This June's Philles-Jays series to be moved to Philadelphia

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The home team.jpgThere have been rumblings about this since February, but there will be an announcement later today in which the Jays-Phillies series currently scheduled for June 25-27th in Toronto will be moved to Citizens Bank Park in Philly due to interference from the G-20 summit, which is also scheduled in Toronto for that time.

The technical effect: the Phillies will be the visiting team in their own home park, and the designated hitter will be used.

The practical effect: The Phillies get three extra home games this year and Toronto fans don’t get to see the return of Roy Halladay, which many people had been looking forward to.

This, as the poets like to say, sucks.  Still, it will only “totally suck” if either the Jays or someone in the NL East besides the Phillies finishes one game out of a playoff spot.  Otherwise, everyone will survive, I presume.

One question I presume many will be asking is why Philly? Why not put it in a neutral location, or try to make some event out of it by, say, putting it in Puerto Rico or in the Grand Canyon or something?

My response to that is that baseball (a) wants to maximize revenue, and that while some promotion might be fun, it’s not money-in-the-bank like 40,000+ people buying beer in Philly is; and (b) those neutral site games baseball put in Milwaukee a few years ago due to early-season snowouts and hurricanes and stuff were criticized for being antiseptic and rather joyless games, devoid of any real roaring crowd.

I’d still prefer the powers that be to try and find some way to keep the game in Toronto, but seeing as though that’s apparently impossible, Philly is the best that can be done. I mean, at least in Philly one side is getting cheered, and that kind of matters.

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.