off thing, either:

“We consider ourselves as the frontrunners of playing this game on snowfields. We want some development in this game as Gulmarg is the perfect spot for national and international championships.”
However, there is one point to clarify:

This is the first time that baseball has been played on snow and our experience has been very satisfying.”
As the picture above shows, all you have to do is go to Cleveland.

But, hey, it's baseball, and they're playing. That's all that matters.

Top 10 European prospects

Spring training has started, and prospects are showing up and getting ready for the season, hoping for a major league roster spot. Or at least a good look, and a place in the high minors. Among the prospects are those from Europe, hoping for their chance to prove themselves.

From my world of baseball comes the list of the top-10 European prospects:

1. Jurickson Profar (Rangers) - Jurickson was signed by the Rangers from Curacao for $1.55 million. He led the Curacao liitle league team to the championship as an 11 year old and got them to the finals as a 12 year old. Many preferred him as a pitcher since his fastball has been clocked at 93. He wants to play shortstop and the Rangers were willing to grant him his wish as a position player. He doesn’t have outstanding range for the position, but he has a good arm and good hands to play it well. His big challenge will be with his bat. He has to show that he can hit enough to play in the major leagues. If he can’t he can always move back to the mound.

2. Max Kepler OF (Twins) - Sometimes, the less you know about a player the better he is. Greg Halman was on this list last year as the top prospect until his challenges to make contact dropped him to number four. Kepler is the same type of athletic player as Halman and the Twins signed him for $800,000. Max is from Germany and with plus speed should have no problem playing defense in the centerfield. He also has some raw power, but at 17 years old it can be difficult to determine how that power will develop. He will not graduate from high school until 2011, so don’t expect to see him in a full season league until he graduates.

3. Alex Liddi 3B (Mariners) - He gets a lot of criticism for the offensive numbers he put up in what was a small ball park in High Desert. He had plenty of teammates that could have put up the same numbers but only Alex hit .345 with 23 homeruns and 104 RBIs, falling just short of the Triple Crown. Alex is from Italy and does have a good stroke that can generate power numbers, so those homeruns are not a mirage. A big key will be whether he can repeat those numbers as he moves up to AA. The good thing is that he is also a good defensive player for third base, so if he doesn’t hit he can help you defensively. Unfortunately, he does not have enough speed to slip into the outfield spot so it will be best for his career if he continues to swat the balls out of the park.

4. Greg Halman OF (Mariners) - He certainly has the tools but he has to learn to make contact. His year got off to a poor start when he struck out nine times in 11 at bats for Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. The team needed his bat, but they were able to ride their pitching to advance past the first round for the first time, upsetting the Dominican Republic. Those strikeouts continued in the minor leagues with 191 whiffs and a .210 average. He should have enough range to cover centerfield and the arm to fit in right. His power is tremendous but he has to learn to make contact to take advantage of it. Almost half his hits went for extra bases last year.

5. Bryan Berglund RHP (Marlins) - Bryans’s claim to fame is that he is the first Swedish player drafted in the major leagues, selected in the second round by the Marlins. He was born in Sweden, but when his parents divorced he moved with his mom to California where he played his high school ball. At 6′4″ he has a good pitcher’s frame with a fastball that travels in the low 90s. As he adds muscle the velocity of his fasball should increase, as well as his durability. He also throws a slider and change. Bryan signed too late to play in 2009 so he will make his debut in 2010.

6. Loek Van Mil RHP (Twins) - He should be the first player on this list to make it to the major leauges and when he does he will become the tallest player to ever play in the major leagues. Loek is 7′1″ so it takes a lot of body movement to get consistency in his delivery. Loek is from the Netherlands and missed out closing for them in the Olympics in Beijing because of an arm injury. He appears healthy now with a mid 90s fastball and a wicked slider. Command of those pitchers is his biggest problem. He got a late start to the season in 2009 because of the rehab to the arm injury, but when he started pitching he pitched well enough to be promoted to AA. He should start there in 2010 and if he does well the major leagues awaits.

7. Kenley Jansen RHP (Dodgers) - Myworld watched Kenley when he was catching at the World Baseball Classic and we liked the presence he showed on the field as a catcher. The Dodgers apparently didn’t like him as a catcher and switched him to the mound in 2009. His defense behind the plate was solid but his career minor league average was only .229. Since he can throw a fastball in the mid-90s they thought they should give him a try on the mound and in 2009 he made 12 appearances with a 4.63 ERA. He needs to develop other pitchers besides his fastball, but at 22 he is still young enough to master the other pitchers. Kenley is from Curacao.

8. Mariekson Gregorius SS (Reds) - He was born in Amsterdam and his father pitched for the Amsterdam Pirates, so naturally Mariekson gravitated towards baseball. In the 2009 World Cup he played for the Netherlands while his father and brother pitched for the Netherland Antilles. He’s a stellar defensive player with a rocket for an arm so the big question for Mariekson is his ability to hit as he advances. He has no power, but he hit well in the Pioneer League (.314) and despite his teenage status held his own in High A (.254) filling in at shortstop because of injuries. The Reds are loaded with shortstops, but if Mariekson can hit he will be the one the Reds call on defensively.

9. Juan Carlos Sulbaran RHP (Reds) - Juan made his mark at the Honkball tournament when he almost shutdown Cuba, limiting them to one hit in seven innings. He faced a more experienced Cuban team in the Olympics and didn’t fare as well, giving up two runs in just over four innings. He was also the youngest player on the Netherlands World Baseball Classic team and came in with runners on first and third to face Ivan Rodriguez. That has to be a lot of pressure for a teenager. He struck out Ivan Rodriguez. His first year in the minors he could not quite match those international successes, finishing with a 5.24 ERA and a .265 opponent average. He is not overpowering with a fastball in the low 90s and he has a good curveball that he is still inconsistent with in its command. Once he gains more consistency with the curveball he should lower that ERA.

10. Kai Gonauer C (Mets) - Another German prospect, it was tough to decide between Roger Bernadina and Kai. Kai has a little more potential since his defensive ability as a catcher is much more valuable than Roger’s outfield skills in a crowded Nationals outfield. He is also 23 years old to Bernadina’s 26. The big question with Kai is his ability to hit. He was the catcher for the German National team in the Olympic qualifier in Taiwan and has been playing for the national team since he was 18 years old. His first year in the minors he hit .346 in 45 at bats, but a better reflection of his offensive capabilities was his .243 average last year in 230 at bats. He does show that he can hit for some power with the six homeruns in 2009 and with his defense he might be able to overtake Josh Thole for the Mets catching job. The Mets have given Kai a spring training invite.

Also Andrei Lobanov (Twins) is a relief pitcher from Russia who should be watched.

This is the first step

I think MLB is missing a huge opportunity in not playing some games in Europe. Whether Bud gets it or not, baseball is doing okay here. Obviously, it's not as popular as other sports, but it is popular in many countries in Europe, with viable leagues in most of the countries.

The NFL and NBA have figured it out, and play games in Europe every year. There is even somewhat, semi-legitimate talk of expanding here. It might not happen immediately, but I think it will happen, and within 10 years.

MLB playing a regular season series over here would be very popular and give a boost to the programs over here. However, one of the problems with this has been the lack of a major league quality stadium. Unfortunately, soccer, rugby and cricket stadiums can't really be converted into baseball fields. The layout just doesn't match up. And the few actual baseball stadiums here just don't meet MLB standards.

However, that might be about to change:

Mayor Gianni Alemanno announced plans Sunday to donate a parcel of land for a new, baseball-specific stadium that can host international events. It will be built in Tor Vergata, an area south of the city where there's a campus for the University of Rome.
This is great news. Italy has a long and storied history with major league baseball, and it's very appropriate that the stadium would be built in Rome.

Mayor Alemanno understand why this is important:

"Rome doesn't have a baseball stadium that can host international events and as a mayor, I felt I had to fill this deficiency," Alemanno said in a statement issued following an executive meeting of the International Baseball Federation.
With a stadium available, Bud doesn't have his main reason to keep games from being played over here.

And it will give other countries or cities the incentive to build stadiums in order to attract future series, and will provide an infrastructure for a future European league.

I hope this happens. It can only be good for baseball over here.

Bud speaks, others do

Yeah, Bud says a lot of things. One of them is that baseball needs to find a way to shorten it's games. He's right, the games do drag on to long, from the time between pitches, the batters continuously stepping out of the box, to the endless mounds visits and pitching changes, the average game is now over 3 hours.

Bud isn't really doing anything to shorten the games, but one league, the Korean Baseball Organization, is actually go to do something about it:

South Korea will speed up its baseball games and install energy-saving equipment at major parks as part of a "green sports" plan to cut emissions, officials said Friday.
One of the reasons for shortening the games:

Rules to shorten the duration of professional games will also make them more appealing to spectators, a baseball official said.
These guys just don't have a clue. Actually doing something FOR the fan? I can't believe it. Didn't they get the memo from Bud? It's not about the fan, it's about making as much money as possible, and then claiming poverty. Oh wait, Bud doesn't actually know baseball exists outside North America and Japan.

Some of the changes:

When the new season starts next month, a pitcher will have a maximum 12 seconds to throw the ball after the batter is ready.

If he breaches the time limit, a warning will be given the first time and each subsequent warning will be counted as a ball.

The park cleaning break after the fifth inning will be scrapped and replaced by short cleaning intervals in the third, fifth and seventh innings.
Part of the idea also, is that shorter games will require less energy to be used. That's where the green aspect of it comes in. I'm not against that, by any means. And that would be a by-product of shortening the games in the states also.

Of course, as a sidenote, if Bud really wanted to shorten the games, he could do it easily. Just have less time between innings when they show all those commercials.

Anyhow, nice to see the Korean league actually understands the need to do something, and realize the fans want this also.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio

In baseball, there is a long history of Italian players in the game. Starting with the mass immigration of Italians to the United States at the turn of the century, many of the children learned, and grew up playing, baseball. Eventually the Italians supplanted the Irish and the Germans as the main non-American nationality playing baseball.

The list of greats of Italian heritage (notice I don't use hyphens here) read from the DiMaggio brothers, Yogi Berra, and many more that I can't think of right now. Additionally, there have been 6 players born in Italy. However, baseball and Italy isn't necessarily a one way street coming this way.

During World War II, and after, G.I.'s in Italy would play baseball. Many of those G.I.'s were second generation, and could speak the language, which helped in the teaching/coaching aspect. What's the point to this, you might ask:

Italians are completely crazy about football. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns one of the country's finest teams, AC Milan, and one million people tuned in to watch the wedding of a soccer star from Rome. But not far from the eternal city, in the same province, America's pastime rules.
Yeah, baseball in Europe. Good stuff. But this is not just laying out a field in a pasture and playing some pick up games:

In the seaside city of Nettuno, 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Rome, kids grow up playing baseball, a tradition that began during World War Two. Nettuno, named for the Roman god of the sea, has played and followed baseball since then and proclaims its passion loud and proud. Signs are placed throughout the city alerting visitors that they are in "Nettuno - the city of baseball." The city founded in the 9th century may offer a scenic port with a Renaissance-era castle and even have the remains of a saint on display in a church. Baseball, however, beats all.
This, most definitely, is not just a fad, or even an anti-soccer issue. It's, pure and simple, a love of the game.

"They call Nettuno the 'little United States' because in this town only, the first ball (game) is baseball."
Nettuno's children learn to play baseball at school and compete in local leagues.
And what helps sustain the interest:

Nettuno has won five European championships, 17 Italian titles and a handful of locals are signed to Major League Baseball organizations in the US.
If anyone watched the World Baseball Classic, and saw the Italian victory over the Canadians and good game against the United States (because of the efforts of the actual Italian players, and not the hyphenateds), then you know baseball in Italy isn't just a recreational sport. It's for real, it's professional, and it's serious.

And there is one town leading the way.

Link from

Catching help for the Mets

The Mets, as reported by everyone, are desperately in need of catching help. Right now, they go in with the starting competition being between Omir Santos and Henry Blanco. That's kind of like deciding between Mike Parrot and Terry Felton for your staff ace.

They've (supposedly) brought in Josh Thole with a chance to win the starting job, and are in talks with Rod Barajas ( who might help, but isn't signed yet). That's like choosing between Tony Pena, Jr and Yuniesky Betancourt as your starting SS.

They also have 37 year old Chris Coste on the 40-man roster, as well as 2 minor leaguer no one has ever heard of, unless you really like Mets minor league baseball. In other words, the Mets are screwed at the catching position.

But there is an answer - to my mind - because this is what I do:

Mister-Baseball is reporting that the New York Mets have invited German catcher Kai Gronauer to Spring Training:
Yeah, a German getting a chance. The reason I like this, is not just because it's a European player, is because he's a catcher. Catching is one of the hardest positions to play if you've grown up with the game, let alone being an import to it.

It's not just catching the ball and returning it to the pitcher. It's calling the game, keeping the pitcher in his rhythm, controlling the running game, calling defenses, etc. Catching isn't easy, and there is a lot of unseen activity involved in it. The fact that Europeans are getting to the point where they have a chance to catch in the big leagues is an indication of much the game is progressing over here.

Kai is obviously not in pro ball because of his bat:

Gronauer played his first full season of minor league ball last year, batting .242 (OBP .294/SLG .352) with six homeruns, 27 runs and 23 RBI in 67 games for the Savannah Sand Gnats in the South Atlantic League (Single-A).
Although that's not terrible. So he must be fairly good defensively, and have some non-batting skills. Doesn't matter, this is a good thing, and he can't be any worse than any other option the Mets have. He's a non-roster invitee, and probably won't get much of a look.

But he's there. That's what matters.

Link from Planet Hardball

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cuba and the Evil Empire

Just kidding, Jason. Cuba isn't an evil empire anymore.

The Spanish-based newspaper El Nuevo Herald is reporting that Cuban slugger Jose Julio “JJ” Ruiz is nearing a decision on which Major League club to sign with. The Blue Jays, Rangers, Red Sox, Giants, Rays, Rockies and Yankees have all shown interest in the first base prospect.
That's all well and good, and he will probably get a big, major league contract, an invitation to spring training, and a trip to the minors if he signs with anyone but the Giants. But even that isn't guaranteed. However, he wont be in the minors for long:

The 25-year-old is a sweet-swinging left-handed hitter who batted .330 over five seasons in the Cuban League. Ruiz, who swiped 32 bases during the 2007-08 season, batted .341 with 69 RBIs in his last full campaign in Cuba in 2008-09.
Average and speed, and at a 'relatively' young age. Not a lot of call for that in a first baseman, unless you're Frank Chance, but he can also play the outfield, so a move would be likely, and get him to the majors much more quickly. As to what team that might be:

The Santiago de Cuba infielder defected from Cuba last March and is currently training at the Yankees’ facility in the Dominican Republic. The 6-foot-3 prospect can also play in the outfield and is expected to receive a multimillion-dollar signing bonus.
Imagine that, getting to train at the Yanees facility. Wonder how that happens? Is this allowed? Is it kosher? Isn't it a conflict of interest?

No, there is no evil empire in Cuba. Its in whatever country a particular player defects to.

Link from baseball de world

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beating a dead horse

There is a new director of the International Baseball Federation, Riccardo Fraccarri. President Fraccarri is intent to make his mark, and do what he can to help improve the international game. However, I think he's 'spittin' into the wind', and just hasn't figured it out yet:

Under the new administration, the IBAF will remain steadfastly committed to baseball’s reinstatement to the Olympic program. Support from the IOC is crucial for the IBAF and the national federations in order to strengthen a number of initiatives in baseball’s emerging nations. Thus, we must work diligently to earn the support of the IOC, if we are to continue to grow and develop our sport around the globe efficiently.
Yeah, dude, with all due respect, it ain't gonna happen. The Olympics doesn't want baseball, Bud doesn't want baseball in the Olympics, the European countries (which dominate the IOC), in concert with the non-baseball playing South American countries don't want baseball in the Olympics so it won't interfere with European sports, and the baseball-playing countries don't carry enough weight to get it done.

He provides a list of issues:

We are well aware of the obstacles that must be overcome to recapture Olympic status; however, I believe we are ready to effectively deal with such issues as Anti-Doping, participation of the best players, female discipline and global scheduling. Baseball will be able to play a leading role in the Olympic Games within the framework of the Olympic movement.
which have all been discussed, solved, or ignored. Fixing these problems doesn't solve the fact that the Olympics and MLB just don't want baseball in the games. I respect that fact that he wants to make the game more visible and stage it in a bigger way, but it's just not going to happen.

Stick with promoting the World Baseball Classic, and the Baseball World Cup, and the regional competitions that are already in place.

I appreciate the effort, but it just won't happen. Lets focus on what we can do, not on what has already failed.

A new cook

Former major-league pitcher is the new manager of the Swedish national team:
Former Major Leaguer pitcher Dennis Cook is the new head coach of the Swedish national team. The 47-year-old lefthander, who pitched 15 years in the big leagues, replaces Karl Knutsson as head coach for Sweden, the Swedish Baseball and Softball Federation announced on Monday.
It's isn't a case of just picking a guy to coach. There is a reason it was Cook:

Dennis Cook, whose grandmother hails from Sweden, has previous experience working with the Swedish team as he worked with them during the 2009 training week in Florida. Cook also was intended to be the pitching coach during the 2009 Baseball World Cup, but other commitments made it impossible.
Cook had a decent enough career in the majors, and wn 2 World Series:

Dennis Cook made his debut in the Major Leagues for the San Francisco Giants in 1988 and stayed in the big leagues until 2002, pitching for a total of nine teams. He won two World Series rings during his career, one with the Florida Marlins in 1997 and another one with the Anaheim Angels in 2002. The left-handed veteran had an ERA of 3.91 in 665 appearances (71 starts) overall, accumulating over 1.000 innings.
His Baseball Reference page

Sweden has a good team, and Cook might be a big help. Of course, major league experience doesn't always mean anything, but there can't be any doubt that Bert Blyleven had an impact on the Dutch team during the World Baseball Classic. Pitching is a very technical thing, and the important thing might not be what Cook brings from his ability, but what he learned from others that made him successful.

One of those good stories

This is just one of the feel-good stories you get on occasion. I'm not normally into the 'poor athlete who never had a chance and used his athleticism to make good' stories. My choice, it doesn't make me a bad person. But this one is different, to me at least.

I've lived in Africa, and been to South Africa. I've seen the countries and the lives some Africans live. I'll spare eveyone the stories. You wouldn't believe most of them anyhow. It's a different world.

So to me this is a good story. And hopefully the beginning of something good. Because if one African player can make it, then it will increase visibility of the game there.

South Africa provides a gift to the Pirates

Thanks to my world of baseball

From the news department of 'duh'

The picture to the left is the pile of paperwork that comprises the indictments against the players, coaches, and politicians involved in the game fixing in the Taiwanese major league. As any good state department employee applaud, the government has gotten involved:

The Cabinet-level Sports Affairs Council (SAC) announced yesterday that baseball players facing trials and termination of their professional baseball careers for participating in game fixing also be barred from working as coaches or teachers.
Doesn't this really fall under the 'duh' category? I mean, would you really want these guys involved with youth sports, or teaching your children? Maybe they should call this the 'Pete Rose law'. And as much as I oppose government involvement in my sports, I wouldn't mind seeing something like this enacted in the states.

I think there is some good reasoning behind this:

SAC Minister Tai Hsia-ling said that not being able to play baseball again is the biggest punishment for a pro baseball player, but there is also a consensus between the SAC and the Ministry of Education that the criminals should no longer be allowed to coach teams or teach at educational institutions.
I'm not talking about ostracising this guys from society. They need a fair trial, and if found guilty, they should be punished as seen fit by the courts. After that, like any criminal, once the debt is paid, they should be allowed to be a productive member of society again. But coaching or teaching? Nope, not in my world.

If found innocent, then complete exoneration, and they can return to playing, coaching, teaching, whatever. Unless they give evidence to escape prosecution. That say guilty to me.

Of course, there will aways be the opposite opinion of who would be better to teach kids about the problems of gambling and game-fixing than someone who has been caught and punished. By that reasoning, Pete Rose should give children's clinics.

Is that what we really want? In this case, I think the government got it right. Just my opinion.

Breaking the glass homeplate

Say what you will about communism, but they were always ahead of the western world in some ways. Such as women having a prominent role in, well, almost everything. And while Cuba is technically our enemy (someday I'll have to start a political blog), they have outdone the United States in the area of women in baseball:

On a field dominated by men, Yanet Moreno is the only woman to step onto the baseball diamond during Cuba's national championship.

As the only female umpire to call in the National Series -- Cuba's equivalent of the big leagues -- Moreno, 35, has set a historic precedent.
Depending on how you feel about baseball outside the states, the Cuban league is a major league. Maybe the equivalent of AA or AAA (anyone?), but it is a major league, and she is a woman calling a championship series.

In keeping with the communist tradition of the state picking careers for it's citizens, Moreno was chosen:

Moreno was encouraged to train as a professional umpire, and before she had even finished school she was called to the National Series. She refereed her first game in December 2006, right at the start of the four-month baseball season.
While working in a (supposed) man's world, Moreno manages to keep in touch with her feminine side:

Still, she has advice for women trying to succeed in a man's world: "Those of us who work with men, should never stop being feminine," she says.

"We have to keep painting our nails, fixing our hair, plucking our eyebrows, never stop being women."

True to her word, at a recent game, Moreno sported bright red fingernails and a neatly coiffed hairdo. Before each game, she sprays herself with perfume.

"It's a tradition of mine," she said as she geared up. "So when I sweat, I smell like perfume."
Between women umpires and women pitchers, the lines are becoming blurred. Some will be happy, some will be angry, and some just won't care. I've umpired for years, and the main thing is competence. Is she good? Can she handle the game? Does she know the rules?

I'll admit, as an old-fashioned kind of guy, I have mixed feelings about this. In some ways, I like it as the mans game, while softball is for girls. But I also know from my time in the Army, that there are a lot of women who outperform men in many ways.

So what's the answer? As usual, my opinion is - does it make the game better?

As of yet, no word on whether Pam Postema wants to defect.

The "real" World Series

I'm a little bit late with this, but life happens. I thought I would go ahead and add my opinion to the subject of a season-ending 'World Series' between the American major leagues and the Japanese major leagues. And contrary to what most people might expect, I'm dead against it and don't think it's a good idea.

I'm not really sure I understand the reasoning for this, especially with Bud pushing it. He's never cared much for the international game, and hasn't done anything to promote it before. It might be a marketing ploy, but that doesn't make sense either. Any merchandise featuring Japanese players are going to sell well regardless of any international series. Even if there is an upturn in sales, it doesn't figure to be enough to offset the cost of staging the games.

Unless he's looking to get some other names out there beyond the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers/Mariners, or the the individual Japanese players. Sure, they could sell a lot of Pujols jerseys, but you have to assume the Cardinals will win the series (they will). Or the Giants to get Lincecum's name out there, or the Brewers or Rays to get their players some notice. Good idea, but not enough to make this thing go.

The idea of playing for national pride doesn't work either, because Bud hasn't figured out yet that the major leagues have become international, and the 'teams' aren't American. Yeah, they play in American cities (with respect to Toronto), in front of American fans, but the teams aren't really American.

In the last World Series, the Yankees had players from the United States, Puerto Rico (hey, I don't agree, but they claim it), the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and Taiwan on their roster last season, while the Phillies had players from the United States, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, South Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Canada. That doesn't really make for a lot of national pride in a series like this. Even the Japanese teams are international, featuring Americans, South Koreans, Taiwanese, Mexicans, and Dominicans, at a minimum.

These guys aren't playing for their country, they're just playing for their team in the city it resides in. The American public, as a whole, isn't going to care about this all that much. Which brings up the next bit of confusion. Is the idea that the fans of the particular team playing in the series is going to pull the weight to make it worthwhile? Again, if you have the Yankees, or Dodgers, (please apply East Coast/West Coast bias here), or teams that or a team such as the Cardinals that routinely draw over 3 millions fans a year, maybe. But what happens when you have the Rockies or the Twins win the series, and then go on to represent MLB? The fanbase just isn't there. That doesn't mean the fans of those particular teams wouldn't watch, but there wouldn't be enough to justify this as a reason for the series.

Then look at the players. I don't see the union allowing this, at least not without some major concessions in the next CBA. Plus, I don't imagine a lot of the players are going to really care about this all that much. If there is a Japanese player on the team playing, he might care. But why would the rest of them? After spring training, a 162-game season, two rounds of playoffs and the World Series, I can't see most players really wanting to do this. And why would they?

Money. Some of them will do it because they will get compensated for it, and there will some sort of winner's share. But is that why we want these guys to play this series? For a paycheck? When you know the Japanese team will be going all out to knock off the American team and prove they are just as good. I can't imagine most of the players wouldn't look at this as anything more than just an exhibition series.

And what happens when the star players sit out because of fatigue or worry of injury. Sure, guys like Jeter and Swisher and Rollins and Stairs would play, and give it there all. But Rodriguez had hip surgery, and Sabathia had thrown a lot of innings and Ruiz had caught a lot of games and Lidge was ineffective. Would those guys play? And if not, who takes their spot? A minor leaguer with a couple of call-ups during the season, or a player deemed not good enough to make the post-season roster? And if the stars aren't playing, hasn't the entire thing lost it's luster?

For the reasons listed above, it has to be done at the conclusion of the two seasons, and not before spring training the next year. There is too much turn over with the rosters during the off-season, and it wouldn't be the same team competing.

I just don't see any reason why this series needs to take place, and why Bud even wants it beyond making more money for the league. That's probably enough reason for Bud, but it won't carry with the fans. If Bud really wants to have an international series, this isn't the answer. Because they already have a good one.

It's called the World Baseball Classic, and the players have an incentive to play. Because it's for their country and national pride. And the fans (outside the United States) like and watch the classic.

Note to Bud: if the best American players in the game can't win an international competition, why do you want international players trying to win glory for an American team?

It doesn't make sense, Bud. Scrap this thing and put your efforts into the WBC, and getting the American team to actually be competitive.

The WBC is working. You just haven't figured it out yet.