Red Sox gear up for 85 wins with Shane Victorino in right field

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In looking at Shane Victorino’s future last night, I concluded that he wasn’t a bad bet to last as a quality regular for a few more years, in spite of his down 2012 season.

Still, I wouldn’t have recommended wagering $39 million on it.

That’s the gamble the Red Sox took today in committing to Victorino for his age 32-34 seasons. At $13 million per year, it’s hard to imagine him being any sort of bargain. The best-case scenario would seem to have him being worth just what the Red Sox paid for him.

On the other hand, the Red Sox may well have been able to sign B.J. Upton for $16 million per year for his age 28-32 seasons. That comes with some risk as well, but at least Upton has several prime years left and has shown tantalizing glimpses of superstar potential. Victorino’s slide last year suggested that he may be just one or two years away from becoming a fourth outfielder.

So, no, I don’t get this deal. The Red Sox won 69 games last year behind three 90-win clubs in the AL East and a Toronto team that has taken a huge step forward this winter. They’re not a slightly above average right fielder and a quality first baseman away from returning to the postseason. It would have been worth rolling the dice with Upton or maybe even Josh Hamilton if his market didn’t play out as hoped, but barring that, they could have given Ryan Kalish a try and then reevaluated the position next winter.

In the last month, the Red Sox have committed multiyear deals to Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross to the tune of $34 million per season. They’re probably going to spend another $12 million or so per season on a starting pitcher from the Ryan Dempster genre. That they’re making the team better is a given. That they’re making it better enough to actually go anywhere in 2013 seems pretty unlikely.

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.