More observations from Hohokam Park

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Sorry I’m all photo crazy today. Just really jazzed to be where baseball is happening and I feel more like soaking it in than thinking too hard about it.  Here’s something to soak in:

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Seven bucks for an Old Style? Yikes. He told me I “looked like an Old Style Man.” I politely declined. I mean, I’m not above snagging a beer while I’m at the park — it’s not like I’d take it up to the press box — but I’m not gonna start in with Old Styles three innings in to my first spring training game when I’m running a monster sleep deficit.

Something else to soak in: Yasiel Puig’s name auto-corrects on an iPhone to “Haskell Lying.”  He also hit the crap out of this ball as I was walking along the concourse:

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I’m really curious to see how Puig does. He hit .330/.430/.581 with 17 homers and a 39/49 K/BB ratio in 327 at-bats at age 19 in Cuba. Many are skeptical about how he projects — and obviously me watching two whole plate appearances from him today means nothing — but he could be a lot of fun.

Random: The Cubs wear their regular season uniforms for home spring training games. I like that a lot. Dress for the job you want. Look the part be the part. More teams should do it. And yes, this is coming from a guy who wears pajamas all day, but (a) I have the job I want; and (b) wearing pajamas is looking the part for this gig.

Also fun: I spent the first few innings in a seat up high along the third base line. Right above me was a party deck with some corporate types, out for a corporate outing at the old ball park. Overheard:

P.A. Announcer: “Now batting for the Cubs, number 12, Alfonso Soriano.”

Man 1: Soriano. Why do I know that name?

Man 2: I think he used to play for the Yankees, right?

Man 1: Yeah. He’s the Yankees second baseman. Or he was. A year or two ago, I think.

Man 2: Yeah.

High beer prices, less-than-plugged-in crowds. But I don’t care a lick because I’m at a ballpark.

Now where’s that Old Style guy? If I can get him down to $5, we may be able to do some 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.