The World Baseball Classic gets bigger

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HBT is not exactly your go-to source for World Baseball Classic information.  I just did a search of the archives, and apart from random mentions of international players who may have once played in the WBC, the last two posts we had about the thing was (a) Joe Torre saying that managing in the WBC might be “interesting“; and (b) a story about how Geovany Soto tested positive for marijuana during the last WBC.

Maybe we’ll ramp up the coverage between now and the next round in 2013, but I can’t promise you anything. For now we’ll at least try, and pass along the news that the field for the 2013 WBC has been expanded from 16 to 28 countries via the addition of a new qualifying round in which 16 teams will be divided into four pools of four teams each, while 12 others get a bye.  The qualifying round will take place in the fall of 2012.  The participants in that round will be:

Brazil
Canada
Chinese Taipei
Colombia
Czech Republic
France
Germany
Great Britain
Israel
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Panama
Philippines
South Africa
Spain
Thailand

Those who advance join the big boys of international baseball in March 2013.

Look, this isn’t going to jazz any of you who don’t care about the WBC and international baseball in general. And I’ll admit, I fall into that camp.  But, as ESPN’s Jorge Arangure pointed out on Twitter a few minutes ago, a lot of people outside of the major baseball capitals do care about this, and many of them have lobbied hard to make the field bigger.  This news is the product of that, and the qualifying round is designed to appeal to them, in places where the game still needs to be grown, not for folks in New York, Tokyo and San Pedro de Macoris.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.