Fans reject Manny and A-Rod for the right reasons

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There are all kinds of interesting angles to take on the All-Star
rosters that were announced yesterday, and we’ll certainly be getting
to those over the coming days. One of the ones I don’t
think anyone here at CTB would be inclined to take, however, is how the
failure of Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez to make the All-Star team
represented an anti-PED statement by the voters. That doesn’t stop MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, however:

A record 223.5 million votes were cast for the 2009 All-Star Game
selections. Without pandering to the audience, this process had both
quantity and quality. And it was notable not only for which players the
fans elected, but which players the fans did NOT elect . . . In the
latter category, the most prominent names would be Manny Ramirez and
Alex Rodriguez. Both were linked this year to performance-enhancing
drugs. Rodriguez was forced to admit his usage of PEDs . . . The voters
are to be congratulated for not turning a blind eye to these offenses .
. . By omitting this pair, the fans and the players have essentially
taken a stand against the use of PEDs.

That’s one way to think about it. The other way to think about it is to
say that the voters have not turned a blind eye to the fact that Evan
Longoria is a heck of a lot more deserving than a guy who has hit .244
in limited play and that Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, and Carlos Beltran
(and Matt Kemp and a bunch of other guys) are all more deserving than a
guy who has played in only 35% of his team’s games this season.

Sure, the fans rejecting the cheaters en masse makes for a
nice story and everything, but it’s not like keeping Manny and A-Rod
out of the All-Star game requires some political statement. Neither is
deserving on the merits and neither made it. Given that, with the large
exception of Josh Hamilton, the fans did a pretty good job with the
votes, I’d offer that their exclusion was a baseball judgment, not a
political one.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.