The Hall of Fame ballot is out, and it’s jam-packed with Hall of Famers

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The Hall of Fame ballot for the 2014 inductions has been released and it’s so full of Hall of Fame-worthy players it’s a bit ridiculous. Of course, because voters are limited to ten votes and most voters have decided to make the Hall of Fame election a morality test rather than just an assessment of baseball merit, hardly any of these guys will get in.  But some will.

The entire ballot can be seen at the BBWAA website. The most notable first-timers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina. Among the holdovers with seriously strong Hall of Fame chances or, at the very least, cases: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell. There are several others on the ballot who deserve strong consideration as well but aren’t getting it.

A big reason some of them aren’t getting it? PEDs. Bonds, Clemens and McGwire were considered locks for the Hall of Fame at one point in their career, but are all practically disqualified now due to voters’ aversion to PED-connected players entering Cooperstown’s hallowed Hall. Bagwell and Piazza got way fewer votes than they should have because voters’ aversion to PEDs is so great that they’ll assume PED use even for guys who have never been credibly connected with the stuff. This is what we’re dealing with, folks.

As for handicapping the voting, Raines, Piazza, Bagwell, Morris and Biggio got over 50% of the vote last year, so they have to be considered contenders. Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are all pretty close to locks, one would assume, given the absence of PED-ties and their clearly strong cases on purely baseball merits. Of course, not all of them will get in, most likely because the overstuffed ballot will split support among the many worthy candidates.

Gun to my head, I figure Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio and Morris get in, with everyone else left out in the cold. If more than those guys creep in I’d say it’d be Bagwell or possibly Mussina, but my guess is they have some years to wait.

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.