Archive for December, 2012

Press Conference (cont - 8)

Monday, December 31st, 2012

A player who witnessed the ambush said to them, ‘So you are the guys they were waiting for. You normally don’t see all these cameras at the minor league camp.”

“Actually it’s him and not me they were waiting for.”

The player smiled. “I figured that. The Asian face gave it away.”

Jason was still in a bit of a shock as he looked at the horde of people standing outside the door all excited, jabbering to one another in Mandarin, comparing the pictures they each took of Jason. “You would think they thought I was a movie star,” he said in Mandarin.

The second person to greet them in the building was Troy Harper. He had been waiting for them by the bulletin board area with his surfer grin extending high along his cheekbones and his blonde locks growing by one week. At some point he was going to have to get a haircut or his golden tresses would be flowing down to his shoulders like Alexis. That was a violation of team policy.

“What are you doing here?” Kevin was surprised to see him at the minor league facility. “I thought you were invited to the major league camp?”

“I am.” Troy gave both Kevin and Jason a bear hug. “I couldn’t get here though without stopping by and saying hi. Besides, I bought Thor something.” He reached down to bring up a blue box that was leaning against the wall and handed it to Jason. “Sorry I didn’t get you anything, but I didn’t know what to get you.”

“Just your pearly white smile is good enough for me.”

Jason looked at Troy with some uncertainty. “Go ahead. Open it.”

Jason flipped open the top portion of the box and pulled out a brand new, shiny blue UCLA Bruin sweatshirt. A huge smile spread across his face as he held it up to his chest.

“Now you can throw away the other one. It was getting a bit ratty.” Troy was looking at the crowd of Asian press waiting outside the door. Some had put their faces near the glass to peer inside. “I don’t suppose they would have a lot of interest in me?” He flashed his surfer grin. “It was good seeing you guys, but I’m already a bit late. Take care and give me a call if you want to go out for dinner. And Thor, Gus is still waiting for that phone call.”

Kevin wondered if that was the reason Troy waited for them, to remind Jason about Gus. He didn’t give Jason too much attention when they practiced in instructional camp. It seemed odd and surprising he would be waiting for them here with a gift. At least he was right about one thing. As he darted out the front door the Asian press and all the photographers ignored him. The fact he had gotten paid a huge bonus as the number one draft pick last year was of no interest to them.

Top 2012 Venezuelan Winter Performers

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The round robin play for Venezuela will begin after the new year but below are the teams who qualify.  Myworld also identifies the team leaders and we name the 2012 all Venezuelan winter team.

Magallanes Navegantes (36-27)

Zulia Aguilas (35-28)

Anzoategui Caribes (35-28)

Caracas Leones (35-28)

Lara Cardenales (34-29)

Top Batting Average: Gorkys Hernandez (Caribes) .367

Most Homeruns: Eliezer Alfonso (Magallanes), Evan Gattis (Zulia) and Ernesto Mejia (Zulia) 16

Most RBIs: Ernesto Mejia (Zulia) 48

Most Runs Scored: Gorkys Hernandez (Caribe) 48

Most Stolen Bases: Gorkys Hernandez (Caribe) 15

Highest OPS: Luis Jimenez (Lara) .998

Best ERA: Wilfredo Boscan (Zulia) 1.80

Most Wins: Sergio Perez (Magallanes) 9

Most Strikeouts: Alexander Torres (Zulia) 86

Most Saves: Juan Guttierrez (Caracas) 14

Myworld’s All Venezuelan Team

Catcher - Evan Gattis (Zulia) .303, 16, 44

First Base - Ernesto Mejia (Zulia) .298, 16, 48

Second Base - Luis Valbuena (Lara) .306, 6, 39

Third Base - Carlos Rivero (Caracas) .283, 10, 35

Shortstop - Freddy Galvis (Zulia) .300, 5, 29

DH - Luis Jimenez (Lara) .324, 9, 40

OF - Gorkys Hernanez (Caribes) .367, 2, 23

OF - Henry Wrigley (Caracas) .299, 11, 36

OF - Oswaldo Arcia (Aragua) .258, 10, 37

SP - Wilfredo Boscan (Zulia) 3-1, 1.80

SP - Dwayne Pollock (Zulia) 7-2, 2.36

SP - Sergio Perez (Magallanes) 9-4, 3.50

SP - Yoanner Negrin (Caracas) 4-1, 2.61

Closer - Juan Gutierrez (Caracas) 1-1, 0.81, 14 saves

Set-Up - Jean Toledo (Caribes) 2-2, 1.35, 11 holds

Bullpen - Victor Larez (Caracas) 1-0, 0.76

Bullpen - Alex Serrano (Caribes) 6-1, 2.50

Bullpen - Dakota Watts (Aragua) 0-1, 1.98, 3 saves

Dominican Round Robin - Day Four

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Aguilas and Toros both won games yesterday to share the lead atop the standings in the Dominican round robin playoffs.  The Escogido Leones lost their second straight to drop to 2-2 while Estrellas still remains winless, losing in 11 innings to Aguilas.

Aguilas and Estrellas battled for 11 innings before a Joaquin Arias single drove in the go ahead run to give Aguilas a 4-3 win.  Joel Peralta came on to pitch the bottom of the 11th and retired Estrellas in order, two of them on strikeouts.  Aguilas was able to score a run in the ninth to tie the game at 3-3 off Rafael DolisJuan Carlos Perez rapped the third straight hit off Dolis to score the tying run for Aguilas and send the game into extra innings.

Manny Ramirez had three hits for Aguilas, including a double and one run scored.  Eric Almonte also had three hits, including a solo homerun in the seventh.  Fabio Castro threw five shutout innings for Estrellas before being pulled with a 2-0 lead.  The Estrellas bullpen could not hold the lead, giving up a run in the sixth and seventh.

Toros used seven pitchers to complete a 6-1 win over Escogido.  The offense scored three runs in the ninth to pull away from the game.  Jose Ramirez slammed three hits and Esteban German drove in two runs to lead the offense.

2013 Hot Stove - Giants

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Overall Assessment: After a team wins the World Series the players go on the banquet circuit and sponsorship opportunities increase.  The players became slaves to their success.  When they go back to playing baseball in the spring they are just a tick off from what they were the year before, enough to make it difficult to repeat.  That is a big reason why teams do not repeat as often as they did in the past, that and free agency.  The Giants should not expect to get the same results from Barry Zito but they have to hope they get a better year from Tim Lincecum in his free agent year.  Buster Posey is the rock in this lineup and needs to stay healthy for the Giants to play well.  Perhaps this would have been a three peat if Posey had not had his season end early in 2011.

Hot Stove Season: The Giants decided to let Melky Cabrera go as a free agent and in his place they re-signed Angel Pagan and signed former Giant Andres Torres.  Those two were part of a trade last year with Torres going to the Mets.  An interesting signing is Javier Herrera, who at one time was a top prospect with the Athletics.  He played in the Independent League last year but is slugging the ball in the Venezuelan League.  They also resigned free agent Marco Scutaro.  Entering the 2013 season the Giants will have the same cast of charcters.  As they report to spring training we’ll see what kind of banquet circuit they had after their World Series victory.

Strength: Buster Posey is one of the best catchers in baseball.  They will continue to get him a number of games at first base to keep him fresh while talented Hector Sanchez fills in behind the plate.  He is probably the most critical player in the lineup.  The starting pitching is historically strong, but without a recovery from Tim Lincecum this staff does not seem overly impressive.  Matt Cain is the key.  If he pitches strong from the ace position the other starters will roll into place.

Weakness: The outfield is short on power.  Hunter Pence can hit a few over the fence, but the other corner Gregor Blanco is more of an on base percentage type of player.  Brandon Belt is also lacking in power at a position that traditionally looks for power.  The offense may be better with Posey at first and Sanchez behind the plate.  Brandon Crawford excels on defense but his bat is weak.  This would not be so bad if the team was strong in other areas, but the Giants may not be able to afford to keep his weak bat in a weak lineup.  Alternatives are slim as prospect Joe Panik is still more than a year away.  This team will go only as far as their pitching takes them because their offense continues to be weak.

Top Position Prospect: Gary Brown has the potential to take over the centerfield position if Angel Pagan and Andres Torres stall.  He covers ground in centerfield and steals bases but he won’t hit for the power the Giants need.

Top Pitching Prospect: The Giants are usually pretty good with coming up with some good pitchers to put in the rotation.  Myworld is not enamored with this group.  Lacking choices myworld will have to go with 2012 number one pick Chris Stratton.  He had a good first year with Salem Keizer in the Northwest short season league.  The true test to his effectiveness will be his success as he rises to the higher levels.  He throws hard and just needs to enhance his secondary pitches.

Watch out for: If they want to add some pop to their lineup Javier Herrera could contribute before the year is out.  He needs to continue the pop he is showing in the Winter League in Venezuela, although after a hot start his bat has started to cool off.

Rookie of the Year Prospect: If the Giants want to add more offense Francisco Peguero could also fit into a corner outfield spot.  Either he or Herrera could end up as the starter in left field if Blanco’s offense stalls.

Projected On Paper Finish: The Giants need their pitching to continue to have success to keep up with the Dodgers. They will fall short but still do well enough to squeeze into the playoffs as one of the two wild card teams.

Press Conference (cont - 7)

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

They were up until 2AM opening letters and packages. They only got halfway through the crate. There were letters from kids wishing Jason luck, agents wanting to represent him, charities asking him to be their spokesman, women asking him if he was looking for a wife, some of them sending provocative pictures of themselves. The most touching was the one from an adoption agency in China wishing him luck. They sent him a group picture, the kids all smiling in front of a swing set. The weirdest was from a man sending him a condom. He was hoping to get lucky using a condom signed by Jason Woo.

“Can these things be reused?” Jason asked, holding the condom up to examine the end of it to see how thick it was.

“I would think not. At least I’ve never tried. That would kind of defeat its purpose.”

Jason collapsed back into the couch, letters and envelopes falling from his lap. “Do they expect me to respond to these?”

“It would be nice.”

“But they one person writing to me. I only one person writing to one thousand. Not possible.”

At that point they called it a night.

The first day of spring training was more a medical testing day and a rah-rah group session. There would be no ball field activity. No sounds of cowhide crashing into leather. The sound of bats would be silent. This morning all the players would line up at the various testing areas to urinate in a cup, have a doctor massage their testicles to feel for any lumps, have their asses invaded by a plastic tube to test for colon cancer, get their body fat measured and have a needle plugged into their arm to extract blood to measure for any evidence of drugs. All these results would be fed to the general manager who would then decide based on poor fat content, venereal disease or marijuana residue in a player’s blood stream who was a trade candidate.

Most avoided the anal checkup until they had at least pissed in the cup. A couple years ago a player had pissed all over the wall after his anal cavity was violated. He thought he could hold it, but he had never had anything stuck in his ass before. None of the other testing stations were a joy. They didn’t hire any cute nurses to massage your testicles. That was another area the players avoided until they had an opportunity to piss in the cup.

Kevin made sure they would arrive early so they wouldn’t have to wait in long lines. “Save your piss for the morning. If you can hold it,” Kevin warned Jason the night before. “If you feel violated after this day is done you won’t be alone.”

The one test Kevin did not look forward to was the one measuring the percentage of body fat on his skin. Last year his body fat percentage had gone up for the first time. He would like to have blamed it on Shu for her cooking, but then Shu’s body fat percentage was less than his. The real issue was his lack of motivation to work out since he married Shu. With her in the house the two hour work outs dwindled to one. That was not Shu’s fault. Or maybe it was. She didn’t have to be so attractive.

The medical tests would take up the whole morning. If there was time for lunch before the afternoon session you could consider yourself lucky. The afternoon session consisted of a meeting in the auditorium where the players would be introduced to the minor league managers and coaching staff from the various organizations. Though many of the players were in their fifth or sixth year in the organization, the coaching staff of the minor league teams was a constant revolving door. This gave the managers and coaches an opportunity to talk about their expectations and hopefully motivate a player for the coming season. The good coaches didn’t talk long or create unrealistic expectations.

Someone would also review the minor league camp rules with them. Kevin warned Jason he would not be able to interpret those rules for him. Larvell needed him for the afternoon to act as interpreter for a number of Chinese reporters. He dreaded that more than getting a tube shoved up his ass. “I’ll make sure you get there. All you have to do is keep your eyes open. The most important thing to remember is that if they find you with a girl in your hotel room it is a $200 fine. They don’t even care if it is your sister. Keep all women out of your room. I’ll brief you on the other rules later tonight.”

Tomorrow they would do conditioning drills to see who came to camp in shape. That would consist of sprints, running as fast as you can around cones and finishing with a one mile run. Those who did not pass the conditioning drill were given more of the same the next day. Those who passed were rewarded with finally getting to use the tools of baseball, catching a ball with a mitt and swinging a bat.

The first thing Kevin noticed as he pulled the car into the parking lot was all the activity. The parking lot was filled with white media vans with groups of people near these vans setting up camera equipment. He noticed a distinct Asian flair to the people setting up the equipment. When they got out of the car and started walking along the parking lot he also felt the stares and saw the pointing of fingers as he and the 6’5” Jason walked to the main office to check the day’s schedule. What was once a beehive of activity had slowed to a crawl, with mouths jabbering and eyes staring at Jason.

Kevin wondered what the collection of news media at the major league facilities were like. He had never seen this much camera equipment at a minor league facility before. They spent much of their time walking over communication lines. As they were nearing the door to the main office a few people with handheld cameras ran in front of them. Men with cameras invaded their space by taking their pictures. More Asian faces converged on them. It was an ambush. Coming out of nowhere a mass of Asian faces surrounded them. All the photographers were snapping pictures, the white flashes blinding them to their destination. Kevin could hear bits and pieces of their discussion as they tried to get Jason to turn their way so they could get the front of his face. Jason became paralyzed.

“Jason Woo.” Jason turns his head. Snap and flash. “Jason Woo.” Again Jason turns his head. Snap and Flash. “Jason Woo.” Another turn of the head. Snap and flash.

Jason tried to shield himself from the flashes with his arms. Kevin grabbed him by his left elbow and the two of them ran the last ten yards to get inside the main office. It was like running through a torrential downpour, only barreling through human bodies is a lot tougher than running through rain drops. Once inside they stopped to catch their breath. That was a wakeup call.

Day 3 Dominican Round Robin - Three Way tie

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

The Toros sent Escogido Leones to their first defeat with a 5-1 victory, resulting in a three way tie in the round robin play.  Alberto Cabrera threw five plus innings of shutout ball and Ricardo Nanita drove in three runs with a triple and double.  Jairo Asencio threw a perfect ninth to close out the game.

The Leones had cut the lead to one courtesy of an error by Donell Linares.  A ground out allowed the run to score.  The Toros then answered with three big runs in the bottom frame to pull away, Ricardo Nanita clearing the bases with a two out, three run double.

The Cibaenas Aguilas were able to keep pace with a 5-2 win over the winless Estrellas Oriente.  Samuel Deduno gave up two early runs in the second inning to give Estrellas an early 2-0 lead.  Aguilas battled back, tying the game in the fourth on a double by Francisco Pena, scoring both Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejeda.  They took the lead in the fifth on a ground out by Hector Luna and pulled away in the eighth on a Manny Ramirez sacrifice fly and a Miguel Tejeda double.

Johan Yan got the last out of the eighth and then finished the ninth to pick up the save.  Samuel Deduno went five plus innings to pick up the win.  After finishing second in the regular season with one of only two winning records Estrellas has started the round robin play 0-3.

Top Ten Japanese Salaries in NPB

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Below is the top ten salaries for Japanese players playing in the NPB.  This list does not include foreign players.  For a more extended list you can go to http://yakyubaka.com/2012/12/30/top-2013-npb-salaries-through-1229/

1. Shinnosuke Abe (Yomiuri Giants) - $6.6M

2. Toshiya Sugiuchi (Yomiuri Giants) - $5.8M

3. Tetsuya Utsumi (Yomiuri Giants) - $4.6M

4. Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Golden Eagles) - $4.6M

5. Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) - $4.3M

6. Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi Dragons) - $3.8M

7. Takeya Nakamura (Seibu Lions) - $3.5M

8. Kazuki Yoshimi (Chunichi Dragons) - $3.4M

9. Tadashi Settsu (Softbank Hawks) - $3.4M

10. Takashi Toritani (Hanshin Tigers) - $3.3M

Yokahama Baystar fans can look at this list to determine why every season they finish in last place.  You get what you pay for with only one player, Daisuke Muira ($2.1M) appearing on the highest salary list.  There are 29 other players above him, including their ex-slugger Shuichi Murata ($2.6M) who now plays for the Yomiuri Giants.  Seven Giant players are paid more than the highest paid player for the Baystars.

2013 Hot Stove - Dodgers

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Overall Assessment: What a difference a year can make.  From the verge of bankruptcy orchestrated by a distracted owner successfully tearing down a vaunted franchise to a group of owners buying the market and putting the cachet back in the Dodger name.  Frank McCourt may argue that if he had an opportunity to complete his negotiation of a local television contract things would be different, but he was negotiating through weakness, an act of desparation to recover from the throes of bankruptcy.  He never could have pulled off the local television contract the Guggenheim partners pulled off.  With the new ownership the Dodgers have transformed themselves from penny pinching street bums to the richest franchise in baseball, surpassing the Yankees in salary.  Now the biggest challenge, will all that money result in a championship?

Hot Stove Season: The biggest thing the Dodgers did was over the summer when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.  Despite those acquistions the Dodgers lost ground on the Giants even after the players arrival.  All that was left to do in 2013 was some tinkering.  The only significant trade the Dodgers have made during the offseason was acquiring Skip Schumaker from the Cardinals for Jake Lemmerman.  Their biggest free agent moves helped stock their starting rotation, signing Zack Greinke and successfully posting for Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and then agreeing to a contract.  If Ryu bombs and the Dodgers want to send him to the minors Ryu would have to give his consent, a dangerous clause negotiated in a contract and a bad precedent for the Dodgers to make.  Seung-Yeop Lee tried to negotiate similar language in his contract a number of years ago but at that time the Dodgers refused and Lee ended up going from Korea to Japan.

Strength: On paper they have a pretty strong team.  A one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top of the rotation would be a combination no team would want to face, especially during a playoff series.  Matt Kemp still has the potential to put up MVP numbers in centerfield, but he needs to avoid injuries.  Adrian Gonzalez can still drive in runs from first base but he is a quiet player not expected to provide leadership to a team that needs a leader.  The Dodger dimensions may restrict some of their offensive potential, but they should be able to still score runs.

Weakness: They have a number of question marks.  The left side of the infield has a lot of questions between the unproven Luis Cruz, who has been released a few times in his career and the poor defense of Hanley Ramirez, who often times does not come to the park motivated to play.  Who plays third and short may be decided in the spring, but Ramirez is the favorite at this point.  Andre Ethier needs to show he can hit lefthanders, otherwise he will end up a platoon player.  The acquistion of Schumaker showed their lack of confidence in who they already have at second (Nick Punto and Mark Ellis) and the bullpen lacks a true closer.  Carl Crawford will be a weakness if he plays with the skills and motivation of his post Ray days.  A lot of potential weaknesses for a team with a salary over $200 million.

Top Position Prospect: They paid a lot of money for Cuban defector Yasiel Puig.  He has the talent to take over one of the outfield spots in 2014 should either Crawford or Ethier fail to live up to their abilities.  He has the five tools you look for in a player, power, speed, arm, can hit for average and play defense.  Only time will tell whether he uses those tools properly.

Top Pitching Prospect: The rumors were the Dodgers drafted Zach Lee because they had no intention of signing him.  He would ask for an exorbitant amount of money and who could blame the Dodgers for not signing him.  Well, the Dodgers ended up paying a lot of money to sign him ($5 million plus bonus).  He’s been promoted aggressively and his numbers have suffered for it.  He has four pretty good pitches with a fastball that usually sits in the low 90s.

Watch out for: Onelki Garcia, another Cuban defector who could not establish foreign residency, making him part of the 2012 draft.  The Dodgers selected him in the third round.  His agent wanted a multimillion dollar contract but he had to settle for six figures because of established bonus rules that put a ceiling on what the Dodgers could give Garcia as a third round pick.  He will turn 24 next year so he could advance quickly.  The lefthander throws in the low 90s with enough of a repetorie to make it in the starting rotation.

Top Rookie Prospect: This will be a veteran team.  The player with the best shot of winning rookie of the year will be KBO veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu.  The pudgy lefthander can get his fastball in the low 90s but rules the plate with his change.

Projected on Paper Finish: It will be an embarrassing season if the Dodgers do not finish first.  It will be an affirmation that there are a number of character problems on this team who don’t have or have lost the ability to win.  They should be motivated by that to win the division.

Press Conference (cont - 6)

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

“You know you might want to call John to let him know you’ll be on national television. He might have an interest in watching the game.” The conversation was in English now. Kevin felt more focused in English.

“I white him to let him know.”

“You mean you’ll email him?”

“I not have email address. I not know he have one. He never much for computer. He would have others do all that computer stuff for him. I have his address. I white him.”

“That could take weeks. By the time he gets the letter you will already have pitched. You could call him.”

“I not know his number. John not give it to me before he go. Since I not have phone then I not member to ask.”

Kevin rolled his eyes. “He might as well be living in a cave. Hopefully, someone will let him know. He does have a television?”

“He has tee vee. But he not watch much.”

For the remainder of the ride back Jason fell back to sleep, returning his head to the pillow resting along the passenger side window. It was getting dark as they arrived in Florida.

They pulled into the parking lot of the spring training facility at 11 PM. Moose had told Kevin either he or one of his assistants would be waiting for him to give him the keys to their hotel.

“We will be getting in pretty late.”

“That’s okay. We work pretty late here.”

Sure enough, the lights to the facility were still on. As they got out of the car the night air exuded warmth, a much better feeling than where they came from. It was also very quiet. If you listened long enough you could hear the city breath.

Moose was waiting for them inside. He was poring over the scouting reports. He greeted them at the front door and walked them to the lobby area where he reached into a desk to grab an envelope containing the hotel cards and directions. “We got you a suite. There are two rooms in the unit. It’s on the second floor. It has a kitchen with a frig and a microwave. If you have any problems with the room you let me know.”

As they were ready to walk out Moose stopped them. “I almost forgot. We’ve got a collection of mail for Jason. Wait there a second and I’ll get it for him.”

Moose walked into his office. When he came out he was carrying a large yellow recycling crate requiring both his massive arms to cradle underneath the crate. It was filled to the top with mail. “This should keep him busy for a while.”

He handed the crate to Jason. “We’ve x-rayed the packages and everything should be all right. I wouldn’t eat any food in there. It’s probably spoiled by now and you really don’t know what’s in there. There are a lot of crazies out there.”

Kevin looked in amazement at the mountain of letters and packages inside the yellow recycling crate. “He got all that mail since we’ve been gone. He wasn’t getting anything while we were here for instructional.”

“Most of the mail came last week. Someone must have done a story on him. A lot of the mail from China has come within the last couple days. At this rate we may have to get him his own zip code. You should see all the Asian press we got here. They are all tripping over each other. If I didn’t know any better I think I was in Beijing and not Sarasota.”

Kevin looked at Jason. “I’d save that fortune from your lunch today. It looks like there may be something to it.”

>>>>

Venezuela Decides Playoff Participants

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

They still have a couple of games left, but the five playoff participants have been decided.  The following teams will play in a round robin format for the championship to represent Venezuela in the Series del Caribe to be played in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Magallenas Navegantes (36-26)

Zulia Aguilas (35-28)

Anzoategui Caribes (34-28)

Caracas Leones (34-28)

Lara Cardenales (32-29)

At least the top five teams will all finish above .500.  It just so happens the bottom five teams will finish below .500.