An early guess at Team USA’s WBC lineup

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If Derek Jeter’s broken ankle didn’t take him out of the mix for the World Baseball Classic the moment it happened, today’s news that he needs surgery definitely makes the issue moot.

But as unfortunate as Jeter’s injury is for the Yankees, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for Team USA in next spring’s World Baseball Classic. With Joe Torre running the show, one imagines Jeter would have been the team’s starting shortstop, even though he hardly seems like the best option.

Team USA has also lost another likely starter to surgery in the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Again, that’s hardly a disaster, though Kemp was the National League’s best player in 2011 and for the first month of 2012. There’s still plenty of talent to go around.

I’m just going to look at the position candidates for now, with perhaps a separate blog dedicated to pitching possibilities later.

Catcher: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters

It’ll obviously be a Posey-Mauer duo unless one of those two opts to step aside. Posey would probably do the bulk of the catching in the scenario, which is surely how the Twins would prefer it anyway.

First base: Prince Fielder, Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Adam LaRoche

Although Adrian Gonzalez was born in San Diego, he played for Mexico in the 2009 WBC. Team USA could use him here, but Fielder isn’t a bad alternative.

Second base: Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley

I’m listing Utley, though with his knee problems, I doubt he’ll opt in. Pedroia was set to be Team USA’s second baseman in 2009, but he was injured and replaced by Brian Roberts. I think he’s the best option here, but Phillips may well get the nod over him as a starter. The versatile Zobrist would be a perfect reserve.

Third base: Evan Longoria, David Wright, Chase Headley, Ryan Zimmerman, David Freese

Both Longoria and Wright were on the 2009 team, and it’d make sense to go with that duo again. Headley might have been the best of this bunch in 2012, but he still doesn’t have the track record of the top two.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki, Jimmy Rollins, Ian Desmond, J.J. Hardy

Given how much of the 2012 season Tulowitzki missed, one wonders if the Rockies might try to block him from playing in the WBC. Let’s hope not, because he’s pretty clearly Team USA’s best option at shortstop. If he’s unavailable, then Rollins is the logical starter.

Outfielders: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Hamilton, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday, Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Alex Gordon, Torii Hunter, Jason Heyward

Kemp would have looked pretty good as a starting right fielder, had he been willing to switch positions, but his loss isn’t a particularly big one. Hamilton seems like a long shot to play, particularly if he signs with a new team this winter.

So, how about this for a lineup:

RF Mike Trout – R
2B Dustin Pedroia – R
CF Andrew McCutchen – R
LF Ryan Braun – R
1B Prince Fielder – L
C Buster Posey – R
DH Giancarlo Stanton – R
3B Evan Longoria – R
SS Troy Tulowitzki – R

With a bench of Mauer, Zobrist, Rollins, Wright and one of the left-handed-hitting outfielders.

Yes, the entire group is righty heavy, but that’s pretty much the way it has to be. Torre can always start Mauer at catcher or DH or play Rollins at short if he wants some lefties in there.  It should have the edge on the outstanding Dominican lineup, that could include such talents as Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, Jose Reyes and Adrian Beltre.

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.