Posts Tagged ‘WBC’

Wright Makes Executive Decision to Play in Final Round of Classic

March 20, 2009

The final leg of the World Baseball Classic commences this weekend at Dodgers Stadium. Sixteen teams have dwindled down to only four. Japan, Korea, Venezuela, and the United States have all earned the right to compete in the semifinal round. Two of those teams will then qualify to go on to the championship game scheduled for Monday night.

From the outset of the tournament, the on-going controversy has been whether or not major league players are being placed in harm’s way by participating. On Wednesday night, Mets David Wright fouled a ball off his left foot in a loss to Venezuela, 10-6.

“No problems, fouled a ball off, cracked a toenail. Other than that, things are good,” said Wright. “I probably would have played through it in the season.”

The All-star third baseman has maintained a business as usual approach and has confidently stated that he will continue playing for Team USA despite the injury to his toe. Wright also mentioned that if the Mets decide the best course of action for him is inaction, he will override that decision to fulfill his obligation to his country. His injury demonstrates the uncertainties that go along with allowing MLB players to offer their services for the tournament.

Just one night removed from the Americans’ come-from-behind win over Puerto Rico in which Wright was the hero, the slugger finds himself in an even more difficult situation. By opting to play hurt in what some consider just another exhibition-style game, Wright may have put himself at risk. What risk? Not placing his true obligation of playing for the Mets first. From a player’s standpoint, having your country’s name stitched across one’s chest is more endearing than a three-hour bus ride to Orlando.

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Delgado, Beltran, and K-rod Shine at the WBC

March 16, 2009

If you ask any Mets fan who the face of the Mets organization is, most of them would probably respond with shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman David Wright. If you went further and asked who also is an integral part of the ballclub, the answer might be centerfielder Carlos Beltran or first baseman Carlos Delgado. It’s no coincidence these four players make up the core group of individuals that have been there for the team the last few seasons, day-in and day-out. These same players are also currently participating in or have been involved with this year’s World Baseball Classic.

Looking at their performances thus far in the tournament, Delgado has been the most impressive.

C Delgado PUR: 6 for 10, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, SB, .600 BA

C Beltran PUR: 7 for 15, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, SB, .467 BA

D Wright USA: 5 for 19, 2 R, RBI, .210 BA

J Reyes* DOM: 1 for 9, 2 R, .222 BA

* The Dominican Republic was eliminated in the first round. Therefore, Reyes was unable to participate in the second round of the tournament.

In pitching, Francisco Rodriguez has earned his country’s stripes.

F Rodriguez VEN: 3 G, 3.1 IP, 2 SV, 6 K, 0.00 ERA

N Figueroa PUR: 3 G, 5.0 IP, 4 K, 0.00 ERA

J.J. Putz USA: 2 G, 2.0 IP, SV, 0 K, 4.50 ERA

O Perez MEX: 2 GS, 0-1 W-L, 6.2 IP, 8 K, 9.45 ERA

Despite Elimination, Pedro’s Case is Still Strong

March 11, 2009

Former Mets right-hander Pedro Martinez can now sign off on another productive chapter in his career. Martinez was pitching for his native country, the Dominican Republic, until a shocking defeat in the hands of the Netherlands in extra innings, 2-1, led to their elimination from this year’s World Baseball Classic. Martinez has expressed that as long as his team was still alive in the tournament, he would continue to use this opportunity as a way to showcase himself for a starting job at the major-league level. The always out-spoken, three-time Cy Young award winner showed in just a few outings that he was on stable ground while pitching in the Classic. But when the WBC finally comes to a close, it may symbolize for the right hander a final farewell to a Hall of Fame-caliber career.

In 17 seasons, Martinez has produced a 214-99 record which amounts to winning 68 percent of his decisions. He has struck out a total of 3,117 batters in 2,782.2 innings pitched averaging a little over a strikeout per inning. Martinez has appeared in 467 games overall in which he has started 400 of them. In those starts, he is credited with 46 complete games and 17 shutouts. But the most impressive statistic that the World Series champion has on his resume is a 2.91 career ERA.

The call for the veteran right hander to be brought back to the Mets is building momentum. Martinez had already thrown three scoreless innings with four strikeouts in the first meeting against the Netherlands on Saturday. If you add last night’s work of three more scoreless innings plus two more Ks in the elimination game, Pedro’s line looks very sharp. The more Martinez can prove he has command of his pitches and that he can successfully get hitters out, the stronger his case will be for some stable employment heading into the regular season.

Former Met Could Be the Key that Brings Team Venezuela into the Next Round

March 10, 2009

When Mets fans recollect on some of the greatest catches in their history, Ron Swaboda’s diving grab in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series comes to mind. Swaboda’s catch kept the Baltimore Orioles at bay by allowing just one run instead of two from scoring and holding the score tied at one. The Mets would eventually become victorious in extra innings and take a three-games-to-one lead on the heavily-favored Orioles. They would go on to win the following game and take the championship that season four games to one. However, for more contemporary Mets fans, there is one play that stands out as quite possibly the most exciting defensive play of the last decade.

Endy Chavez’ snow cone catch at the left field wall during Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS at Shea Stadium will never be forgotten. Not only did the leaping grab rob Scott Rolen of the St. Louis Cardinals of a homerun, but Chavez had the wherewithal to throw to first baseman Carlos Delgado and double up the runner to end the inning.

Unfortunately, Mets fans know all too well that the outcome of that season was not as glorious as in 1969. The Mets lost Game 7 and the Cardinals went on to the World Series. But there isn’t a day that goes by when Chavez, now part of the Seattle Mariners’ organization, reminisces about that outstanding play.

“Every day,” Chavez said with a huge smile. “And it’s still amazing.”

From that unbelievable play, Mets fans will always have a special place in their hearts for the 31-year old utility outfielder. Chavez is currently participating in this year’s World Baseball Classic as a member of the Venezuelan national team. In their first game against Italy on Saturday which they won, 7-0, Chavez played the whole game. He went 2 for 5 with a run scored and started in center field. He was then moved over to left in the eighth inning in place of Magglio Ordonez.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, Chavez and his countrymen did not fair so well against Team USA. Venezuela lost, 15-6, evening their record at 1-1. In Chavez’ defense, he did not play and had to watch his team’s defeat from the dugout. Valenzuela will be facing elimination if they fail to win against an Italian team looking for payback from the other night. Italy knocked the Canadians out of the Classic with a 6-2 win last night. With the added pressure, I would imagine that Chavez will be back in the lineup.

Maybe Venezuelan fans will be able to share in the same feelings that Mets fans felt by witnessing another jaw-dropping defensive play by Chavez which could carry his team into the next round.

Two Former Mets Are Still Making Headlines

March 4, 2009

For those of you who haven’t noticed, former Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez is claiming he is healthy again. He will be showcasing his talents at this year’s World Baseball Classic as a member of the Dominican Republic.

“The last few years, I’ll be the first to tell you, I haven’t been the Pedro Martinez I’m used to being,” he said.

The Mets organization can attest to that statement all too well. Aside from his first season with the club in 2005, Martinez was mostly seen warming up for scheduled bullpen sessions than for actual games throughout the next three seasons. That’s because he tore a muscle in his left calf and developed a torn rotator cuff which sidelined him for most of the 2007 season. On September 3rd, he made his return to the team in which he started fives games. He finished the season with a 3-1 record and a 2.57 ERA. However, in 2008, he was bit by the injury bug again. He managed to string together 20 starts. In 109 innings pitched, he struck out 87 batters and finished the season with a record of 5 wins and 6 losses. His 5.61 ERA that year was the highest mark of his career.

By participating in the Classic, the three-time Cy Young award-winner is hoping to land a spot on any ballclub that is in need of his services.

“I’d love to play for all of them,” he said. “I’m open to play for anybody that would give me respect. … If nobody takes a chance, I’ll go fishing.”

Martinez has always had a way with words. When asked about the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry, he responded: “I’m starting to hate talking about the Yankees. The questions are so stupid. They’re wasting my time. It’s getting kind of old … I don’t believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass, pardon me the word.”

My feeling is that we haven’t seen the last of the real Pedro.

Strawberry Throws His Two-Cents In

“If a guy can fall and he can get up and dust himself off and help somebody else, then he has really done what he was called to do,” said Darryl Strawberry, the former Mets and Yankees slugger, who now works as an analyst with SNY.

Strawberry could have been speaking about his own troubled past in the third person with this statement but he wasn’t. His words of wisdom were in response to the public apology made by Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez who confessed to his use of performance-enhancing drugs. “You can’t take from what he’s done. Hopefully, he can be forgiven,” Strawberry said.

Strawberry, who is a prominent member of the 30 homers and 30 stolen bases club, had what critics call “natural talent.” When Strawberry was asked if he would experiment with steroids as a young player if they came his way, he bluntly stated, “Hell yeah, I would use them. Are you kidding me?” “I probably would have been a part of it,” he added.

Strawberry has had plenty of experience with banned substances. From the mid-nineteen nineties to 2002, he had been in and out of rehab because of cocaine abuse. “I was stupid, too. I did a lot of stupid things.”

His memoir, “Straw: Finding My Way,” is scheduled for its released on April 28, 2009.

Team Puerto Rico to Include Six Mets

March 3, 2009

In just two days, the first round of the World Baseball Classic will be kicking into gear. Here are the Mets players that have chosen to represent their respective countries of origin.

Australia
Stefan Welch IF

Canada
Shawn Bowman IF

Dominican Republic
Jose Reyes IF

Mexico
Elmer Dessens P
Oliver Perez P

Panama
Ruben Tejada IF

Puerto Rico
Pedro Feliciano P
Nelson Figueroa P
Alex Cora IF
Carlos Delgado IF
Carlos Beltran OF
Jesus Feliciano OF

USA
David Wright IF
J.J. Putz P

Venezuela
Francisco Rodriguez P

To check out all the players on each participating country’s roster, click here.

The United States opens up their schedule on Saturday, March 7th, vs. Team Canada at 2:00pm EST.

Puerto Rico will be taking on Panama in their opener which is also scheduled for Saturday at 5:00 pm EST.

Both games will be televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.

To see the full scheduled of matchups with dates, times, and where to watch, click here.

Athletes from Abroad May Be More Adept at Public Opinion

February 28, 2009

In William C. Rhoden’s Sports of the Times column in the NY Times on Thursday, Rhoden introduced the idea that NBA players chose to look the other way when they were faced with issues that are political in nature. According to the columnist, seventy-five percent of NBA players are African-American and he was disappointed in those players in particular. He felt that their enthusiasm throughout President Obama’s presidential campaign should have been replicated during the outcry concerning the racially-charged cartoon which ran in the NY Post last week.

In defense of the Post, they officially apologized; however, they felt that the meaning of the cartoon was misconstrued. Not to belabor the point of whether the cartoon was racially motivated or just a simple case of a bad joke gone awry, I will attempt to explore Rhoden’s introduction into this very sensitive topic. For arguments sake, we can say that the other twenty-five percent of the NBA’s athletes are made up of foreign-born players mixed in with Caucasian-Americans.

At this point, you are probably wondering why anything pertaining to the NBA is being discussed on a NY Mets blog. After dissecting Rhoden’s column, I thought of Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, as a Toronto Blue Jay, defiantly staying in the dugout during the playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. Delgado, at that time, was opposed to the use of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico as a bombing target practice facility by the United States Department of Defense.

In Rhoden’s assessment, Delgado exercised exactly what a man with some clout should do. Perhaps, one could say that piggy-backing a cartoon as a chance to voice your own opinion could seem a bit childish. In Delgado’s case, his threat was a tad more imminent. The crux of the matter is that American athletes may not feel a sense of urgency as much as their foreign counterparts do when asked to voice their position.

One speculation for the lack of public opinion may be that our nation’s athletes now reside within an economic stratosphere that shares no relation with the majority of their constituency. Quite simply, they can’t relate. To project a strong opinion just to exercise one’s God-given rights may place a particular athlete in unfamiliar territory.

As the preliminary rounds of the World Baseball Classic are set to begin on March 5th, sixteen teams from all over the world will be competing for the duration of three weeks to see who the ruler of the baseball world is. This competition could be seen as a way for Americans to satisfy their craving for our national pastime. The rest of the world will be eager to utilize the Classic as a political platform to help elevate those who share in a similar struggle.

For foreign athletes who participate in American-based sports, the motivation to express one’s personal opinion embodies virtue and honor. Their platform will be more accepted than scrutinized.

To read Rhoden’s original article click here,
On Some Subjects, Athletes Prefer a Silent Approach

Martinez Goes Back to Where It All Began

January 30, 2009

As the sports world anxiously waits for this Sunday’s Super Bowl, the most-watched sporting event in North America, veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez is somewhere in his native Dominican Republic tending to his garden or shaking his hips to the Latin beats of the bachata.

In between, the right hander has found time to sit down with Mets GM Omar Minaya and discuss a possible return to the Mets’ pitching staff.

According to the team’s website, Minaya and the Mets are still interested in Martinez even though they have previously stated otherwise. During his four years with the Mets, Martinez went 32-23 but 15 of those wins came in 2005, the first year of his free-agent contract. Since then, he has struggled with injuries along with the death of his father.

“I think right now Pedro feels the best he’s felt probably since the first year he signed with the Mets,” Pedro’s agent, Fernando Cuza, told the New York Post. “He feels strong. There’s absolutely no aches and pains.”

Mets fans have heard this sentiment before. At the start of last season, Martinez professed that for him the most important thing was that he was healthy. Unfortunately, his first start of the 2008 season ended with a pulled hamstring and a stint on the disabled list. In all honesty, there’s probably no better pitcher in the major leagues who can rely on his past performances to weather a number of storms. For his career, Martinez has a 214-99 record to go along with a 2.91 ERA. Adding in his 3,117 career strikeouts, he could be a strong consideration for the Hall of Fame.

At age 37, Martinez reportedly has yet to receive an offer from any club. Cuza has said that if his client isn’t signed by the time Spring Training opens, he’ll report to the Dominican team for the World Baseball Classic.

“He wanted to use the opportunity of the Classic,” Cuza told the New York Post, “not only as an opportunity to play for the Dominican Republic, which he didn’t do last time, but also as an opportunity to showcase himself, to demonstrate to teams what kind of condition he’s in right now.”

The hurdle for Martinez may be cracking the Dominican’s starting rotation. With the likes of younger, more reliable arms such as Angels 16-game winner Ervin Santana, Reds 17-game winner Edinson Volquez, Twins lefty Francisco Liriano and Cleveland sinkerballer Fausto Carmona, he would probably be fighting for the fifth spot.