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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.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.