Archive for January, 2006

Bush government reverses call, Cuba allow to play

Cuban Flag Painted On Wall., Varadero, Matanzas, CubaFinally, after waiting for almost a month about reapplied license, Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control decide to reverse decision and permit Cuba to be allowed to participate in the inaugural World Baseball Classic next spring.

Due to 45-year-old America sanctions against Cuba to prevent Fidel Castro’s government from receiving U.S. currency, special license is necessary for Cua to play in the 16-team tournament. However, the first first application was denied on Dec. 13th because Cuban spies might accompany the team based on spokesman Sean McCormack.

Commissioner’s office and the players’ association reapplied on Dec. 22 after Cuba said it would donate any profits it receives to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and U.S. government reversed course and issued the special license on Janauary 20th.

“The president wanted to see it resolved in a positive way,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “Our concerns were centered on making sure that no money was going to the Castro regime and that the World Baseball Classic would not be misused by the regime for spying. We believe the concerns have been addressed.” He also said, “There will be some good baseball games in Puerto Rico,”

“Working closely with World Baseball Classic Inc. and the State Department, we were able to reach a licensable agreement that upholds both the legal scope and the spirit of the sanctions,” Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said. “This agreement ensures that no funding will make its way into the hands of the Castro regime.”

After the initial rejection, Puerto Rico threatened to withdraw as a host site, International Baseball Federation threatened to withdraw its sanction of the WBC if Cuba was not allowed to participate. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said that any future U.S. bids to host the Olympics would have to ensure there would be no restrictions on participating nations.

Paul Archey, senior vice president of Major League Baseball International, and union lawyer Doyle Pryor went to Cuba on Jan. 10 and 11 to negotiate terms of Cuba’s participation that would be acceptable to the U.S. administration.

“Everybody involved in the tournament wanted the best teams in the world to be involved, and certainly Cuba is one of those teams,” U.S. manager Buck Martinez said. “Everybody feels pretty confident this is now really going to be a test of the best teams in the world.”

“We were always positive,” said Antonio Munoz, the promoter who paid millions of dollars to stage the first two rounds in San Juan. “There were some negative people, but they were wrong in the end.”

Japan manager Sadaharu Oh welcomed the decision. “I am glad. Now the top class will be participating,” Oh said. “If Cuba doesn’t take part, the WBC wouldn’t mean anything.”

Cuba won the Olympic gold medal in 1992, 1996 and 2004, and the United States won in 2000. Olympic baseball initially was limited to amateur players, but even after professionals were allowed in for the 2000 Sydney Games, only minor leageurs play. Major leaguers didn’t take part because MLB doesn’t stop its regular season for the Olympics.

However, even now Cuba is it, their roster is not expected to include defectors, such as Jose Contreras, Orlando Hernandez and Livan Hernandez, all them are in Major League now.

“The federal government thoughtfully and diligently helped us bring the application process to a successful conclusion,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “Now, with Cuba’s entry in the tournament approved, the World Baseball Classic promises to be an historic event and will guarantee our fans the greatest possible competition among the best players in the world.”

“The license we have been given opens the way for the Cuban Baseball Federation’s participation, along with other federations from around the world, in the inaugural Baseball Classic,” MLB Players Association executive director Don Fehr said.

Cuba is in Group C with Panama, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands, playing the first-round in San Juan. If they advance (by being the top two teams of the group), the Cubans also would play second-round in San Juan. If they advanced then, the semifinals and final will be at Petco Park in San Diego on March 18-20.

In Havana, Cubans thought it is a “political home run” scored by their country. “Now we are going to see who is who,” said Renier, a baseball fan in Havana’s Central Park, “Washington changed its mind because the world of baseball was really annoyed about Cuba not being there.”

“Cuba will step up, of that I have no doubt,” said Ramon Enriquez, who was among baseball fans discussing the news at Havana’s Parque Central. “Those boys will play with that all-consuming courage.”

“Oh, magnificent! Tremendous!” exclaimed Osvaldo Herrera, who was standing on a street corner in Havana with three other sports lovers discussing Cuban baseball.

Although lots of people are happy, some Anti-Castro in Miami was disappointed about this decision. Cuban-American congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, called the Bush administration’s reversal “lamentable and unfortunate,” and said the Cuban players should defect once they reach Puerto Rico.

“I hope that the Cuban players will use this opportunity to escape totalitarianism and reach freedom in the U.S.,” said Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American.

Cuban-born U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., also finds fault with the decision. “This is a disappointing reversal. Even though this decision allows the Cuban government to field a team, that team will not be wholly representative of Cuba,” said Sen. Martinez. “The Cuban government has already announced that Cuban players who defected to the U.S. to play in Major League Baseball will not be allowed to play for Cuba.”

Martinez said if it Major League Baseball hopes to remove politics from the World Baseball Classic, and focus on the athletic competition and pride of the countries involved, it should insist that Cuban-born players have a chance to play for Cuba.

“”Just like other Major Leaguers can play for their home-countries like David Ortiz and Miguel Olivo of the Dominican Republic or Johan Santana and Miguel Cabrera of Venezuela, so too should Orlando and Livan Hernandez and Jose Contreras and any other Cubans in the Majors be allowed to play for Cuba,” said the senator.

“I call on Major League Baseball to insist they play … They are Cuban; they have a right to represent Cuba if they so choose and that right ought to be respected.”

60-man roster submit deadline

Sixty-man rosters must be submitted by Jan. 17.

Buehrle, Iguchi said no to Classic

Mark Buehrle -  '05  World Series Game 2  / Action
Chicago White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, two valuable players of the Sox’s 2005 World Series title, announced they have withdrawn from their participation in the first World Baseball Classic this March.

Buehrle who won 16 games, lost 8 games, ERA 3.12, 149 Strikeout in 2005, has pitched 221 innings or more in each of the last five seasons. He already had relayed his decision to Buck Martinez, the manager for the United States.

Buehrle’s first public comments regarding this matter came during an interview on “White Sox Weekly,” a Saturday staple on WSCR-AM 670, the new flagship station for the White Sox. “I turned down to play in the World Baseball Classic,” Buehrle told host Chris Rongey on Saturday morning. “The main reason is that I want to be ready for the season, and I don’t want to cheat our fans and my teammates.”

“With me going into the Classic, I’m taking a chance of getting hurt. It’s such an honor to even be asked to go play there, and that’s why I really thought about it a lot. But I talked to Buck Martinez the other day, and told him I’m going to have to turn it down this year.”

His decision alleviates concerns about their rotation. The Sox have 22-year-old Brandon McCarthy who is a potential sixth starter and could be into the 5th one if they choice to trade Jose Contreras for prospects or if any starter gets hurt.

Citing his position on the major league club, wants to focus on his play as he enters his second year in the majors, Iguchi has withdrawn from the Japanese squad.

According to Kyodo News agency, “Unfortunately, I’ve decided to withdraw from the squad. I informed manager Sadaharu Oh of my decision by fax yesterday,” Iguchi said while training in Japan’s southernmost island of Okinawa. “This is the second year of my two-year contract with the White Sox. The team expects more from me than in the first year, so I would have to be in spring training.”

Iguchi’s reported withdrawal follows New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui’s decision in late December not to join Japan’s squad at the 16-nation games, it leaves Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Texas Rangers reliever Akinori Otsuka are are the only two Major Leaguers on Japan’s roster.

Iguchi’s decision not to play for his native Japan allows manager Ozzie Guillen to experiment with his revamped offense. Iguchi will be evaluated as a sixth- or seventh-place hitter to take advantage of his run-producing capabilities.

Iguchi performed so well in the second spot in 2005 that Guillen often referred to Iguchi as his most valuable player. But Iguchi batted in the middle of the order during most of his eight seasons in the Japanese Pacific League.

The announcements leave the White Sox with only two players–starting pitchers Freddy Garcia (Venezuela) and Javier Vazquez (Puerto Rico)–committed to participate in the WBC. Both players will miss at least three weeks of spring training.

Vazquez did not seem overly concerned with the earlier preparation. “Obviously, I have to be ready earlier than I usually would,” said Vazquez, who already was throwing off of a mound before the end of 2005. “It’s going to accelerate what I usually do, but I don’t think it will affect me.”

Leter hopes to join WBC, so does Zambrano

Although some players did withdraw World Baseball Classic, but Al Leiter and Carlos Zambrano still want to join this March.

Leiter, 40-year-old left-hand pitcher who just signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees, is on the 60-man preliminary American roster. He thinks there may be an opening for middle relievers because starting pitchers are likely to be forced out of games by pitch limits.

“I am really intrigued and excited about this whole World Cup thing,” he said. “There’s a very small possibility that potentially I could make it. I’m going to be a guy that’s going to have to wait until the very end.”

“This could be really exciting,” Leiter said. “Maybe before I die it ends up being a rival to the soccer World Cup.”

For Zambrano, 24, he is also eager to pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, and that may help him get off to a good start.

In the second half, Zambrano admitted he felt better facing opponents because he knew them better, and his record showed that. He was 6-4 with a 3.85 ERA before the break, and 8-2 with a 2.65 ERA after, although Chicago Cubs are not as enthusiastic about watching their ace in competitive games so early in the season.

Final rosters won’t be announced until early March, and the USA open March 7 against Mexico, Venezuela open against Dominican Republic on the same day.

Seo Will Play in Baseball Classic

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFinal spot of Korea World Baseball Classic team is decided; Jae-weong Seo of New York Mets officially notified the KBO on Sunday through his agent to express his wish to attend WBC.

KBO announced the 29 players named to the World Baseball Classic team On December 21st, leaving a room for Seo. His decision on the team makes this the strongest Korean baseball dream team ever. Seo returns to the national team for the first time in eight years since the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games where Korea won the gold metal in baseball.

Korea baseball fans all focus on Seo’s decision because it was hard to find any pitcher with Seo’s ability among the team’s 13-pitchers. Last year he first played in the minor league, then moving to the major league, ended the season as 8-2, 2.59 ERA with Mets.

National team manager In-shik Kim (Hanwha) said, “I would like Seo to pitch the match against Taiwan, which is the gateway to the main round.” Seo is likely to start the game against Taiwan on March 3 at 11 a.m. at Japan’s Tokyo Dome.

Korea is grouped with Japan, Taiwan and China in Pool A. Korea needs to beat Taiwan, regarded as Korea’s biggest rival, to advance to the second rounds, because Japan is almost certain to be in the final 8 teams.

Seo will start his personal training in Florida on Jan. 20, and then later join the overseas spring training camp run by Kia. He will also be joining the national team’s training camp in Fukuoka, Japan starting February 19.

Seo said, “A lot of fans preferred me to train hard during the winter so that I can have another good run in the big leagues next season. But since my country wanted me, I decided to participate and do what I can.”

KBO then announced the national team’s uniform number assignments for the World Baseball Classic, most players chose to keep their numbers from their clubs, but Seung-yeop Lee and Yeong-su Bae exchanged. Lee (Lotte) will wear number 25 for the classic. His regular number, 36, will be worn by Yeong-su Bae (Samsung).

Chan-ho Park (San Diego) will wear 61; Jae-ung Seo (New York Mets) will wear 26; Byung-hyun Kim (Colorado) will wear 49; Jong-bum Lee (Kia) will wear 9; and Byeong-kyu Lee will wear number 7.

Beom-ho Lee (Hanwha) will replace Han-su Kim (Samsung) because of back injury.

In the meantime, KBO also announced the schedule through the preliminary rounds. The Korea team will fly to Fukuoka on February 19 for climate training and a practice match against Lotte. After one more practice match on February 27, the climate training session will end.

The national team will be in Tokyo on January 28 to play one last practice match against the Japan Series champion Lotte Marines on March 1.

Netherlands play exhibition game with Braves

Netherlands National Flag
Atlanta Braves released their 2006 spring training schedule, among the 34 exhibition games, which begins on March 1, one games is play with Netherlands World Baseball Classic Team at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Atlanta will have a total of 17 home games at Cracker Jack Stadium in March, which recently ranked as the one of the best spring training facilities in the country by Baseball America.
The Braves will play an exhibition on March 5 at 1.05pm against the Netherlands National Team, which Andruw Jones will play for in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Individual spring training game tickets will go on sale on January 7 at the Disney’s Wide World of Sports box office and atlantabraves.com. Spring training ticket prices for 2006 range from $13.50 (general admission lawn seats) to $22 (lower level reserved seats).

Braves 2006 Spring Training ticket info
Braves 2006 Spring Training schedule


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