Major League Baseball continues to keep the Athletics in limbo

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We’re pushing two years since baseball said it was “studying” the issue of where the Athletics should play.  Could they find a way around the Giants’ territorial rights in San Jose? Is Oakland, in fact, a viable home for the A’s going forward?  We don’t know!  Because apparently doing some basic economic studies, looking at publicly-available data and having some tough meetings with the owners of the Giants is more complex than the Manhattan Project. Either that or baseball is just sitting on this, hoping the problem solves itself while the A’s fan base continues to become more disillusioned. And to shrink.

Baseball’s inaction is causing more concrete problems too. For example, San Jose had until this past Tuesday to put a stadium initiative on the spring ballot, but that deadline came and went because no one in San Jose wants to stake their political capital on a campaign that baseball could doom by inaction or by choosing Oakland.

At the same time, Oakland stepped up with an actual stadium proposal and a public hearing on the matter the other night that has reignited interest on the part of some Oakland fans. However, the step needed to make the ballpark an actual possibility — and environmental impact assessment — is likely to be put on hold. Why? Because Oakland officials wisely are loathe to spend millions on such a study if baseball is unwilling to commit to the A’s staying in town.

Mr. Selig: get on with it. Your continued inaction on the matter of the Athletics’ future is killing the team. If no deal can be cut with the Giants, pull the plug on Lew Wolff’s designs on San Jose. If Oakland is truly not a viable market for the A’s, say so and do what is necessary to forge a compromise on territorial rights.  You’re supposed to be the leader of this sport. Friggin’ lead for once, will ya?

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.