Two thoughts about the elimination of home plate collisions

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In the wake of yesterday’s news that home plate collisions will now be outlawed, I have a deep thought: will players who used to bowl over catchers now be retroactively considered cheaters the way pre-testing PED users are? Like, will we hold it against them for knocking over catchers even though there were no penalties for doing so?

Just kidding.

But some people are serious about the topic. My exceedingly informal polling of Winter Meetings attendees last night shows that, at least among people in and around the game, the rule change is quite popular. Of the couple of dozen people I asked about it around the Winter Meetings lobby, all but one or two were sharply in favor of eliminating collisions. The couple who were less enthusiastic were still nonetheless in support of the rule change on some level — they acknowledged its utility and necessity — but offered some vague misgiving about not being able to see an exciting play like a runner knocking into a catcher.

The farther you are from the game, however, the more sharp one’s disagreement may be. Here’s an email I received last night:

I was stunned reading the headline of the Major League Baseball article about abolishing collisions at home plate. I started catching baseball and softball in 1952 and hung up my spikes in 1989.  I was run into many times over the years. It’s an integral part of the game.  It’s an exiting time for the catcher, the throwing player, and runner. What is wrong with Joe Torre? He caught for years and should have enjoyed the same exhilaration of the event . . . This new rule is childish. Today contracts mean more than risking your body. It’s an art for the catcher to end the collision play with success. If the players vote for this, they agree with me about their contracts.

That sort of thing makes me wonder if people think of ballplayers as actual people or as mere instruments of their entertainment. But I bet a lot more people feel that way about the matter than you think.

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.