Rays done with Pat the Bust?

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It certainly looked like one of the better signing of the offseason: after missing out on Milton Bradley, the Rays inked Pat Burrell to a two-year, $16 million contract to take over as their DH.  He was coming off four straight seasons with OPSs around 890 and he had averaged 153 games during those seasons.  Sure, there’d be a period of adjustment for him coming over to the AL, but he projected as a well above average DH and he’d come at a fair price.

 

Of course, things haven’t worked out that way.  Burrell hit .250/.349/.315 with one homer in 30 games before going down with a neck injury that cost him a month.  He entered the All-Star break at .232/.341/.347.  He did do solid work for a month and a half after that, coming in at .257/.335/.493 with nine homers and 27 RBI in a 40-game span through Sept. 2.  However, he’s hit .147/.238/.206 in 22 appearances since.

 

The truly remarkable thing is that Burrell has gone the whole year without a homer against a left-hander.  He’s hitting .207/.338/.259 in 116 at-bats against them.  All 14 of his bombs have come against righties.  Between 2005-08, Burrell had 38 homers in 587 at-bats versus southpaws.

 

Burrell’s career is at a crossroads now.  He’s obviously far more comfortable against National League pitching, yet his poor defense limits his value in the Senior Circuit.  The Rays figure to try to exchange him for another lousy contract over the winter.  Burrell for Bradley is one idea that will get tossed around.  The Cubs wouldn’t want Burrell, but since he’s only signed for one more year, they’d save $12 million as part of such a swap.  The Rays, though, would have big problems taking on that kind of salary for 2011 when so many of their young players will be big significant raises then.

 

Perhaps Burrell could be swapped for a reliever who has fallen out of favor.  Kyle Farnsworth in Kansas City and Scott Linebrink in Chicago would be a couple of possibilities.  The Rays would likely be better off keeping the 33-year-old and hoping for the best rather than taking on someone who would require a longer commitment.  They can always release him and dig up a DH elsewhere if he struggles out of the gate again in 2010.

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.