You’ve probably heard that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died this evening at the age of 58.
If you didn’t think we would try to find a baseball angle in this, you’re probably not a very frequent reader of HardballTalk. And shame on you for that.
Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel describes the scene before Tuesday night’s 2013 World Baseball Classic warmup game between the Marlins and Team Venezuela in Jupiter, Florida:
The death of the controversial Venezuelan leader after a battle with cancer was announced a couple hours before the nation’s entry in the World Baseball Classic faced the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.
A Marlins spokesman said all parties involved in the exhibition, including Major League Baseball, agreed to not have the moment of silence for Chavez.
The Venezuelan flag in the stadium was lowered to half staff for a few minutes, then raised again.
Hector Rodriguez, Venezuela’s minister of sports, called the team and told them to “concentrate on sports and leave political stuff out.”
“He was a man of baseball,” Team Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said of Chavez. “He was always aware of the team and who was on it. He was the first call I got in the morning during the tournaments in 2006 and 2009. He lived for baseball.” Perhaps there will be some kind of tribute once actual WBC games get underway.
Venezuela faces the Dominican Republic on Thursday night, Puerto Rico on Saturday evening and Spain on Sunday afternoon. Those are the teams in Pool C. Their games are being played in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Padres starter Jered Weaver lasted just two-thirds of an inning in Wednesday afternoon’s Cactus League appearance against the Royals. He yielded four runs on three hits, throwing 31 pitches before getting pulled. His spring ERA now sits at an ugly 10.13.
Weaver said he’s been dealing with a “dead arm” since his last bullpen session, but added he’s dealt with the issue in previous springs, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The Padres signed Weaver to a one-year, $3 million contract last month. The right-hander is coming off of the worst season of his 11-year career. His fastball averaged a career-low 83 MPH and he put up a 5.06 ERA with a 103/51 K/BB ratio in 178 innings.
Earlier, Craig wrote about Dan Duquette’s dogwhistle language in his criticism of Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. We have some more dogwhistling, this time coming from Tigers (and Team U.S.) second baseman Ian Kinsler. Via Billy Witz of The New York Times:
I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.
The goal of the World Baseball Classic, created by Major League Baseball, is to promote baseball across the globe. It’s players like Puerto Rico’s Javier Baez who are doing the best job in that regard, not boring white guys from the U.S. Potential baseball fans are not swayed into liking the sport when a player hits a home run and solemnly puts his head down to stroll the bases. They get excited and energized when players show emotion, flip their bats, celebrate. Baez did more to make baseball appeal to new and lapsed audiences with his premature celebration tag than the entire U.S. team has done this tournament.
Furthermore, it is hypocritical to want to diversify the sport’s audience while squelching incoming cultures.
Jim Leyland also got in on the action:
Go Puerto Rico.