Dominican Republic routs Venezuela 9-3 in WBC

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Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI and Hanley Ramirez added a long homer as the Dominican Republic torched Venezuela 9-3 in the start of Pool C play.

The Dominican team jumped out to a 3-0 lead off Anibal Sanchez in the bottom of the first, only to see the game halted by a 50-minute rain delay. When play resumed, both Sanchez and Dominican starter Edinson Volquez were gone from the game. However, the Dominican offense just kept scoring, adding two runs off Cesar Jimenez and four off Jhoulys Chacin.

Venezuela managed just two runs in the third and one in the fourth before being shut down for the rest of the night. Pedro Strop ended up with the win after retiring all five batters he faced. Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney finished the game with scoreless innings.

Pablo Sandoval doubled in two of Venezuela’s three runs. Miguel Cabrera was quiet, going 0-for-4 with a walk.

The Dominican offense got four hits from Jose Reyes and two RBI apiece from Nelson Cruz and Alejandro De Aza. Carlos Santana walked in all four of his plate appearances.

The convincing victory should give the Dominican Republic an easy path to Round 2. Even if the D.R., Venezuela and Puerto Rico all end up 2-1, the D.R. has a big head start in the tiebreaker. Spain and Puerto Rico are the next game up in Pool C on Friday. Saturday will feature the Dominican Republic versus Spain and Puerto Rico versus Venezuela.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.