Archive for March, 2008

Advancement rules change

Next time, no tiebreaking rules need to use for World Baseball Classic 2009.

In an attempt to avoid the kind of convoluted tiebreaking procedures the World Baseball Classic rules committee instituted for the inaugural 2006 tournament, the round-robin format will be replaced in ’09 by double-elimination to move teams beyond the first two rounds. Also, there will be a crossover of teams from their originating four-squad brackets in the semifinals.

Don Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association, said:

“Implementation of double-elimination and crossover games to the World Baseball Classic next year will make the games even more intense, and the tournament even more exciting for both players and fans,” “It will be an unforgettable experience.”

In ’06, each of the fours teams had to play three games in the first two rounds. Those with the top two records in each bracket ascended to the second round and the semifinals. If teams had identical records, a complicated formula of runs scored was used as the first tiebreaker.

Next year, as soon as a team losses its second game in each of the first two rounds, it is eliminated. Once two teams have lost out, the other two move on to the next round. The semifinals remain as a single elimination competition to qualify for the finals.

As far as the crossover goes, in ’06 Cuba and the Dominican Republic emerged from one second-round bracket and Japan and Korea from the other. Those teams played each other in the semifinals, with Cuba ousting the Dominican and Japan vanquishing Korea. Japan defeated Cuba in the finals to win the tournament.

That will change in ’09, when the final game for each pool will determine seeding for the following round. Thus, in the semifinals, the winners of each pool in the second round will play the opposite pool’s runner-up in the single-elimination games.

Canada welcome World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic is coming to Toronto, and players like the home advantage.

Rogers Centre has been chosen as one of the sites for the first round of next year’s WBC, with Canada, the USA, Venezuela and Italy, whose team will be composed largely of second-generation players of Italian parentage possibly comprising the pool for the event, which will be scheduled for the first 12 days of March.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been working on this for over a year, but there was some question about the city’s status after the Dominican Republic threatened to boycott the event unless Santo Domingo was chosen to be one of the host cities.

The first WBC was a largely artistic and final success, despite skeptics who wondered how Major League teams and players would react to the interruption in their usual spring training regimens.

Among the Canadian Major Leaguers who appeared in the 2006 event were Justin Morneau, Erik Bedard, Matt Stairs and Jeff Francis.

“It’s a good draw for Toronto, because even the weakest team (Italy) might attract a few fans because of the sizable Italian community in the city,” said the source.

During the first WBC, it was estimated that the host teams for events made about $1 million after expenses. That’s in addition to the spin-off benefits to the hotel and restaurant business.

For players, they are excited.

Matt Stairs played for Team Canada at the 1988 Olympics as a 20-year-old. Next year, when he is 41, he plans to represent his country again in the World Baseball Classic. If he does, he will get to perform before a home crowd.

Toronto will serve as one of the host sites for the first round of the WBC, with games played at the Rogers Centre. The United States, Italy and Venezuela will also compete in that pool.

Stairs, the only Canadian on the Toronto Blue Jays roster, said the club has already given him permission to leave spring training next March to play for Team Canada, as he did in the first WBC tournament in 2006.

“Whenever you get 25 Canadians in one locker room, it tends to be quite fun,” Stairs said.

So does Rich Harden of the A’s.

“It’s every kid’s dream growing up to play for your country,” said Harden, a Victoria, B.C., native who hopes to play for Team Canada in 2009. “And I’m very excited to get the opportunity to do that this time around.”

Fukudome, Blanco and Zambrano want to play

Some Cubbies want to join the World Baseball Classic in 2009.

That’s include Kosuke Fukudome, about to begin the first year of his four-year contract with the team, although it means that he could be late getting to Spring Training next year, due to first round of games will begin March 5 at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

“I’d be honored if selected,” Fukudome said through interpreter Ryuji Araki.

This would not be Fukudome’s first international competition. He was the center fielder on the gold-medal winning Japanese team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and was a member of the Japanese Olympic Baseball team that won the bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics. He also helped the Japanese team win the silver medal in the 1996 Olympics.

So does catcher Henry Blanco, who said he’d be honored to play for the Venezuelan team, if invited.

“It was a good experience, and I’d definitely do it again,” Blanco said. “Now we know what it’s all about and we’d have time to prepare. You can see in a couple guys who didn’t play winter ball, they didn’t have good timing. I think Carlos Zambrano was practicing and throwing early, and it didn’t make any difference for him.”

And Zambrano, who was more than willing to pitch for his country.

“Sure, why not?” the Cubs Opening Day starter said.

Young, Braun, and Varitek would play for USA

Even there is still one year away, some player already said they are willing to represent their country, include Michael Young, Ryan Braun and Jason Varitek, but Prince Fielder is unsure yet.

For Texas Ranger shortstop Michael Young, who played on the United States team in 2006, would like to be a part of it once more.

“Absolutely, I’d like to play again,” Young said. “It was an absolute blast. They may want to switch it up, but if the opportunity is there to play, I’d love it.”

Young, a four-time All-Star, shared playing time at second base with Chase Utley from the Phillies. Young started two games and was 4-for-15 in the Classic before it ended for the United States with a loss to Mexico in the second round.

“It was disappointing at the time because we felt like we had the best team,” Young said. “If the team gets together again, I’m sure we’d like to show what we are made of. But that shows what a great game baseball is. It’s not just 300-pound linemen pushing each other around. Everybody thought it would be the USA and the Dominican Republic in the finals, instead it was Japan and Cuba.”

“I thought it was great the last time,” Young said. “It’s always going to cut into Spring Training. You can’t make it earlier and you can’t make it later. They did a great job, I don’t know if you can do any more. The venues were good and a lot of guys are open to traveling more.

“It was a great time, a great event and a great experience. I met a lot of guys who I still keep in touch with. It was great playing Japan and seeing how good the Cubans are. It was great for the game.”

As for Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, his answer is simple.

“Yeah, for sure,” Braun said when asked if he’d be interested. “I remember watching it last time and thinking it looked like a great experience. It definitely piqued interest in baseball in a lot of different countries.

“I would be excited and honored to be asked to play.”

“If anything, it makes you get ready a little bit sooner,” the native Californian said. “I think it would be an advantage coming into the season that you’ve already played some meaningful games. Sometimes, for these [Spring Training] games, it’s harder to have the same energy, the same focus.”

However, First baseman Prince Fielder, who led the National League last season with 50 home runs, will have to think it over.

“I don’t know. That’s a good question,” Fielder said. “I guess I would have to decide when it gets closer. I’d have to think about it.”

For Boston Red Sox Catcher Jason Varitek, made a vague reference to the players who declined to participate in 2006 by encouraging any American player who is asked this time around to play, lest they miss out on a “phenomenal experience”.

Asked what his approach will be should he square off in the 2009 event with current Red Sox batterymate and 2006 WBC Most Valuable Player Daisuke Matsuzaka of Japan, Varitek has a special idea. “By the time we get to it next year, we’ll have another year together, so I’ll come up with something by then,” he said. “Right now, I’m gonna bunt. And then steal second.”

In keeping with the global theme, Varitek also noted that were it not for the World Baseball Classic, Matsuzaka, who will start for Boston in the opener here Wednesday, might not even be in Boston.

Japan, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico to host first round

Yes, the stadium to play first round of 2009 World Baseball Classic is decided.

As in 2006, Tokyo Dome and Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will host first-round games. In 2009, those venues will be joined for the first time by Rogers Centre in Toronto and Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City.

Rogers Centre is the home ballpark of the Blue Jays, and Major League Spring Training exhibition games have been played at the 27,940-seat facility in Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City.

The 16-team field is the same as ’06, though an expansion of the field to 24 countries and territories with qualifying rounds as a preface to reach the main competition is under consideration for 2013.

Next year’s brackets are as follows:

Pool A — China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea will begin play on March 5 in Tokyo Dome.

Pool B — Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa, from March 8-12 in Mexico City.

Pool C — Canada, Italy, the U.S. and Venezuela, from March 8-12 in Toronto.

Pool D — Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico, from March 7-11 in Puerto Rico.

Venues for the second round, plus the combined semifinals and finals are still to be determined.

The semifinals and finals were sold out at San Diego’s 45,000-seat home of the Padres in 2006. Japan vanquished Cuba, 10-6, to win the tournament and Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who now toils for the Red Sox, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Attendance for the ’06 tournament at its seven venues was 737,112 tickets sold, a major coup considering that the Asian bracket didn’t reach the 80 percent capacity in Tokyo Dome that was originally projected.

Several important figure and host representative has talked about 2009 World Baseball Classic:

Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Major League Baseball Commissioner, said:

“The 2009 World Baseball Classic will further demonstrate the remarkable global growth of our game,” “There has been incredible demand to host the games of the second World Baseball Classic, and we are pleased to have four international destinations as our first-round venues. We are excited about the 2009 World Baseball Classic and look forward to next March.”

Don Fehr, the executive director of the Players’ Association, said:

“The best baseball players in the world are looking forward with great anticipation to playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic,” “Implementation of double-elimination and crossover games to the World Baseball Classic next year will make the games even more intense and the tournament even more exciting for both players and fans. It will be an unforgettable experience.”

Dr. Harvey Schiller, President, International Baseball Federation (IBAF), said:

“On behalf of the entire IBAF membership, we are excited to once again participate in this important event. The cooperation between IBAF, Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Players Association is at an all time high. We all look forward to this event as a prelude to our return to the Olympic program in 2016 and beyond.”

Takuo Takihana, Chairman, The Yomiuri Shimbun, remarked:

“Since The Yomiuri Shimbun hosted the first US-Japan All-Star Tour in 1931, and invited Babe Ruth to Japan in 1934, we have dedicated our soul to spread this wonderful sport of baseball throughout the world. It is our great honor to be named the host of the Round One games in Tokyo once again, following 2006. With pride, as the largest selling newspaper company in the world, with a daily circulation of 10 million copies per day, we promise you to stage a supreme baseball event.”

Carlos Hermosillo Conade, Minister of Sport of Mexico, said:

“The government of Mexico, under President Felipe Calderón, is committed to working with the businesses of our country to bring international events like the World Baseball Classic to Mexico to demonstrate our hospitality, culture and organizing capabilities. We have worked very closely with ALHÜVA Entretenimiento, represented by the enthusiastic sports promoter Alejandro Hütt, and Mexico City is very excited to be host of Round 1 games at Foro Sol Stadium. For the enormous baseball fan base in our country, it will be especially exciting to be able to see the Mexican National Team filled with MLB stars compete in Mexico for the first time ever.”

Paul Godfrey, President and CEO, Toronto Blue Jays and Rogers Centre, added:

“This is a world class event for Rogers Centre and the City of Toronto. What better place to hold the World Baseball Classic than in a city that has such a strong international reach? The raised global profile of the tournament, along with the great performance of teams from the United States, Venezuela, Italy and our own Team Canada, will make these games most exciting as fans will see their favorite players demonstrate an unprecedented level of passion and dedication to their national teams.”

Antonio Muñoz, MB Sports Chairman of the Board, said:

“Over the years, we have brought to Puerto Rico the best baseball there is, including the historic games of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. We are very proud to once again be selected to host the world’s premier international baseball tournament and expect Hiram Bithorn Stadium to be a showcase for thrilling match-ups between the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Panama and our home team representing Puerto Rico.”

About World Baseball Classic, Inc.
World Baseball Classic, Inc. is a company created at the direction of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to operate the World Baseball Classic tournament. The tournament, which is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), is supported by MLB, the MLBPA, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), their respective players associations and other leagues and players from around the world.

About the World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, and features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories. In March 2006, 486 players – 235 of them from MLB organizations – representing 16 teams from across the globe competed in the inaugural event. More than 740,000 fans from 48 states and 15 countries attended games and millions more watched on TV as Team Japan was crowned the first-ever World Baseball Classic Champion. Broadcast by 48 media outlets in 10 languages to 205 countries and territories around the world, the inaugural tournament had 50 official sponsors and 21 official licensees. Media members representing 25 different nations attended the 39 games in seven host venues across three countries/territories. The next tournament will be held in March 2009 and will again feature 16 of the greatest baseball-playing nations in the world. The tournament will be held every four years thereafter, with plans in place to expand the participant field beginning in 2013.

Acta unable to manage

At least one of the World Baseball Classic team need to change manager.

Although managing his native Dominican Republic in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic was a rewarding, unforgettable experience for Manny Acta, he hopes he doesn’t have to encore in 2009.

“If I got to do it again, that would be bad news for me,” Acta said. “That’d mean I got fired.”

Acta’s duties as manager of the Washington Nationals will preclude him from returning as Dominican skipper in next March’s international field. But he will be part of the national committee that will steer the team, including making the decision on who will take over as manager.

According to Acta, the current candidates on a short list are former Major League managers Felipe Alou and Tony Pena, and Felix Fermin, the former big league shortstop who has managed in the Dominican Winter League since 2000.

“It was a tremendous experience, and I was proud to be a part of it,” Acta said “The highlight of my career.” “To have the chance to manage your own country, and to manage the kind of players and people we had, was wonderful,” Acta added. “I can always say I was there the first time around. It was a thrill.”


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