It’s time for Dodgers to release James Loney

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Haven’t we all seen enough by now?

All James Loney really had going for him the past couple of years was decent RBI totals.  He truly was a clutch player, in that he hit like a perfectly solid first baseman with RISP and then napped through his at-bats with no one on.

This year, though, Loney has hit like a bad shortstop no matter the situation.  He’s batting .251/.294/.325 with five homers.  Despite batting fifth and sixth all season, he’s driven in a piddly 35 runs in 378 at-bats.

So, the Dodgers should just give up on him now.  There’s no way he can rebound enough over the final 47 games of the season to justify another raise in arbitration this winter.  Despite his modest production — this will be his fourth straight season with an OPS under .800 and fewer than 15 homers — he’s making $4.875 million.  Players in arbitration don’t take paycuts, so the Dodgers would have to spend at least that much to bring him back next year, making him a virtual shoo-in to get non-tendered.  Why not start the process early and spend these next 47 games instead looking at whether Jerry Sands can step in at first base next year?

Sands, who also plays left field, struggled to a .200/.294/.328 line in 25 at-bats for the Dodgers earlier this season, but that just gave him the same OPS that Loney has posted in three times as much action.  Back in Triple-A, Sands has hit 21 homers in 268 at-bats.  He’s taken full advantage of the high-offense environment at Albuquerque — he has a 1.096 OPS at home and a .640 OPS on the road — so there is reason to be skeptical.  But that’s why the smart play would be to give him a long look now before deciding whether to sign a first baseman over the winter.

It’s not as though there’s anything left to lose.

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.