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World Baseball Classic 2013: Day 15 Results, Recap and Analysis

Thanks to six innings from southpaw Wandy Rodriguez and a home run from Carlos Santana, the Dominicans were able to pull off a 2-0 victory against Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and earn a trip to San Francisco.

The game was destined to be a close one from the get-go. A pitcher’s duel was in full swing until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Santana cranked a homer to right field off of Puerto Rico’s Orlando Roman.

The Dominican Republic got some insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning as well, when catcher Francisco Peña’s single scored Erick Aybar from third base.

The closest Puerto Rico got to scoring a run was when infielder Irving Falu stole second and advanced to third on a Santana throwing error in the third inning. Falu, who replaced an injured Carlos Rivera, was thrown out at home by Aybar when Jesus Feliciano grounded into a fielder’s choice.

The Puerto Ricans almost had a rally going when Mike Aviles hit a two-out double off of Fernando Rodney in the ninth, but the big right-hander got Eddie Rosario to ground out to second to seal the deal.

The Dominican Republic will now head to San Francisco and play the Netherlands for a spot in the WBC Finals, while Puerto Rico will play defending champion Japan. While the Dominican Republic is undefeated and the easy favorite, the Dutch are not to be counted out.

Team Netherlands defeated a heavily favored Cuban squad not once, but twice this tournament, on March 8 and March 11. It may not be done slaying giants yet, so the Dominican Republic had better be ready to face the same team that beat it twice and bounced it from the 2009 WBC.

This means working around Jonathan Schoop and Andrelton Simmons, who have been the two best hitters for the Netherlands in the WBC.

Defeating Puerto Rico is something to celebrate, but the Dominican Republic’s WBC is really just beginning now that the semifinals are about to take place.

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Chase Headley Would Be Perfect Replacement for David Wright at 2013 WBC

David Wright could be out for the rest of the World Baseball Classic with sore ribs, and Team USA officials already have the perfect replacement and another great young third baseman on their radar in Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres.

Speaking to Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune, Headley did indeed say that he has been contacted about joining the team should they advance to the finals by defeating Puerto Rico tonight.

“Team USA reached out to see if I was interested,” said Headley. “I am. It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Team USA. Obviously, I hate to see someone get hurt.”

No matter how you look at it, Wright’s skills and leadership make him a huge loss for both Team USA and his New York Mets. Prior to his injury, he was batting .438 and leading the United States with one home run and 10 RBI.

Playing for the Mets in 2012, he hit .306 with 21 home runs and 93 RBI, plus 15 steals while also representing the National League at the All-Star Game. In every way, shape and form, losing him would be a terrible blow to Team USA’s WBC championship aspirations.

Unless, of course, Headley replaces him on the roster.

Not only is Headley two years younger than Wright, at 28 years old, but he also gives Team USA a fourth switch-hitter in addition to Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ben Zobrist.

He hasn’t yet shown as keen an ability to hit for average as well as Wright does, but just take a look at his numbers from spring training this season.

Through 10 Grapefruit League games, Headley is hitting .440 with three RBI and two extra-base hits. The power he showcased last season has yet to make an appearance, but that is another reason why Team USA should bring him aboard should they advance to the next round.

Hitting for power is one thing that Headley does just as well as Wright, if not better. Last season, he hit .286 with a career-best 31 home runs, 115 RBI and .376 OBP. 13 of those long balls came in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, so it’s clear just how powerful Headley‘s swing is.

That all being said, there is really no reason why Headley should not replace Wright on Team USA’s roster should the United States defeat Puerto Rico tonight.

Wright was the heart and soul of the team’s offense, and bringing in Headley to take over is a far better move than rolling the dice with utility infielder Willie Bloomquist or moving Ryan Braun to the hot corner—where he has not played since committing 26 errors there during his rookie season in 2007.

The fact of the matter is that Headley is one of the best young third basemen in MLB right now and if Team USA makes the next round, bringing him aboard would be the best move in order to ensure a potential WBC championship.

If anyone’s going to replace David Wright, there really isn’t anyone better than him.

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MLB Spring Training 2013: Predicting Biggest Roster Surprises

The best part about MLB spring training is that fans get a glimpse of prospects they don’t get to see regularly. In some cases, these players turn in great springs and earn themselves a roster spot for Opening Day.

This year has been no exception. A bevy of players are starting to make some noise in the early days of spring training in hopes that they will get a spot playing in the show.

One name that many seem to be talking about is St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras (pictured). He’s a fine lefty bat who plays a good center field, but can he beat out incumbent Jon Jay for the final spot, or even make the team as a fourth outfielder?

A similar case can be made for Zoilo Almonte of the New York Yankees, though his path is a bit clearer now that Curtis Granderson is out until May with a broken forearm.

Along with some others, these men are proving to be surprising commodities in spring training, so fans and experts should start watching them more closely.


Barret Loux, P, Chicago Cubs

The story of Barret Loux is an interesting one, and also a bit sad. The hard-throwing righty was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the sixth pick in the 2010 draft out of Texas A&M, but he was not signed due to team management’s concerns over his shoulder and elbow.

Loux then became a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers, going 14-1 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 25 starts with the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League. He also struck out 100 batters over 127 innings pitched, but the Rangers still traded him to the Chicago Cubs when the season was over.

It looked like the 23-year-old would begin the season in the minors once again, but Loux now has an opportunity to make himself stand out. Staff ace Matt Garza has a strained lat muscle, and, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, could start the season on the disabled list.

Loux has only appeared in one game thus far, but threw two scoreless innings while giving up two hits, plus a walk and a strikeout. If he can make the most of the rest of his appearances and set himself apart from the rest of the pack, Loux can definitely make an impact for the Cubs either as a starter or as a hard thrower out of the bullpen.


Leonys Martin, OF, Texas Rangers

Now that Josh Hamilton is gone, the Rangers have a choice to make as to who plays center field. As of now, the men battling for the position are Craig Gentry, Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin.

At this point, I’m expecting Martin to win the job. The 24-year-old is a veteran of the Cuban leagues. He is a solid lefty bat and is currently batting .312 with two RBI and a stolen base in spring training this year. That far outpaces the production of both Gentry and Borbon thus far.

The fact is that Martin is a five-tool player with an incredibly high MLB ceiling. If Texas wants to be able to compete in the AL West this season, they’ll be sure to give him some extra attention.


Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

At just 20 years old, Taveras has a tremendously high ceiling. A power-hitting lefty outfielder, he hit .321 with 23 homers and 94 RBI for Double-A Springfield in 2012.

As a result, he’s been getting a great deal of attention in spring training. The man is hitting .333 with one home run and five RBI thus far, but there are a couple of obstacles in his way.

First, the Cardinals’ outfield is already set, with Matt Holliday in left field, Carlos Beltran in right and Jon Jay in center. Jay is having a fine spring of his own, hitting .375 over his first three games, so his job is safe barring an injury or massive collapse.

Moreover, Taveras has yet to draw a single walk in four games. Plate patience and on-base percentage (OBP) are becoming more and more important with each passing season, so Taveras needs to show improvement there if he wants to take a step closer towards earning a roster spot, be it as a starter or fourth outfielder.


Zoilo Almonte, OF, New York Yankees

The Yankees have a great void to fill now that Curtis Granderson is on the shelf with a broken forearm, and Almonte can expect to see some extended playing time in spring training as a result.

Already one of the team’s most underrated prospects, he and Melky Mesa are the two men competing for Granderson’s spot in the lineup. Of the two, my money is on Almonte.

Through three spring training games, Almonte has hit .400 with a home run and three RBI, and has the advantage of being a switch-hitter.

On top of that, besides blazing speed, Almonte is a fairy well-rounded outfielder. Playing for the Double-A Trenton Thunder last season, he hit .277 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI. At the age of 23, the sky is the limit for this young man.

Look for him to take full advantage of his opportunities over the coming weeks, and to make his MLB debut in the outfield on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.

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Zack Greinke Admits Money Was Reason He Signed with LA Dodgers

People will always love baseball, but thanks to Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke, it is now clear that any sense of loyalty in the game is dead.

Speaking to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Greinke admitted that the sole reason he signed with the Dodgers was money. He explained his reasoning:

It’s obviously the No. 1 thing. I could play for the worst team if they paid the most. … If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go for the $200-million no matter what team it was.

It’s hard to argue with Greinke, who went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and threw 200 strikeouts for the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels last season and ended up signing a six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers in December.

After all, money talks.

But the fact that he was so forthright in admitting why he signed with the Dodgers is a bit unsettling.

First, though it’s slowly starting to become untrue, fans watch baseball with the belief that the players are on the field and playing for the sole love of the game, with money being an added bonus. In one fell swoop, Greinke has essentially killed that ideal. 

More importantly, think of how this could affect the rest of Greinke’s career. He’s 29 years old right now, meaning that barring a major injury, he’ll be 35 when he next hits the open market.

Seeing as how he basically just said he has no loyalty, what team is going to be willing to bring him aboard long-term if he’s just going to ditch them for more money once the deal is up anyway?

Granted, this could also mean that teams will just get into bidding wars over Greinke in the future. Nevertheless, it still attaches a bit of a stigma to him, especially since he basically said the opposite to Ken Gurnick of at his introductory press conference.

There’s a couple things I was really looking at with teams besides the money, I guess, The No. 1 [factor] was to have a team that could have a chance to win a World Series for several years. … My main goal was a team that was competing each year to get a World Series [title]. Also, I looked at the organizations some, the cities — which ones we’d be most comfortable in and which ones we’d enjoy the most. Then also what my parents kind of liked and stuff like that.

[The Angels] kept in contact the whole time, from when I first got there to right when the season was over and right when the World Series was over. When the details came, they never really got into it too much. But my wife and I loved it there. Great place.

Now that the truth is out, that the City of Los Angeles was not really a factor in his signing with the Dodgers, Greinke has a lot of work to do in trying to win the fans over. He needs to have a great season and prove that he is indeed committed to the team and not just punching a clock for a paycheck.

Unless he’s in Cy Young form or something close to it throughout the season, he’s going to have a hard time staying on the fans’ and organization’s good side. After all, he may not care about representing a losing team, but the fans will. 

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Alfonso Soriano Trade Would Dig Insurmountable Hole for Yankees

The New York Yankees need some help in the outfield now that Curtis Granderson is out until May with a broken forearm, but taking on one-time Bronx Bombers prospect Alfonso Soriano is not the answer. Speaking to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the 14-year veteran spoke of a potential return to the team that made him a household name.

“I don’t know if they want to call or not, but if they call for me, I’d have to think about it,” said Soriano, who has two years and $36 million remaining on his contract. “I don’t want to take a quick reaction and say yes or say no. I’m 37 years old, so I have to think about first what’s good for me, my team and my family.

Granted, Soriano returning to the Yankees would not necessarily be the worst thing in the world. The man was with New York as a second baseman from 1999-2003 and hit .284 with 98 home runs, 270 RBI and 121 steals over that stretch. He finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2001 and third in MVP voting in 2002 before being sent to the Texas Rangers in the infamous Alex Rodriguez trade in 2004.

Since then, Soriano has become one of the better power-hitting outfielders in baseball. He has seven All-Star appearances to his name and is a .273 career hitter with 372 career homers and 1,035 RBI. His speed is not what it used to be, but his bat has not deserted him.

But the Yankees must not acquire Soriano under any circumstances. Though a good power hitter, he strikes out way too much and has only drawn 454 walks since debuting in 1999.

Money would not be much of an issue, as the Cubs would likely pay a good majority of the $36 million remaining on Soriano’s contract, but look at it this way. Soriano is 37, and the Yankees already have an aging roster in desperate need of some youth. Taking into consideration that Soriano has also been injury prone ever since signing his monster deal with Chicago in 2007, and there’s another reason that the Yankees should not trade for him.

If a trade does happen, what if Soriano is ineffective or gets hurt? As stacked as the Yankees lineup is, the combination of that and a volatile pitching staff could be enough to get the Yankees off to a slow start that, with the AL East shaping up to be completely up for grabs this season, could doom their 2013 hopes.

That all being said, GM Brian Cashman should flat out take the Chicago Cubs off of speed dial and instead focus on the development of 23-year-old switch-hitting prospect Zoilo Almonte. The talented outfielder hit .277 with 21 homers and 70 RBI for the Double-A Trenton Thunder last season, and he  currently has one home run with two RBI in two spring training games.

This young man clearly has a great deal of talent that could mean great things for him on the MLB level, but Yankees management will never have a chance to check him out if a trade for Soriano goes down.

Unless the Steinbrenner family wants to see the team stumble early and risk not making the playoffs, the idea of a trade for Alfonso Soriano should be taken off the table completely.

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MLB Rumors: Whispers Around the League That Are Just Too Good to Be True

The MLB Hot Stove practically exploded when Zack Greinke signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Josh Hamilton with the Los Angeles Angels, but there are still plenty of rumors for us fans to listen on as the offseason starts to wind down. Speedy outfielder Michael Bourn (pictured) has yet to sign with a team, and a good number of teams are supposedly active on the trade market.

The stove’s temperature may be cooling down, but it’s still incredibly hot to the touch.

Bourn is just a small part of what’s going on in MLB land right now. One team may be looking to unload a heavy contract, while another is supposedly not taking any offers for an inconsistent outfielder.

No matter how you look at it, some of what we’re hearing right now would just be too good to actually happen, but stranger things have certainly taken place before.

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5 Most Amazing Food Options for Fans in MLB Stadiums

Though it usually costs an arm and a leg, I love eating ballpark food.  After all, a guy’s gotta eat, right?  Still, though they all taste delicious, the usual stadium diet of hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jack and beer gets old.

Fortunately, most MLB stadiums have done a fine job moving into the 21st century by tremendously upgrading the food available to the fans.  Be it spicy mac-and-cheese or different takes on a hot dog, eating at the ballpark no longer carries the stigma of throwing money away for crappy food.  For once, fans are starting to get some bang for their buck.

In my case, I’ve been to quite a few ballparks and sampled the various cuisine available there.  Thus, allow me to offer some travel advice to you loyal readers once again as I take you on the ultimate MLB stadium food tour.

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MLB’s ‘All-Intangibles Team’ of the 2013 Free-Agent/Trade Class

MLB free-agency season will be upon us soon, and like fans are each winter, we will be obsessed with where players like All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton end up.

Yet while guys like Hamilton and Zack Greinke will surely get a lot of press regarding their next contracts, some of the best players on the market are sure to fly under the radar. Keep in mind these men aren’t exactly what most would call superstars, but rather players who bring their own special something to the table and have qualities unseen in most run-of-the-mill baseball men.

These unique skills come in a variety of forms, from being a great leader to a pest at the plate to just being a great locker room guy or even a clutch playoff performer.

Sure, they may not be worthy of $20 million a year, but they are still players who are undeniably valuable when push comes to shove. In fact, one of them may make the difference between missing the playoffs and/or winning the World Series.

It’s time to create another special team here at B/R, ladies and gentlemen. This time, it’s the intangibles squad.

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2011 MLB Trade Deadline: Ubaldo Jimenez and All the Day’s Biggest News

The 2011 MLB Trade Deadline is just over 24 hours away, and some big moves have already happened. This week alone, the New York Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants, and last night, Hunter Pence was traded by the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers made a move as they acquired utilityman Jerry Hairston, Jr. from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Double-A prospect Erik Komatsu.

Yet, the biggest name on the trade market that still appears to be floating around is that of Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Earlier today, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian tweeted that the New York Yankees were “all over” the right-hander. This is certainly an interesting development as it was rumored earlier this week that the Rockies’ asking price for Jimenez was too high for Yankee GM Brian Cashman.

Still, with the Boston Red Sox reportedly interested in Jimenez, don’t be surprised if the Yanks end up making a deal for Jimenez as the deadline approaches. The Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays have also shown interest.

It’s sure to be an exciting weekend, folks. Stay tuned for more updates on deals involving your favorite teams and players over the next two days!

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Derek Jeter: How Long Will the Captain Keep Playing After Reaching 3,000 Hits?

On Monday, New York Yankee captain Derek Jeter is expected to make his return from the 15-day DL against the Cleveland Indians.  The veteran is six hits away from 3,000 for his career.  Upon reaching that milestone, he will become the first New York Yankee to accomplish that feat.

However, as he has chased that milestone this season, Jeter’s numbers have been fairly average.  A career .312 hitter, he is batting just .260 with two home runs and 20 RBI.  Of his 68 hits this season, all but 12 are singles. 

This should cause concern not only for Yankees fans, but also the front office.  The shortstop is currently in the first year of a three-year contract worth $51 million, plus an option for a fourth year.  In all honesty, I don’t see Jeter playing beyond the length of the contract.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jeter is a fine athlete who has been a great presence on the Yankees throughout his career.  Yet, he is now 37 years old and, as much as I hate to say it, is being slowed by age.

Take a look at his numbers last season.  He hit just .270, a career low for him and his lowest season batting average since hitting .292 in 2004.  To put it bluntly, for much of the latter half of 2010, Derek Jeter just looked lost at the plate.

He entered spring training looking to adjust his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long and he did just that, but went back to his old swing just a couple of weeks into the season.  Am I the only one who thinks that was a bone-headed move?

Anyway, back to the point.  Jeter is inevitably going to reach 3,000 hits this season, and fans will celebrate as the feat is added to his Hall-of-Fame resume.  Yet, after hitting that mark, does Jeter really have anything else to prove?

He is already the all-time Yankees leader in hits and stolen bases.  On top of that, he is also at the top of the list in career postseason hits and runs scored.

Most important, however, is Jeter’s success in the later rounds of the playoffs.  He has been to the World Series seven times and has walked away a winner five times.

After hit No. 3,000, there isn’t much else that Jeter needs to do to make his case for the Hall of Fame.  All he could possibly do is win another World Series.  As awesome as that would be, why keep playing and looking bad on the decline?

Still, Jeter is a proud man who isn’t going to leave baseball quietly.  I can see him playing out this contract, fourth year option at all.  He will be 40 years old at that point and barring some sort of miracle, be done with baseball.

I can only hope that he finishes his career with a bang, for it would be quite a shame for one of the most beloved New York Yankees of all time to go out on such a steep decline.

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