Japan threatens to boycott World Baseball Classic

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Japan has won both World Baseball Classic tournaments, but unhappiness over how the merchandising and sponsorship revenue is split up has the back-to-back defending champions threatening to boycott the 2013 games.

Japanese players’ association chairman Takahiro Arai told the Associated Press that they first told WBC organizers of their demands “a year and a half ago … but we have yet to get a response, and since it appears one is not coming we are forced to take this stance.”

Of course, the Associated Press also points out that Japan made similar threats to boycott the 2009 tournament “but eventually took part.”

Adding to the potential drama is that Japan is scheduled to host the first-round of the tournament, which will take place in March.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.