Giants send Brandon Belt back to the minors … again

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Brandon Belt got off to a slow start with the Giants, but the 23-year-old rookie hit .324 with a 1.011 OPS in 43 games after being sent back to Triple-A and San Francisco’s starting first baseman, Aubrey Huff, is hitting .243 with a .665 OPS.

You’d think that would convince the Giants to give Belt a legitimate chance to unseat Huff down the stretch, but instead they kept Belt on the bench for the past couple weeks and then demoted him back to the minors yesterday to make room on the roster for Mark DeRosa coming off the disabled list.

There’s nothing left for Belt to prove in the minors, where he’s hit .337 with a 1.036 OPS at Double-A and .300 with a .998 OPS at Triple-A, but he’s never going to prove himself in the majors unless the Giants actually give him an extended opportunity. They haven’t and apparently won’t, at least not this season.

Or as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News put it:

So it appears the Giants are going to ride it out with Aubrey Huff at first base. After covering this organization for eight years, I can’t say I’m surprised. Hey, I just report the facts. You’re free to opine from there. Without profanity, please.

That’s about as close as a beat reporter will come to letting readers know he’s dumb-founded by a move.

Huff was a big part of the Giants’ championship last season, but he’s been one of MLB’s least productive first basemen this season and is 34 years old. Re-signing Huff to a two-year, $22 million deal was a mistake made in the euphoria of a World Series win and that contract along with his veteran-ness is now keeping him in the lineup ahead of a far more promising player.

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.