After defending champion Japan barely survived Brazil’s upset bid, South Korea was dealt quite a blow in its attempt to return to the World Baseball Classic finals, losing to The Netherlands 5-0 in Pool B play.
Diegomar Markwell, Orlando Yntema, Leon Boyd and Mark Pawelek combined on the shutout for the Dutch. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons went 3-for-5 with two doubled from the leadoff spot, and Andrew Jones went 2-for-4 with a double as the DH.
Korea played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, committing four errors. The team also collected just four hits, all of them singles.
While The Netherlands has a nice lineup — the team also features Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Yakult Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien and top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts — pitching figured to be its undoing. Korea, though, could get no handle on today’s journeymen, none of whom are employed by major league clubs. The 32-year-old Markwell pitched in the Blue Jays system from 1997-2003, going 5-7 with a 7.04 ERA in Double-A his final season. Pawelek was a 2005 first-round pick of the Cubs, but he never made it past A ball in the Cubs or Reds systems.
Korea will now likely have to come back and beat both Chinese Taipei and Australia in order to advance in the WBC. The Netherlands will be aiming to go to the second round for the second straight tournament. In 2009, the Dutch advanced on a tiebreaker as one of three Pool D teams to go 1-2.
The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.
Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.
Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.
As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.
Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.
Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.