Rosenthal: teams "probably" colluded against the players, but it's a tough case to make

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Rosenthal pretty much sums up my exact thinking when it comes to the collusion stuff from the past couple of days when he says:

Do I think baseball teams engaged in collusion to hold down free-agent
salaries? Probably. Do I think the players’ union
can prove that the teams engaged in such an illegal conspiracy? Not
easily.

The key here is that there are two kinds of evidence that can make a collusion case: (1) data evidence, such as how much are people making now compared to last year and whether that makes rational sense; and (2) gumshoe evidence, such as incriminating emails, testimony from someone about how so-and-so talked to so-and-so about manipulating the market and things of that nature.

Based on what some smart people like J.C. Bradbury have pointed out there may not be much to the data case, and as I mentioned yesterday, simply being smarter and analytical about it all can led to teams valuing players at similar levels.

But based on what Rosenthal points out — and the stuff I’m hearing — there may be more to this than a mere data case, however.  All it takes is a couple of people to pull back the curtain and a collusion conspiracy — like the ones in the past — would be revealed.  It’s being suggested that such gumshoe evidence exists. Whether that’s true and whether it’s enough to make a case is still an open question.

Rosenthal, by the way, also provides a nice collusion history lesson.  The famous cases from the 1980s weren’t the only times ownership colluded to keep salaries down. The league gave the players a lump some payment in 2002 to settle threatened-but-unfiled collusion claims. Between that, the three 80s cases and the entire century of pre-free agency baseball, teams not acting in concert to keep player salaries down is far and away the exception, not the rule.

Like I said yesterday: worth watching.

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.