Greetings from Day 3 of the Winter Meetings

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In-N-Out in Dallas?  Who knew?  Baseball writers, that’s who. You could put them on an island in some far flung sea and they’d be able to find an In-N-Out Burger.  It’s just what they do.

I felt obligated to go anyway. The lobby was getting to be too much for me last night.  The first 200 conversations that began with “so, who do you think the Mystery Team is?” were endurable but it got slightly less so as the evening wore on. Sometimes you just need a cheeseburger in that situation.

Not that anyone could or should think that Pujols talk was avoidable. He has dominated the first two days of the Winter Meetings, for obvious reasons. He’s huge. No one else is doing anything. And oh my God, the Marlins.

Maybe the Marlins with some hubris, too: they spread the word yesterday that they wanted a decision from Pujols last night. Well, it’s 7AM here and he’s still a free agent. As if they were going to pull their offer because of an arbitrary deadline.  It’s like they’re trying to steal someone’s wife and are forcing her to run off with them tonight lest she think too hard about what she’s doing and change her mind. Albert will decide on Albert’s time.

Otherwise, in the event that, unlike me, you went to bed at a decent hour, wake up this morning to the knowledge that the Tigers are interested in Gio Gonzalez, though the A’s are apparently asking a mint.  The Mariners are maintaining their pursuit of Prince Fielder. The Mets paid what seems like way too damn much money for Frank Francisco.  Sandy Alderson seemed like a guy who understood supply and demand, but I suppose not. He isn’t the first GM to go reliever crazy this winter.

Pujols has to sign today, right? I mean, he can’t keep teasing us all like this, can he?  Either way, we’ll be on the case again. Keep HBT up all day. Your boss will understand. This is serious business.

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.