Jonathan Schoop powers The Netherlands past Cuba

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Diegomar Markwell pitched six innings of one-run ball and Jonathan Schoop knocked in four runs with a homer and a double as The Netherlands bested Cuba 6-2 in the start of Round 2 WBC play.

Markwell surrendered nine hits in his six innings of work, but was aided by five double plays and a botched sacrifice bunt. The only run he surrendered came on Alfredo Despaigne’s second-inning homer.

Schoop was involved in four of the double plays and was the offensive MVP, giving The Netherlands room to breathe with his three-run blast in the sixth. He finished the game 3-for-6.

First baseman Curt Smith also homered for The Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons went 2-for-4 with a walk and had a brilliant defensive game, factoring into all five double plays.

Cuba, meanwhile, was very sloppy, committing two official errors, botching a couple of other infield plays and failing in its attempt to play small ball.

The Netherlands’ victory was slightly marred by a terrible call on a foul popup to end the eighth. Smith tried to go into the camera well to catch the ball, but it obviously went off his glove and hit the cement floor. He then picked the ball up with his glove, making no attempt to suggest he caught it, and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez gave him the out call, at which point he turned around and headed to the dugout. Cuba disputed the call, but first-base umpire Gerry Davis failed to follow the play and no one else was in any sort of position to overrule Marquez.

The call, as bad as it was, hardly figured to be a game-changer. No one was on base at the time, and Cuba appeared to have mailed this one in a few innings earlier. Cuban manager Victor Mesa made himself the main attraction tonight, trying to rub up baseballs with his batting gloves while making pitching changes and then fuming after Marquez forced the pitchers to switch baseballs afterwards. He warranted ejection on a couple of occasions, and he certainly would have been tossed if he were managing any other team.

The Netherlands will next face the winner of Chinese Taipei and Japan as it attempts to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. Cuba moves on to the loser’s bracket in the modified double-elimination round.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment ‘egregious case of service time manipulation’

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.