Saturday, July 25, 2009


This marks the final edition of “World Baseball Today.” After 16 months and 87 programs since November 2007, we will become “Baseball Mexico,” beginning August 2.

“Baseball Mexico” will be very similar to “World Baseball Today” in length and format, and will continue to air every Sunday at 10:30AM Eastern on Radio Miami International at 9955 kHz and online at However, there WILL be changes.

The obvious change will be the narrowing of programming focus to Mexican professional baseball. Mexico is the world’s only country in which pro ball is played all year long, and BBM will focus on both the Mexican League during the spring and summer and the Mexican Pacific League during the fall and winter, as well as Mexican players in Major League Baseball. BBM will also include features such as the “Mexican Baseball Road Trip,” in which all 24 Mexican baseball cities are profiled, histories of Mexico and Mexican baseball, and “Maestros of Mexico,” where 50 of Mexico’s most important figures in baseball (on and off the field) will be profiled.

Thanks to everyone who has followed WBT, and I hope you’ll make the move to BBM.  Our new email address is


Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox tossed a perfect game Thursday, blanking the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-0, in Chicago to become the sixth pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a perfect game and a no-hitter in his career. He authored a 6-0 no-hitter against Texas in 2007. Ironically, Eric Cooper was the home plate umpire for both of Buehrle’s gems.

Buehrle did need a little late defensive help. Gabe Kapler drilled a ninth-inning pitch deep to left-center field, but Sox centerfielder DeWayne Wise was able to track the ball down and make a leaping catch at the fence to steal a homer and save the perfecto. Buehrle then got Jason Bartlett to hit a grounder to shortstop for the final out of the game.

The win pulled the 50-45 White Sox into a tie for first with Detroit in the American League Central Division. The 57-37 New York Yankees lead the AL East, and the 55-38 Los Angeles Angels are best in the West. In the National League, the 53-39 Philadelphia Phillies lead the East Division, the 51-46 St. Louis Cardinals lead the Central (where just two games separate the top four teams); and in the West, the 61-34 Los Angeles Dodgers are on top.


The New York Times is reporting the use of DNA testing by Major League Baseball on some Latin American prospects and their families. According to a written statement from the MLB office, DNA testing was used in the Dominican Republic “in very rare instances, and only on a consensual basis to deal with the identity fraud problem that the league faces in that country.” An MLB spokesman declined to say how many prospects have been tested.

In recent years, a number of Latin prospects have been found to be older than they claimed upon signing with Major League teams, some of whom received fairly large bonuses. According to the Times, some experts and at least one scout raised the possibility that DNA testing could also be used to predict a player’s medical future, and that baseball’s use of such information has alarmed genetics and bioethics professionals.

One of the hottest unsigned prospects in the Dominican, shortstop Miguel Sano, underwent a DNA test and a bone scan to verify that he is, indeed, 16 years old.


The Yucatan Leones and Quintana Roo Tigres began an important three-game series by splitting the first two games in a matchup of the top two teams in the Mexican League’s Southern Zone in Merida’s Estadio Kukulcan.

The Tigres won the opener, 4-1, Tuesday night by scoring one run in the top of the eighth inning and two more in the ninth. Alex Sanchez was 3-for-5 for the Tigres, scoring one run and driving in another. The Leones came back Wednesday night for a 5-4 win, thanks in no small part to a three-run homer by Luis Matos in the sixth.

With the win, the 30-16 Leones went 2.5 games ahead of the Tigres in the LMB South. In the North, the 32-13 Mexico City Diablos Rojos are seven games up on Saltillo.


Ace Yu Darvish tossed his sixth complete game win of the season to lead the Nippon Ham Fighters to a 2-1 win over the Lotte Marines Wednesday night, completing a three-game sweep and helping keep the Fighters in first place in Japan’s Pacific League standings.

The 12-3 Darvish allowed just two hits and struck out six in joining Seibu’s Hideaki Wakui as Japan’s only 12-game winners as Nippon Ham won their fifth game in a row to go to 48-32-1 on the season. The second-place Softbank Hawks kept pace by outlasting Seibu, 7-6, as Hiroki Kokubo’s tiebreaking RBI single off Lions pitcher Marcus Gwyn in the seventh was the difference-maker. Tadashi Settsu won in relief while closer Takahiro Mahara earned his 19th save of the year. Seibu fell to 42-39-3, and are currently in third place.

The Yomiuri Giants continue to lead the Central League with a 50-28-7 record, but the 51-34-1 Chunichi Dragons have been quietly closing in on the Kyojin. The Giants bopped the Yokohama BayStars, 6-2, Wednesday night as Michihiro Ogasawara hit two of Yomiuri’s four home runs to support pitcher Wirfin Obispo’s first complete game of the season. Chunichi also won Wednesday, topping the Hiroshima Carp, 3-2. Masaaki Koike’s eighth-inning single drove in Atsushi Fujii from second base with the game-winning run.


The Korea Baseball Organization’s 34th annual All-Star Game was scheduled for Saturday, July 25 in Gwangju, returning to that KBO city for the first time in eleven years.

The game is an East-versus-West affair. The West team consists of players from the Kia Tigers, Hanwha Eagles, LG Twins and the Heroes, and was managed this year by Hanwha skipper In-sik Kim. The East squad is drawn from the SK Wyverns, Doosan Bears, Lotte Giants and Samsung Lions, and was skippered by SK dugout boss Sung-geun Kim. The East led the all-time series, 21 games to 11, heading into Saturday’s contest. Seventeen first-time players were on the two All-Star rosters.

Defending champion SK leads the KBO at the All-Star Break with a 49-36-2 record, just ahead of traditional rival Doosan, who is 47-36-2. Kia holds down third place at 46-36-4 in what is now shaping up as a three-team race after the Wyverns and Bears were well ahead of the six other KBO teams for most of the season.


After holding off the La New Bears to win the Chinese Professional Baseball League’s first-half title, the defending Taiwanese champion Uni-President Lions have lost eight of the first ten games of their second-half schedule to drop into the CPBL cellar. The Lions won the first-half crown with a 34-24-2 record, just ahead of the 33-26-1 Bears.

Sinon defeated the Lions, 6-4, last Sunday to even the Bulls’ second-half record at 5-5, thanks to Da-hong Cheng’s three-run walkoff homer at Taipei County Stadium. The loss marked the first time in 19 seasons that Uni-President has dropped seven straight games as the Lions fell to 2-8 in the standings.

In other CPBL action last Sunday, the Brother Elephants pulled back into a first-place tie with the Bears following a 12-inning, 4-3 win in Tianmu. A fielding error by La New rookie Chih-ping Lin let in the winning run to snap a six-game Bears winning streak. Elephants reliever Jia-rei Mai tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win in relief as Brother avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of the Bears and moved back into a first-place tie with both teams at 6-3. The Elephants finished a distant last in the first half with a 21-38 record.


The Italian League Serie A1 playoffs began this weekend after Fortitudo Bologna and Telemarket Rimini tied for first place in the regular season standings with identical 30-12 records. However, it took a three-game sweep over Rimini by Bologna to pull Fortitudo into the deadlock.

Richard Austin socked his sixth and seventh homers of the season in last Sunday’s 7-4 Bologna victory to complete the broom job. Eddy Garabito also homered for the winners and Matthew Stocco added three RBIs as both teams gave a number of pitchers a workout as a prelude to the postseason. Defending champion T&A San Marino finished third, four games behind at 26-16, two games ahead of fourth-place Cariparma Parma, who was 24-18. Parma nudged out 23-19 Danesi Nettuno for the fourth and final playoff berth, while Montepaschi Grosseto, De Angelis GODO and Palfinger Reggio Emilia were all well out of contention.

This weekend’s best-of-3 semifinals pitted Bologna and Parma in one series, while Bologna squared off against San Marino. The winners will open the Italian Series next weekend.


DOOR Neptunus and the defending champion Amsterdam Pirates were just one game apart in the Dutch Major League standings when they opened their important three-game series last weekend in Rotterdam. However, after pulling out three wins, Neptunus is now 27-8-1 and has a four-game lead over 23-12-1 Amsterdam.

Neptunus opened the set with a 6-5 win on July 17, and followed up with a 10-8 victory on July 18 before finishing the sweep with an 8-2 triumph on July 19. As if the three straight losses weren’t bad enough for the Pirates, they now have two other Hoofdklasse teams chasing them for second place in the standings.

The Konica Minolta Pioniers took three straight games from last-place MediaMonks RCH last weekend to move into third place at 22-12-2, while Sparta/Feyenoord won two in a row over Corendon Kinheim to slide past last season’s runners-up into fourth with a 21-13-1 mark. Kinheim dropped to fifth at 21-14. Mr. Crocker HCAW, ADO and Media Monks are all out of playoff contention with a combined 25-80-3 record.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Baltimore’s Adam Jones lofted a sacrifice fly to score Detroit’s Curtis Granderson from third base in the eighth inning to give the American League a 4-3 win over the National League at the 80th Major League All-Star Game last Tuesday in St. Louis. With the victory, the American League has now won or tied the past 13 Midsummer Classics.

The Americans handed starter Roy Halladay of Toronto a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, and Halladay responded by retiring the first five National League batters he faced. The Nationals eventually took a 3-2 lead on a pinch-hit double from Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder in the third. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer tied the game in the fifth with an RBI double of his own, setting up Granderson’s one-out triple in the eighth prior to Jones’ sac fly.

Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon got the win with a scoreless seventh inning. San Diego’s Heath Bell, who gave up Granderson’s triple and Jones’ sac fly, was pinned with the loss for the National League.


Three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez has finally signed a contract with a big league team after months in limbo. The 37-year-old Martinez agreed a one-year deal with the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies last week for $1 million, plus another $1.5 million in incentives. Martinez had been seeking a $5 million contract after a good showing in March’s World Baseball Classic, but four months passed before the right-hander bit the bullet and signed with the Phils.

Martinez pitched twice at the Phillies’ Dominican academy before the team sat down to talk business with him. He was immediately placed on the disabled list, and will begin his season pitching a rehab assignment for a Phillies farm team. Martinez won the Cy Young Award three times between 1997 and 2000, and has a career record of 214-99 with a 2.91 ERA and 3,117 strikeouts over 17 big league seasons. Last year, he went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA for the New York Mets before becoming a free agent in the offseason.


Mexico’s counterpart to Cooperstown, the Salon de la Fama in Monterrey, was scheduled to induct four new members this weekend. A Saturday night ceremony prior to the Reynosa-Monterrey Mexican League game at Monterrey Baseball Stadium introduced inductees Arturo Gonzalez, Juan Jose Pacho, Salvador Colorado and Jose Domingo Setien.

Gonzalez was 232-169 over 27 years pitching in the Mexican League (all for Monterrey), Pacho was a shortstop who batted .278 over 1,891 Liga games in his career before becoming a successful manager, Colorado was 181-125 in 18 Mexican summers between the Seventies and Nineties, and Setien has been a baseball writer and TV commentator in Mexico since 1972.

Gonzalez was elected in his first year on the ballot.


After losing the first contest of their three-game series, the Nippon Ham Fighters took two straight wins over the Softbank Hawks to come to within a half-game of the league-leading Hawks in Japan’s Pacific League standings.

Jose Ortiz whacked a two-run homer to give the Hawks a 2-1 win in Tuesday night’s opener to snap the Fighters’ three-game win streak. Nippon Ham came back to win the final two games of the set, however. Fighters ace Yu Darvish tossed his fifth complete game of 2009 in Wednesday’s 9-1 win over Softbank as Darvish’s record was lifted to 11-3. One night later, the Fighters won the rubber match, 3-2, thanks to Eiichi Koyano’s two-run triple in the sixth inning.

The Hawks are clinging to the PL lead with a 45-31-2 record, while the Fighters are right on their heels at 45-32-1. Seibu is third at 40-38-3. In the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants have all kinds of breathing room with a 47-25-7 record, 5.5 games ahead of 45-34-1 Chunichi and six games up on 42-32 Yakult.


Samsung veteran Joon-hyuk Yang swatted the 350th homer of his 17-year career last Tuesday night in Daegu, but the Lions still lost a 14-9 slugfest to the Doosan Bears in a Korea Baseball Organization game.

The 40-year-old Yang walloped his three-run shot off Bears start Jae-woo Lee in the first inning. Yang, who has eleven homers this year, has never won a single-season home run title and has never hit more than 23 dingers in a year. Even so, Yang is the only KBO player ever to top 300 career homers, although SK Wyverns catcher Kyung-oan Park is knocking on the door at 299. Not just a swing-for-the-fences slugger, Yang is a career .318 hitter over 2,059 games since his 1993 debut (including a .326 average this year). He played the first six years of his KBO career for the Lions, then spent a season with the KIA Tigers and two more with the SK Wyverns before returning to Samsung in 2002.

Despite the win, second-place Doosan was not able to close the gap between the Bears and the league-leading Wyverns. SK is 48-33-5 this year, good enough for a 2.5-game lead over the 45-35-2 Bears. KIA is in third at 43-35-4, one game behind the Bears.


It took a shortstop’s error in the eleventh inning of the deciding game, but Japan was able to pull out a 3-games-to-2 win in their collegiate baseball All-Star series with the United States last week in Japan. The series was tied at two games apiece going into the fifth and final contest at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Game Five was knotted up at 4-4 going into the ninth inning when the Americans scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead, but when Japan notched three counters of their own in the bottom of the frame, the game went into overtime. With two out in the bottom of the eleventh, Masayoshi Kato’s grounder was bobbled by USA shortstop Christian Colon, bringing in the winning run from third base to end the game with an 8-7 Japan victory. The series itself was a see-saw affair, as the USA and Japan swapped wins back and forth over the first four games.

Asia University outfielder Keiji Nakahara was named the series MVP after recording at least one hit in all five games, including a homer in Game Three, as Japan extended their winning streak at home to 13 straight series.


Giorvis Duvergel’s RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a 3-3 tie as Cuba went on to pound The Netherlands, 9-3, last Sunday in the title game of the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam. Cuba dominated the tournament by winning or tying nine of the ten games they played. Conversely, the host Dutch reached the final despite a 4-5 record in the preliminary round in which the four national teams played one another three times each. Taiwan finished third with a 3-5-1 record, while Japan brought up the rear at 3-6.

The Japanese did capture a measure of glory on July 11 by handing the Cubans their only loss in a 2-1 win for pitcher Syogo Suenaga, who let in one unearned run on four hits in a complete game victory.

Cuba’s Yoelvis Fiss was voted the tourney’s MVP after going 15-for-35 at the plate with two homers and 12 RBIs. Teammate Maikel Folch earned Best Pitcher honors after tossing 18 scoreless innings, including four shutout frames in the title game with The Netherlands to earn the victory.


To the surprise of nobody, the Puerto Cruz Marlins have clinched the Spanish Division of Honor regular season championship following a two-game sweep of the Vigo Halcones last weekend at home in Tenerife. Vigo took a 3-0 first inning lead in the opening game via a three-run homer by Marco Marques. The Marlins came back with one run in the first before pounding out five more in the second, highlighted by two-run bombs from Juan Macias and Daniel Martinez. Leslie Nacar ran his record to 14-1 by settling down after Marques’ blast and letting in no more Halcones runs through the eighth frame. Ivan Granados saw his record lifted to 12-1 in the second game by tossing a 5-0 shutout.

With the sweep, Puerto Cruz is now 30-2, four games ahead of 26-6 Barcelona with four games left on the schedule. Remember that Barca road trip to Puerto Cruz that was cancelled because nobody bothered to book a team flight to Tenerife earlier this season? Even if the Marlins lose all four of their games and Barcelona wins their last four games, Puerto Cruz will get the nod for first because of those two 9-0 forfeit wins over Barca.


The German Baseball League playoffs have winnowed down to four teams after all first round Bundesliga series wrapped up last weekend. The Solingen Alligators will meet the Heidenheim Heidekoepfe in one semifinal series, while the defending champion Regensburg Buchbinder Legionaere will take on the Manheim Tornados in the other. Solingen and Regensburg won their respective division titles during the regular season.

Solingen eliminated the Mainz Athletics in three straight games, including a 10-0 win last weekend as Enorbel Marquez-Ramirez combined with Jens Cornelsen and Andre Hughes to limit Mainz to two hits and a walk. Heidenheim allowed just one run in 23 innings of their three-game sweep of Dortmund, including a 13-0 Markus Winkler one-hitter last Saturday.

Regensburg won their third straight over the HSV Stealers, 9-7, last week as Matt Vance was 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Manheim needed four games to knock out Paderborn, scoring a 14-4 clincher win last Sunday. The Tornados’ Marvin Appiah homered for the third straight game, while pitcher Martin DeWald earned his third postseason win.

The best-of-5 semis will begin Saturday, August 1 because the German National Team will be in Canada for the World Baseball Challenge this weekend.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals racked up 5.4 million fan votes in balloting for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game this week at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Pujols easily led all vote-getters in receiving the second-highest number of tallies in MLB history.

He’ll be joined by teammate Yadier Molina, who’ll start as catcher for the National League as the two Cardinals stay at home for the All-Star Break. Philadelphia Phillies manager Charley Manuel will be the National League skipper.

Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees led American League players in votes, and will start at shortstop for Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. The AL team includes ten first-time All-Stars, and the Boston Red Sox lead both leagues with six players in Tuesday night’s game, which will be televised in the USA on the FOX Network.


The signing period for Major League teams to reach contract agreements with undrafted international players has begun. Players inside the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico are subject to MLB’s June draft, but the rest are considered free agents (although they can’t be signed to deals until July 2).

Several young international players have already made deals with MLB teams, but none have topped last year’s record $4.25 million signing bonus the Oakland Athletics gave Dominican pitcher Michael Ynoa. The top figure this year is the reported $3.1 million shelled out by St. Louis for Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo, while the Yankees gave Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez $3 million.

The top two unsigned international prospects are said to Dominican shortstop Miguel Angel Sano and Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who may get an eight-figure signing bonus.


A pair of pitchers from India signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates after appearing on an Indian television show called “The Million Dollar Arm” made their pro baseball debuts recently. Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel became the first players from India to play in an American professional baseball game on July 4 by appearing back-to-back in a 4-2 Pirates’ Gulf Coast League loss to the Yankees in Bradenton, Florida. The GCL is a Rookie-level league based at spring training complexes throughout Florida.

Singh pitched the seventh inning, allowing a run on two hits before retiring the last three Yankees batters he faced. Patel came on in the eighth, turning in a hitless, nine-pitch effort on the mound. Singh is left-handed, while Patel is a righty.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, who signed the duo last November, said, “This is going to be a long process, but they continue to make progress.” Huntington added that Patel and Singh will pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the year and probably in 2010 as well.


The Softbank Hawks defeated the Orix Buffaloes, 3-2, last Wednesday night to take a narrow 1.5-game lead over the Nippon Ham Fighters in their neck-and-neck battle for the lead in Japan’s Pacific League standings. Nobuhiro Matsuda went 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the Hawks, while starter Yoshiaki Fujioka let in one run over 5.2 innings for the win as Softbank raised their record to 41-28-2.

The Fighters are right behind the Hawks at 40-30-1 after dropping a 4-3 decision to the Seibu Lions Wednesday night. Yu Darvish took the loss for Nippon Ham to fall to 10-3 for the season after giving up four runs in seven innings, the most tallies he’s allowed in a start this year. Seibu pinch-hitter Tatsuyuki Uemoto touched Darvish with a two-run homer in the seventh to put the Lions ahead for good. Seibu is third in the PL at 36-35-2.

In the Central League standings, the Yomiuri Giants are 43-24-6 and hold a comfortable lead over the 39-29 Yakult Swallows. The Giants beat the Yokohama BayStars, 3-2, Wednesday night as Hayato Sakamoto hit his second walkoff homer of the year in the ninth inning. The Swallows kept pace with an 11-6 win over the Chunichi Dragons. Norichika Aoki stroked a two-run single in the sixth to break a 6-6 tie as Yakult scored the final five runs of the game. Chunichi is in third place in the CL with a 40-32-1 record.


Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992, and the organization is leaving no stone unturned pursuing prospects that might help turn things around. The Bucs last week signed three high school players from Taiwan to minor league contracts. Two of them are from the same school.

Xiyuan Taichung City High School produced right-handed pitcher Sheng-qin Hong and outfielder Pin-hong Ji. Hong is a 165-pound six-footer who throws a 90 MPH fastball along with a curveball and changeup. His velocity is expected to increase as his body fills out. Ji is only 5-7 and 143 pounds, but very fast on the bases and a starter on both the 2005 Pony League World Series winners and Taiwan’s 2007 IBA Senior League champions. Both Hong and Ji are 18 years old.

Also signed was first baseman Ji-wei Xu, a 17-year-old from Kuang Fu High School. Xu is just shy of six feet tall and weighs 202 pounds. He has been compared to Jim Thome and Jason Giambi by scouts who spotted him crushing a long homer in a game last December.

All three signees will be sent to Australia’s Major League Baseball Academy for at least a couple months. Xu could be assigned to a Pirates minor league team as early as September, while Hong and Ji may not be assigned until next spring.


The Batangas Bulls capped off a near-perfect Baseball Philippines Series 5 season by destroying the Manila Sharks, 12-3, last weekend to wrap up the BP finals and cop the pennant. Bulls starter Vladimir Eguia held Manila to two runs on five hits in a complete game effort en route to picking up the Finals MVP award as Batangas picked up their second title. The Bulls won the opener of the best-of-3 series, 13-4, in Manila.

Both teams were hit hard when BP suspended 24 Philippines National Team players for insubordination earlier this year. Batangas lost four players, including all-time home run leader Vio Roxas, while Manila was missing four players themselves. Still, the Series 5 season belonged to the Bulls, who won 13 of the 14 games they played. Series 6 begins this fall.


The defection of star pitcher Aroldis Chapman apparently hasn’t had a negative affect on the Cuban National Team, at least not on the field. Cuba opened the 2009 World Port Tournament in Rotterdam, Holland with six wins and a tie in their first seven games wins last week, and is the only team in the four-nation tourney above .500.

Cuba opened the World Port Tournament on July 2 with a 1-0 shutout of the host Netherland team as Miguel Gonzalez outdueled Diegomar Markwell for the win. Rolando Merino’s RBI single in the top of the third plated the game’s only run. Gonzalez came back six days later to combine with Yadiel Pedroso on a one-hitter for a 10-0 whitewashing of Japan. Taiwan won the second game on Opening Day, 4-3, over Japan as Kun-Sheng Lin’s single in the 11th inning gave Taiwan the lead and ultimately the win.

Cuba ran their record to 6-0-1 through last Thursday, when they tied Taiwan, 1-1, in a makeup game of an earlier rainout, then beat the Taiwanese team again, 5-4. Taiwan is now 2-4-1 for the tournament. The Netherlands topped Japan, 4-3, in the third game of the day in Rotterdam to bring their record up to 3-4. Japan brings up the rear at 2-5 as of Thursday.

The tournament is scheduled to conclude Sunday, July 12 with the title game.


Fortitudo Bologna stretched their Italian League Serie A1 winning streak to seven games last weekend to go to 26-10 for the season, good enough for a first-place tie with Telemarket Rimini. Bologna completed a three-game sweep of De Angelis GODO last Sunday with a 10-1 win. Richard Austin crashed a grand slam homer for Bologna, who scored 29 runs in the series. Claudio Liverziani also homered and reached base five times, while Eddy Garabito was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and three more driven in for Bologna. De Angelis is in last place in Italy with a 7-29 record, and are on an eight-game losing streak.

Rimini lost the opener of their series with seventh-place Palfinger Reggio Emilia, but bounced back to win the final two to avoid slipping into second place. Telemarket won the rubber match last Sunday, 9-4, as Rimini starter Sandy Patrone gave up one run in seven innings while striking out seven batters. Rimini is now 26-10, while Palfinger is 8-28.


The German League playoffs have begun, and four teams wasted no time taking leads in their respective first round series, including defending champion Regensburg.

Regensburg opened with a pair of wins over the HSV Stealers. The Legionaere scored five runs in the first two innings of their opener with the Stealers, and went on to a seven-inning, 11-1 win over HSV. Regensburg needed extra innings to win Game 2, scoring four runs in the top of the tenth for a 7-3 victory. Michael Weigl sliced a two-run single to key the tenth for the champs.

Elsewhere in the German League, the Solingen Alligators won two games over Mainz as Solingen shortstop Chris Beck homered and finished with six RBIs in the opener, then reached base five times, scored four times and drove in three other runs during the second contest. Heidenheim topped Dortmund twice to begin their series, with Dusty Bergman tossing a two-hit shutout in the second game. Manheim took two from Paderborn but the Tornados had to hold off Paderborn in the first game as the Untouchables overcame a 9-2 deficit with seven runs in the top of the ninth. Craig Pycock’s walkoff double in the bottom of the ninth handed Manheim the 10-9 victory.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Although Mariano Rivera has been arguably the American League’s most dominant reliever over the past decade, there is one thing that makes him no different than any other pitcher: He loves to bat. When Rivera recorded the 500th save of his standout career last Sunday, he was more excited about collecting his first RBI in 14 years with the New York Yankees.

The 39-year-old Rivera batted for only the third time since 1996 because the Yanks were playing their crosstown rival New York Mets at Citi Field. Rivera came up to bat against Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Rivera worked a seven-pitch walk to drive in an insurance run and went on to wrap up the Yanks’ 4-2 win over the Mets, thus becoming the first American League pitcher to reach 500 saves. Milwaukee’s Trevor Hoffman is tops all-time with 571 saves.

Afterwards, Rivera said, “The RBI was the best. It was my first RBI. I’ve had 500 saves.”


It was unusual enough when there was a rain delay at a San Diego Padres home game earlier this season, since the city near the California-Mexican border averages fewer than 2 inches of precipitation during baseball season. However, what happened last Thursday was really unusual.

The Padres’ game against Houston was delayed for nearly an hour in the top of the ninth inning when a swarm of bees began swirling around a ballgirl’s jacket near the left field line. A beekeeper who was on the PETCO Park groundskeeper’s speed dial (hey, you never know WHO you may have to call) was brought in to dispose of what one San Diego official estimated as a couple thousand bees.

The bees ended up showing a little more sting than the Padres, who lost, 7-2, to the Astros.


A 21-year-old left-handed pitcher who was clocked at 102 MPH earlier this year has left the Cuban National Team in Europe and is planning to sign with a Major League Baseball team.

Aroldis Chapman walked out of his hotel in Rotterdam, Holland, where Cuba was playing in a tournament, and never returned. Chapman is considered by many scouts to be the world’s number one lefty prospect, although some say his secondary pitches are only average. There are concerns about his maturity as well, but the young man DOES hit triple-digits on the radar gun.

Estimates are that Chapman could bring in up to $30 million and will likely draw an offer from the New York Yankees, who never met a defecting Cuban pitcher they didn’t like.


The Mexican League has suspended two players after league-wide testing for performance enhancing drugs. Out of 124 samples from players on the Liga’s 16 teams, Tabasco shortstop Luis Porchas and Monclova pitcher Sergio Valenzuela tested positive and have each been suspended for 50 games. Porchas is a 19-year-old rookie who was batting .194 with no homers in 22 games with the Olmecas, while the 24-year-old Valenzuela was 3-1 with a 3.11 ERA in nine starts for the Acereros. Valenzuela spent four years playing in the Atlanta Braves system before joining Monclova last season, where he was 8-4 with a 4.89 ERA in 18 starts.

Both Porchas and Valenzuela are Hermosillo natives.


Nippon Ham Fighters outfielder Atsunori Inaba has received the most fan votes of any player for the upcoming Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star series.

Inaba, who is in his fifth season with the Fighters after spending his first ten seasons with the Yakult Swallows, is presently seventh among Pacific League batters with a .329 average. He also has nine homers and 41 RBIs. Inaba received over 498,000 votes from fans, and was the top vote-getter among his fellow Japanese players with 484.

In all, eleven players from Japan’s World Baseball Classic champions were voted onto All-Star rosters, including Fighters right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish and Yakult outfielder Norichika Aoki. South Korea’s WBC closer, Chang-yong Lim, was picked for the Central League team. Lim has yet to give up an earned run in 2009 after 30.2 innings out of the bullpen. The Hanshin Tigers, who are one of the most popular teams in the country, had no players selected by fans for the first time in eight years.

Managers will pick remaining All-Star players on Monday. The All-Star Series will be held July 24 at the Sapporo Dome, home of the Fighters, and July 25 in Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, which opened in April.


Not all veterans of Major League Baseball enjoy success in Asia, but 2009 has been very, very good to Roberto Petagine of the Korea Baseball Organization’s LG Twins. The 38-year-old Venezuelan is fourth in the KBO with a .352 batting average, and Petagine’s 19 homers and 60 RBIs are both good enough to rank second in the league behind another import, the Heroes’ Cliff Brumbaugh.

Petagine has seen a lot in his 20 seasons of pro baseball after signing with the Houston Astros as a 19-year-old free agent in 1990. He bounced from the Astros to San Diego, the New York Mets and Cincinnati between 1994 and 1998 before moving to Japan’s Yakult Swallows in 1999. Petagine spent six seasons in Japan with the Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants, batting .317 with 223 homers and winning an MVP trophy and two home run titles along the way. After returning to America for parts of two MLB seasons with Boston and Seattle and a Mexican League stint with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, Petagine came to Korea in May of last season.

Some KBO teams have tried employing a sort of “Ted Williams shift” on Petagine this year, moving infielders to the right side of the diamond, but he often thwarts that strategy by hitting balls into the seats (where fielders can’t reach them). Other teams have gone the more conventional route and walked Petagine to avoid pitching to him altogether. Given his numbers, it’s hard to blame them.


Mickey Callaway pitched five shutout innings of four-hit ball and Dai-chi Kuo cranked a long three-run homer to lift the Uni-President Lions to a 10-7 win over the Brother Elephants last Sunday to clinch the first half championship in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League.

The 34-year-old Callaway, who has pitched in the major leagues for Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Texas, held the Elephants in check while his teammates built a 10-0 lead, including a six-run outburst in the fourth inning. Also last Sunday, the La New Bears lost a 13-5 contest to the Sinon Bulls as starter Shoda Itsuki allowed two runs over six innings for Sinon.


After sitting out several weeks due to shoulder problems, 17-year-old female pitcher Eri Yoshida has made three more appearances for the Kobe 9 Cruise of Japan’s independent Kansai League.

The sidearming knuckleballer struck out the only batter she faced May 29 against the Akashi Red Soldiers in her first game since opening night in April. Yoshida struggled in another stint against Akashi on June 13, hitting two batters in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game, and things didn’t go better in a June 29 outing against the Osaka Gold Villicanes. She entered the game with two out in the eighth, and gave up a double, then hit and walked the next two batters to load the bases before being pulled.


Telemarket Rimini avoided a three-game sweep by T&A San Marino last weekend by thumping the defending Italian Serie A1 champions, 10-2, thanks to a solid pitching performance by starter Sandy Patrone and the bullpen. Patrone allowed two hits and both San Marino runs in 5.1 innings before the relief corps came on and turned in 3.2 hitless innings. Ivanon Coffie crunched his 8th homer for Rimini with a two-run blast in the eighth, while Mexican League alum Eduardo Rios and Mario Chiarini both had two RBIs. Max DiBiase’s sixth-inning single drove in both San Marino runs. Rimini is now 24-9 for the season, one game ahead of 23-10 Bologna.

Earlier in the series, San Marino’s David Sheldon became the eleventh player in Italian league history to play in 1,000 games. A native of New Orleans, the 46-year-old Sheldon spent two years in the Chicago White Sox farm system before coming to Italy in 1987. He has suited up for nine teams over 23 seasons since then.


Although the Puerto Cruz Marlins have seen their bid for a perfect season end, the defending Spanish Division of Honor champions are still on top of the standings following a two-game sweep of eighth place Baseball Navarra last weekend. Puerto Cruz won a tight 2-0 opener as Luis Perez’ homer and Nestor Perez’ RBI single in the fourth gave starter Leslie Nacar all the runs he needed en route to a complete game shutout. The Marlins had an easier time of it in the second game, pounding Navarra, 13-3, in an eight-inning mercy rule contest. Puerto Cruz batters collected 18 hits, including five homers, to run their record to 26-2.

The Marlins were swept by Barcelona in a June 20 doubleheader. Barca stayed within two games of Puerto Cruz at 24-4 with a pair of dominant wins over Pamplona last weekend. Barcelona scored 11 eighth-inning runs on the way to a 20-2 drubbing in the first game, racking up 24 hits on the way. The second game was closer than the final 18-3 score indicates. Pamplona took a 3-0 lead with three fifth inning runs and carried that score into another disastrous eighth inning, when Barca scored all 18 runs in a frame that had the scorekeeper reaching for his bottle of Maalox…at least.


It’s a good thing for the Rouen Huskies that the have an eight-game French Elite League winning streak going. They’ve needed all eight of those wins to stay ahead of the hard-charging Montpellier Barracudas, who’ve won ten in a row themselves.

Rouen lifted their league record to 17-3 last weekend with a double-shutout sweep of the Clermont-Ferrand Arvernes. Robin Roy allowed four hits while striking out 14 batters in the opener as Rouen beat the Arvernes 12-0 in seven innings. In the second game, Rouen’s Keino Perez gave up only one hit over seven innings as the Huskies drilled Clermont-Ferrand, 10-0.

Montpellier is 1.5 games behind Rouen following their doubleheader sweep of La Guerche. The ‘Cudas won the opener, 12-1, as pitcher Thomas Langlois pitched eight strong innings for the winners. Montpellier built a 10-1 lead after five innings in the nightcap, but the Hawks closed the gap and forced the ‘Cudas to hang on for an 11-9 victory to bring their Elite League record to 14-3. Savigny is in third place, five games behind Rouen with a 13-9 mark.


It certainly took long enough for the London Mets to get things going. The defending British National League champs were 4-4 and holding fourth place in the five-team circuit before reeling off six straight wins to take a slight lead over the Hertfordshire Falcons, who have four consecutive wins of their own. London swept the Richmond Flames in a doubleheader last week, while Herts did the same against the Croydon Pirates. The Bracknell Blazers had the weekend off.

While Herts is 12-6 and in a virtual tie for first with 10-4 London, the Mets are .44 percentage points ahead of the Falcons. Bracknell holds third place at 7-5, Richmond is 9-7 and Croydon is 0-16.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


The Louisiana State Tigers parlayed a five-run sixth inning into an 11-4 win over the Texas Longhorns last Wednesday night to clinch the 2009 NCAA college baseball national championship in Omaha, Nebraska. It was LSU’s sixth national title after the Tigers won the best-of-3 final series, 2 games to 1. Two years ago, LSU didn’t even qualify for the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Jared Mitchell’s three-run homer gave the Tigers a first-inning lead, but Texas tied the game. Mikie Mahtook’s tie-breaking double opened the floodgates in the sixth for LSU, and from that point it was just a matter of time. For Mitchell, it was his second national crown at LSU. He was a wide receiver on the Tigers’ BCS football championship team in 2007.

LSU finished the season with a 56-17 record, while Texas was 50-16-1.


American president Barack Obama is going to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 2009 Major League All-Star Game on July 14 in St. Louis. Obama will become the fourth president to do so, joining John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He’ll also be the seventh president to attend the Midsummer Classic, the first being Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa will be a coach for Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel’s National League All-Stars. La Russa says about Obama’s opening toss, “It’s exciting. The only thing is, he’s pulling for the American League.” Obama is a devoted Chicago White Sox fan.


Ryne Sandberg was known as a player who let his bat and glove do his talking for him during his Hall of Fame career as a second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, but he’s apparently making up for lost time. Sandberg recently said on a Chicago radio show that he doesn’t want former teammate Sammy Sosa to join him in the Hall of Fame after it was revealed Sosa was one of over 100 major league players who tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

Asked whether Sosa belongs in Cooperstown, Sandberg replied, “I don’t think so. They use the word ‘integrity’ in describing a Hall of Famer in the logo of the Hall of fame, and I think there are gonna be quite a few players that are not going to get in…It’s something that’s against the law and against society.” Ty Cobb’s name was never mentioned when Sandberg spoke of integrity.

Sosa hit 609 homers with 1,667 RBIs over 18 seasons, including four consecutive 60+ home run years. Sandberg was inducted into Cooperstown in 2005.


Jasiel Acosta won his Mexican League-leading 11th game Wednesday night as his Monclova Acereros defeated the Laguna Vaqueros, 10-5, before nearly 6,000 fans in Torreon. Acosta pitched six strong innings for the Steelers, allowing one run on four hits while raising his record to 11-4 as Monclova won their fifth game in a row. He certainly had enough offensive support, as five Acereros player collected three hits each in a 19-hit night for Monclova.

Monclova is now 15-8 in the second half, trailing only 15-6 Mexico City in the Mexican League’s Northern Zone standings, while Monterrey hold third place at 14-9. In the LMB South, Yucatan is 18-5 to lead the division by 4.5 games over 13-9 Campeche.


Softbank Hawks left-handed pitcher Toshiya Sugiuchi was named the Most Valuable Player in interleague play for Nippon Professional Baseball last week. Sugiuchi went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in six starts as the Hawks finished with the best interleague record in Japan for the second year in a row. For his work, Sugiuchi won 2 million yen in prize money. He said, “I wondered if I’m the right person to earn it. I didn’t expect to be selected because I won just three games.”

Two 1 million yen runner-up prizes were given to Chunichi Dragons first baseman Tony Blanco and Nippon Ham Fighters right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish. Blanco led all 12 NPB teams with 11 homers and 40 RBIs over 24 games while batting .299 for Chunichi, while Darvish was 4-1 with a 1.15 ERA and 40 strikeouts in five starts for the Fighters.

In Japanese baseball’s two pennant races, Yomiuri leads the Central League with a 37-19-6 record, two games ahead of the 36-22 Yakult Swallows. In the Pacific League, Softbank and Nippon Ham are in a virtual tie for first place. The Hawks are 35-25-2, while the Fighters are 35-25-1.


Although there’s still quite a while before the end of the regular season, the Korea Baseball Organization’s pennant chase appears to be shaping up as a four-way battle for the league’s fourth and final playoff berth.

The Doosan Bears are 39-26-2 to lead the 40-26-5 SK Wyverns by a a few percentage points at the top of the standings while the KIA Tigers are a solid third at 37-29-4. After that? A crapshoot.

The surprising unsponsored Heroes team is in fourth place with a 32-35-1 record, but hot on their heels are the 32-38 Lotte Giants and Samsung Lions, as well as the 32-36-4 LG Twins. Only the 24-40-3 Hanwha Eagles appear to be out of the running after losing five straight games.

So which team is the best bet for fourth place? The Heroes and Twins appear to be in the best shape. The Heroes have one of Korea’s best pitchers in Hyun-seung Lee, who has nine wins, and DH Cliff Brumbaugh, who leads the KBO with 21 homers and 59 RBIs. LG has the KBO’s top two batters, Park Yong-taek (.380) and Roberto Petagine (.376), as well as a top-notch closer in Jae-young Lee.


What had been a three-way fight for the lead in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League appears to be down to two teams. The President Lions are 33-23-2 and hold a slim half-game lead over the 32-23-1 LaNew Bears at the top of the standings, but the Sinon Bulls have faded in recent weeks to a 26-29-2 record and are now six games out of second place. The Brother Elephants have not been a factor all season and are 21-37-1 to bring up the rear of the four-team circuit.

There’s also an interesting battle among individual players for the 2009 MVP trophy. According to the Taiwan Baseball blog, there are five performers in Taiwan who’ve been a cut above this season: The Bears’ Chih-Sheng Lin is in the league’s top three with a .390 batting average, 15 homers and 49 RBIs, while teammate Chin-Feng Chen leads the CPBL with 17 homers and 53 RBIs, and is ninth in batting at .316. Sinon’s Yi-chuan Lin leads Taiwanese batter with a .394 average along with 7 homers and 50 RBIs. The Lions lineup boasts KC Kao, who’s hitting .349 with 5 homers and 40 RBIs, while the Elephants’ Chia Chia is hitting .386 with 10 homers and a league-leading 14 stolen bases.

All five are expected to play in the CPBL All-Star Game later this week.


Batangas and Manila will open their best-of-3 Baseball Philippines championship series this weekend at Manila’s Rizal Memorial Stadium. The Bulls dispatched the Cebu Dolphins last weekend as Romeo Jasmin carried a no-hitter through seven innings on the way to an 8-1 win in their semifinal series clincher. The Sharks needed 14 innings to oust the Alabang, 11-10, to win their series as a throwing error by Tigers third baseman King Manay allowed Edito Justo to score the game-winning run from second base.


Jeff Farnsworth outdueled three Fortitudo Bologna pitchers to lead Danesi Nettuno to a 1-0 win in an all-Italian final game for the European Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain last Saturday. It was the second time in as many years that Nettuno came away with the big trophy.

Bologna didn’t make it easy. Fortitudo starter Yulman Ribeiro gave up just one unearned run on three hits over 5.1 innings, while relievers Fabio Milano and Victor Moreno held Danesi scoreless. The only run of the game came in the second inning when Nettuno’s Giuseppe Mazzanti crossed the plate on a Manuel Gasparri single.

That turned out to be enough for Farnsworth, who scattered five hits and struck out 14 batters in eight-plus innings for the Danesi win. Carlos Pezzullo got the last two Bologna outs for the save.

Corendon Kinheim defeated the Amsterdam Pirates, 3-1, in ten innings to take third place in the two-day tournament. Kinheim’s Danny Rombley whacked a two-run homer in the top of the tenth to break open a 1-1 game, and reliever Robin van Eis held Amsterdam scoreless to earn the win.


While Corendon Kinheim and the Amsterdam Pirates were off in Barcelona last weekend, DOOR Neptunus turned in an outstanding three-game series against ADO. Neptunus won all three games via shutout to run their current winning streak to 15 games while pulling ahead of Amsterdam for the Dutch Major League lead with a 23-6-1 record, 1.5 games up on the 22-8 Pirates.

Neptunus opened the series with a 4-0 win over ADO as starter Diegomar Markwell allowed three hits over seven innings. That was followed by a 10-0 romp with starter Kevin Heijstek going all seven innings of the mercy-rule shortened game, and a series-ending 11-0 mercy-ruler behind five strong innings from Dushan Ruzic.

ADO has now lost 17 games in a row and are mired in the cellar with a 4-25-1 record, one game behind the 5-24 MediaMonks RCH. This year’s edition of the Hoofdklasse is clearly divided between the haves and have-nots. Five of the league’s eight teams are at least five games over .500, while the bottom three teams have an aggregate record of 18-69-2.


Although Regensburg’s Buchbinder Legionaere have matters well in hand in the German Baseball League’s South Division, maybe someone should’ve reminded them the regular season isn’t over quite yet.

Regensburg entered last weekend’s series against the Haar Disciples with a 21-1 record and had clinched the division title, while Haar came in with a 6-16 mark. Easy series for the Legionaere, right? Wrong. The Disciples won the opening game, 9-4, as pitcher Ted Gieschen picked up his third win of the Bundesliga season. The second game was the real shocker, a 10-0 Haar rout of Regensburg as Gregor Klinc tossed a five-hit shutout and the Disciples battered former teammate Eddie Aucoin for six runs in the first two innings.

Regensburg is now 21-3, ahead of 17-5 Heidenheim and 15-7 Manheim in the German League South. In the North, the Solingen Alligators won twice against the Cologne Cardinals to stretch their division-leading record to 20-4. The Paderborn Untouchables have reeled off five straight wins and are a solid second at 18-5, while the Dortmund Wanderers are in third with a 15-9 mark.

The Bundesilga regular season ends this weekend.  Playoffs begin in July.


The Namur Angels lead the Belgian League by one game despite a surprising 4-1 loss to the Borgerhout Squirrels last Sunday. Borgerhout shortstop Alberto Valerio’s sixth-inning homer gave the Squirrels the lead for good. Valerio finished the game with the homer and a double as starter Yannick Gontier combined with the Borgerhout bullpen to limit the league leaders to three hits.

Despite the loss, Namur still leads the Belgian standings with a 14-4 record, one game ahead of the 12-4 Hoboken Pioniers and two up on the 12-6 Antwerp Greys. Borgerhout is in sixth at 6-12.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


In six weeks, World Baseball Today will be making way for a brand-new program on WRMI called “Baseball Mexico.” The overall format is going to remain the same from one show to the next, but the overall focus will be entirely on professional baseball in Mexico. Baseball Mexico will bring listeners the latest news from the Mexican League during the spring and summer and the Mexican Pacific League in the fall and winter, beginning with coverage of the Mexican League playoffs.

As with this program, Baseball Mexico will be heard every Sunday on WRMI at 10:30AM EDT on 9955 kHz or online at There will be a Baseball Mexico blog, newsletter and podcast available for fans who like their baseball salsa-style…cervezas optional, of course.


Ivan Rodriguez set a Major League Baseball record for most games caught in a career last week, and it was fitting that he did it in the city where he spent the vast majority of games behind the plate. Rodriguez caught the 2,227th game of his career on June 17 in Arlington’s Rangers Ballpark as his Houston Astros lost a 5-4 contest to the Texas Rangers in 10 innings. He broke the old record held by Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, which is somewhat ironic because Rodriguez was given the nickname “Pudge” in honor of Fisk, who was also known by that name.

The 37-year-old Rodriguez played the first 12 years of his career with the Rangers, earning ten consecutive All-Star Game selections and Gold Gloves after his 1991 debut. He earned an ovation from over 34,000 fans during a third inning scoreboard video tribute, which he called “unbelievable.”


Another milestone of sorts was set June 17 when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Florida Marlins, 6-1, in an interleague game at Fenway Park. The game marked the 500th consecutive time the Red Sox have sold out their venerable ballpark, dating back to May 23, 2003. Boston broke the Cleveland Indians’ old record of 455 consecutive sellouts last year. According to the 2009 World Almanac, Fenway Park’s seating capacity is 37,000, smallest in the majors.

Boston outfielder Jason Bay, who played for the attendance-challenged Pittsburgh Pirates for six summers before last year’s trade to the Red Sox, said, “Pittsburgh gets these crowds, but it’s for Opening Day.”


After five days and twelve games among eight schools, the College World Series is down to its final two teams. The Texas Longhorns and Louisiana State Tigers will play a best-of-3 final series early this week to determine America’s college baseball champions. Both programs are used to being in the winner’s circle in Omaha. Texas has won six national titles in eleven finals appearances, while LSU has five NCAA crowns.

Texas reached the final stage with a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 win over Arizona State on June 19 as Cameron Rupp and Connor Rowe belted homers in the bottom of the ninth for the Longhorns. Rowe’s blast was the first walkoff homer in the CWS since 2005. LSU had an easier time in their June 19 contest, drubbing Arkansas, 14-5, behind six innings of shutout pitching by Anthony Ranaudo. Both teams finished the opening round with perfect 3-0 records.

Texas goes into Monday night’s first game with a 49-14 record, while LSU is 54-16. The CWS Championship Series will be telecast live on ESPN.


The Mexico City Diablos Rojos reeled off a nine-game winning streak last week to run their Mexican League second-half record to 14-2, good enough for a three-game lead over 12-6 Monterrey Sultanes in the North Division standings. Likewise, the Yucatan Leones are in command of the LMB South table at 14-4, four games ahead of the 10-8 Campeche Piratas.

Monterrey left fielder Edgar Quintero continues to lead the Liga in hitting with a .398 average, while Nuevo Laredo’s Enrique Quintanilla’s LMB-best 2.18 ERA belies his 3-4 record after 13 starts.


After flirting with first place in the Pacific League standings earlier this season, the fading Rakuten Eagles have brought back their former closer in an effort to shore up the team’s bullpen. On June 19, the Eagles announced that 32-year-old Kazuo Fukumori has returned to the club.

Fukumori saved 49 games for Rakuten between 2005 and 2007, including a 2006 season in which he turned in 21 saves with a 2.17 ERA and his first All-Star Game appearance. He was picked for the All-Star Game again in 2007, but experienced pain in his right pitching elbow and was not as effective. Fukumori then had a disastrous stint in America with the Texas Rangers in 2008, making only four appearances in April with a 20.25 ERA. He was sent down to the minors that month and was never recalled. Fukumori was signed by the Eagles after a tryout earlier in June.

The 29-29 Eagles may need more than Fukumori to overcome Nippon Ham and Softbank in the Pacific League standings. The Fighters lead the PL with a 34-24-1 record, one game ahead of the 33-25-1 Hawks. In the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants are 36-18-6, good for a three-game lead over the 34-22 Yakult Swallows. The Chunichi Dragons are in third place at 20-29-1.


A Seoul district court has ruled the Korea Baseball Organization’s LG Twins owes former player Hea-young Ma US$115,000 in overdue annual salary.

Ma signed a four-year contract with the Kia Tigers prior to the 2004 season, but was traded to the Twins following the 2005 campaign. He was injured shortly after the trade and sent to the minors before being dealt again, this time to the Lotte Giants in 2007. Ma retired after the 2008 season.

According to the Korea Times, the issue lies with LG’s decision to reduce Ma’s salary after his injury, which the club claims is its right under KBO rules allowing a player’s pay to be cut after a long-term injury. Ma’s claim was that his original contract with Kia made no mention of injuries or other health concerns that might affect his salary. The court ruled in Ma’s favor, but the Twins are appealing the decision.

Ma is now working as a sportscaster for the XSports cable TV network.


In what has become a turbulent season, the semifinal field of the Baseball Philippines has been set. Despite the recent suspension of 24 players for alleged insubordination, BP’s Series 5 postseason continued last weekend, with four teams left standing after the first round.

Alabang was slated to play Manila in one semifinal, while regular season champion Batangas was set to take on Cebu. The winners will open a best-of-3 series next weekend for the championship.


According to a Chinese Post article posted by the always entertaining and provocative East Windup Chronicle blog, 30-year-old Sophiyah Liu has become the first woman to serve as an umpire-in-chief in Taiwan. Although the story did not say whether Liu umpires in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, it stated that she umpired in last month’s 2009 Phoenix Cup international women’s tournament, and has umpired several national baseball games in Taiwan. She has been invited to work in Australia’s National Women’s Baseball Championships next month. Liu served as an interpreter at the 2007 Baseball World Cup in Taiwan, as well as for the New York Yankees when they visited Taiwan earlier this year.

Liu’s interests are not limited to baseball. She owns a black belt in karate (no doubt helpful in disputes with players and managers), plays the trumpet, speaks German and some Arabic, and is pursuing a social work degree at one local school in Taipei while working as a professor’s assistant at another. She also claims to be able to communicate with the spiritual world, although she has separated from her prior life as a medium since converting to Islam in 2005. When asked how she finds time for all her interests, she says, “I don’t watch television.”


Four of Europe’s top baseball clubs are in Barcelona this weekend for the European Champions Cup tournament Final Four. The defending champions Danesi Nettuno are being joined by fellow Italian Serie A1 club Fortitudo Bologna and Dutch Major League sides Corendon Kinheim and Amsterdam Pirates as the top two leagues in Europe hold all four berths in the semifinals.

Nettuno came to Barcelona at 17-13 and hold fourth place in the Italian standings. They won the first Champions Cup tournament last September with a 3-2 win over T&A San Marino. Bologna was second in the Italian League with a 20-10 record prior to this weekend’s action. Defending Dutch champion Amsterdam is batting .324 as a team en route to a 22-8 record in the Hoofdklasse this year, while Kinheim is 19-11. Corendon won three straight Dutch pennants before being dethroned last fall.


While the Champions Cup was getting underway in Barcelona, 24 other teams were finishing up play in four different Pools in European Cup Qualifiers on June 20. The four Pool champions will be joined at tournaments later this summer against France’s Senart Templiers and Spain’s Puerto Cruz Marlins for slots in next year’s European Cups, according to the Mister Baseball website.

In Pool 1 competition in the Czech Republic, Russia’s MGPU-SYOS 42 team turned in a perfect 5-0 record against five other Eastern European clubs to advance to the next stage as Nikolai Chermoshenstev tossed two complete game wins.

Pool 2 was played in Slovakia as Ukraine’s Kntu-Osvsm won four of five games to take first place, with a 7-4 loss on June 16 to Sweden’s Karlskoga Bats the only blemish on their record.

In Austria’s Pool 3 group, Switzerland’s Bern Cardinals scored six runs in the final two innings to overtake the host country’s Mosquito Athletics, 8-7, in the final matchup to advance. Bern’s John Baum homered, scored four runs, drove in two, and pitched a complete game for the Cardinals.

Finally, in Group 4 competition in Belgium, Germany’s Manheim Tornados beat the Hoboken Pioneers, 6-1, in the deciding game as pitcher Jan Ruessel went all the way and allowed one unearned run.


A second manager in Italy’s Serie A1 has been shown the door after his team got off to a less than auspicious start in 2009. Weeks after the Grosseto Orioles changed managers, De Angelis Godo president Lino Ceccarini decided he’d seen enough of Maurizio Zoli after a 7-23 showing and replaced him with Mario Mascitelli, who has 12 games left in the regular season to turn things around.

Mascitelli will face some expecations Zoli was unable to meet. De Angelis opened their wallet over the winter, bringing in Venezuelan Felix Escalona, a former Tampa Bay Rays and Ney York Yankees shortstop. It was hoped Escalona would improve a lineup that also included two other newcomers: Former Triple-A pitcher Emmanuel Ulloa and ex-Mexican League infielder Lino Connell. The result has obviously not been what was hoped for.

The 41-year-old Mascitelli hit .302 over 402 games in his Italian League career. He’s managed teams at the Serie A2 level, and coaches with both Italy’s Junior National Team and at the National Baseball Academy in Tirrenia.


After a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the New York Yankees Thursday night, the Boston Red Sox are 36-24 and hold a two-game lead over New York in the American League East Division race. Boston trailed 3-1 before scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with Jason Bay’s bases-loaded single driving in the winning run.

Boston is a perfect 8-0 this season against New York, who fell to 34-26. The 33-27 Detroit Tigers lead the AL Central, while the 34-25 Texas Rangers top the West. In the National League, the 35-23 Philadelphia Phillies head the East, the 33-27 Milwaukee Brewers barely lead the Central, and the 40-21 Los Angeles Dodgers are dominating the West.


As expected, San Diego State right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg was selected first overall by the Washington Nationals last Tuesday in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft. That was the easy part. The hard part for the Nats might be getting Strasburg’s signature on a contract.

The 6-5, 220-pound Strasburg finished his college season with a 13-1 record, striking out an NCAA-leading 195 batters in 109 innings while walking just 19. The credentials are there.

But Strasburg’s agent, Scott Boras, says Washington should expect to fork over a $15 million signing bonus for his client. The Nationals are not exactly known for their free-spending ways, so a long-lasting showdown may be in the offing.

With the second pick in the draft, the Seattle Mariners took North Carolina’s Dustin Ackley, a first baseman outfielder who was considered the best hitter in college ball. His agent? Scott Boras.


Eight baseball teams are converging on Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium this week for the annual College World Series. Action was slated to begin Saturday with a doubleheader as 47-14 Cal State-Fullerton took on 39-22 Arkansas in the opener, while 51-16 LSU dueled with 48-13-1 Virginia. On Sunday, 49-12 Arizona State was to meet 47-16 North Carolina, followed by 46-14-1 Texas going up against 40-24 Southern Mississippi. The teams will play in two double-elimination pools, with the winners meeting next week in a best-of-3 championship series.

Texas is the top seed heading into the first round, followed by Cal-State Fullerton, LSU and North Carolina. The Longhorns are making their 33rd appearance in Omaha and are looking for the school’s seventh national title since winning the first CWS in 1949.


A record seven home runs were hit last Sunday in Cancun as the Northern Division topped the Southern Division, 13-3, in the 77th Mexican League All-Star Game. The old record of six homers was first set in the 1942 All-Star Game in Mexico City, and was tied in 2005 in Puebla.

The Northern squad whacked five roundtrippers, with blasts from Laguna’s Dionys Cesar and Luis Terrero, Monterrey’s Saul Soto, and Mexico City’s Carlos Valencia, who hit two. Hitting longballs for the South were the host Quintana Roo Tigres’ Iker Franco and Luis Mauricio Suarez. Valencia was named the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player, and Mexico City’s Roberto Ramirez got the win as one of seven pitchers to take the mound for the North.


While Stephen Strasburg got the lion’s share of attention in last week’s Major League Baseball draft, the same Washington Nationals who took Strasburg with the top pick got a little extra notoriety in Asia after picking a Japanese outfielder in the 14th round on Wednesday.

The Nats selected 20-year-old outfielder Naoya Washiya, who recently completed his second season at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California. College of the Desert is a two-year school in the Foothill Athletic Conference. Washiya hit .274 with three homers and 17 stolen bases in 117 at-bats for the Roadrunners, who finished 18-18 this season, including a 17-13 conference record.

Washiya was a member of the 2005 Japanese high school baseball champion Komadai Tomakomai in Hokkaido. Washiya is expected to join one of Washington’s Class A affiliates.

He is not the first Japanese product to be picked in the June draft. In 2002, the Colorado Rockies selected outfielder Mitsuru Sakamoto of Arizona Western College in the 24th round. Sakamoto went on to play two years in the Rockies system, including one game at Class AAA Colorado Springs.


One of Naoya Washiya’s high school teammates in Hokkaido, Masahiro Tanaka, won his eighth game in nine decisions Thursday night to lead the Rakuten Eagles to a 3-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons in Nippon Professional Baseball action. The 20-year-old Tanaka scattered five hits over seven shutout innings as the Eagles halted a season-high sox-game losing streak. Naoto Watanbe’s RBI single in the third game Tanaka all the support he needed in the win.

Elsewhere in Japan on Thursday, Lotte scored a record 15 runs in the sixth inning en route to a 23-2 pounding of Hiroshima. Toshiaki Imae belted his first career grand slam for the Marines. Yakult flew past Softbank, 6-3, as pitcher Shohei Tateyama went to 8-0 with the win. Orix beat Yomiuri, 4-2, behind Makato Shiozaki’s tie-breaking home run. Nippon Ham got a grand slam from Jason Botts in an 8-3 victory over Yokohama, and Seibu had a five-run second inning in a 6-5 win over Hanshin.

Yomiuri leads the Central League at 34-15-6, and Nippon Ham tops the Pacific at 31-22-1.


The Korea Baseball Organization has cut deals with two major cable television broadcasters to carry games for the rest of the 2009 season. Negotiating for the KBO, Eclat Entertainment came away with contracts between the league and both the KBS N Sports and MBC ESPN networks.

A Korea Times story reports the KBO’s asking price for broadcasting rights was about US$1.2 million per network, while the networks were offering just under US$800,000 each. Fees for the rights to resell programs to the IPTV network were also agreed upon.

Last year, four cable networks paid about US$1.25 million each for rights to KBO games, but the economic recession has led to difficulty in landing advertisers. Negotiations are continuing with two other cable networks. The KBO is expecting to bring back Xports for another season, but talks with SBS Sports have hit a snag because the network wants to carry Japan’s Yomiuri Giants games played at the same time as KBO matches, while IPTV resale fees have also not been agreed upon.


The recent stormy weather that washed out last weekend’s play at Manila’s Rizal Memorial Stadium has apparently carried into the Baseball Philippines boardroom as well. According to a story from the Baseball de World website, the league has suspended 24 National Team players indefinitely for an apparent boycott of international games scheduled late last month. The National Team forms the basis of the domestic six-team Baseball Philippines league, which has spring and fall seasons.

The dispute is centered on the forced removal on longtime Filipino baseball figure Hector Navasero as president of the country’s national baseball association. Navasero was supposed to leave office in April, but no election has been held to replace him. Players are said to be supporters of Navasero, and some league officials recently accused them of not playing hard due to his ouster.


The streaking DOOR Neptunus and Konica Minolta Pioniers have moved into a virtual three-way tie for the Dutch Major League lead with the struggling Amsterdam Pirates.

Neptunus has won nine games in a row to raise their record to 17-6-1. They swept a three-game set with ADO last weekend, including a 3-0 shutout on June 6 as Diegomar Markwell struck out ten ADO batsmen in 6.1 innings of work. Berry van Driel and Dushan Ruzic came out of the bullpen to preserve the whitewash with four more K’s between them.

Konica Minolta has a nice six-game win streak of its own. Ryan Murphy struck out ten batters and allowed just four hits in seven scoreless innings during a 4-1 win over Sparta/Feyenoord last weekend. The Pioniers are also 17-6-1.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam lost two games to Corendon Kinheim and one to Sparta/Feyernoord last week to fall to 19-8. Josh Renick’s walk-off RBI single gave Kinheim a 4-3 win last Thursday, while Jason Halman’s three runs keyed a 9-4 Corendon win on Saturday.


A perfect record is hard to maintain for an entire season because with every win, the target sign on a team’s jersey grows larger. The German League’s Buchbinder Legionaere finally saw their bid for an unbeaten 2009 end with a 13-8 loss to the Heidenheim Heidekopfe on May 29.

Heidenheim built a 13-2 lead heading into the ninth inning as both Ray Stokes and Ryan Lilly lashed bases-loaded triples in the game. To their credit, Regensburg fought gamely with six runs in the final inning, but they needed five more to tie by the time they recorded the final out of the game. Matt Vance and Klaus Hopfensberger hit homers for the Legionaere, who have since won three straight games to stretch their German League South Division-leading record to 19-1, four games ahead of 14-4 Heidenheim. In the North, the Solingen Alligators have continued their season-long grip on first place with an 18-2 record, well ahead of the 14-5 Paderborn Untouchables.


How does a team win two games in a row and still fall out of first place? The French Elite League has the answer, as the Montpellier Barracudas dropped to second place despite winning both their games against the Savigny Lions last weekend, 7-6 and 9-2. So how did this happen? Pay close attention to the following explanation:

The French Baseball Federation ruled in favor of Stade Toulousain in their case against a protest by Montpellier of a rain-drenched doubleheader earlier this year, handing the Barracudas a pair of losses that had been held in abeyance until the protest was ruled upon. As well, Toulousain picked up another win from a May 10 matchup with Savigny, as the Federation ruled a 9-2 Savigny win in the second game of that twinbill was a 9-0 Stade victory. No explanation was given, but the Lions can appeal this ruling, just as Toulousain appealed an initial ruling in the Montpellier series. Still with us?

The fallout from all this off-field finagling is that Montpellier essentially came away with two wins and two losses last weekend to show an overall record of 10-3, while the Rouen Huskies slipped into the lead at 13-3 with two wins over the Senart Templiers. Okay, now close your eyes and exhale…


In Swedish Elitserien baseball, Tranas split a doubleheader with defending champion Stockholm last weekend, suffering their first loss of the year but still maintaining a one-game lead over Stockholm, Sundyberg and Karlskoga in the standings. Tranas is 6-1 for the season.

Tranas won their sixth straight game in the opener, 6-3, as Adam Balan drove in two runs and Eimantas Zickus rain his record to 3-0 with seven solid innings. Stockholm game back in Game Two for a 7-2 win. Magnus Pilegard and Peter Johannesen combined to drive in four runs for Stockholm, whose starting pitcher, Oscar Carlstedt, went to 3-0 by allowing one run in seven frames.

Stockholm and Karlskoga are both 6-3 while Sundyberg is 5-2 to create a tie for second.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Two pitchers who have recorded 300 Major League Baseball wins were in the news last week.

Of Tom Glavine’s 305 career wins, 244 of those came in an Atlanta Braves jersey, mostly in the 1990’s. Glavine was released by the Braves last Wednesday after spending all this season on the disabled list while rehabbing from surgery on his left elbow and shoulder. For his career, Glavine has a 305-203 record (with five 20-win seasons) and a 3.54 ERA.

San Francisco’s Randy Johnson made headlines by reaching the 300 win mark Thursday night as the Giants beat the Washington Nationals, 5-1. The 6-10 “Big Unit” raised his record to 5-4 by tossing four no-hit innings at the Nats, finishing after five innings with a 2-1 lead. The five-time Cy Young Award winner becomes the 24th MLB pitcher to win 300 games, and only the sixth lefthander.


La Habana has won their first Cuban National Series pennant after defeating Villa Clara in five games in the championship series. The Vaqueros wrapped up the title Thursday night with a 6-0 shutout of Villa Clara as Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez won his fifth playoff game in a masterful five-hit performance on the mound. Ruby Silva and Ernesto Molinet homered in support for La Habana.

The Vaqueros won the first three games of the championship series before Villa Clara bounced back with a 10-inning, 4-3 win Wednesday night on Ramon Lunar’s bases-loaded walkoff single, but the series belonged to La Habana, who entered the league in 1977 and reached the finals by eliminating Pinar del Rio, 4 games to 2, in a rain-soaked Occidental Division final set.


When the Yucatan Leones pounded the Tabasco Olmecas, 18-8, in a Mexican League slugfest last Tuesday night in Merida, it was a stolen base that earned the most attention in the game. With the swipe, Yucatan outfielder Luis Arredondo set a league record for career steals with 491.

A 20-year veteran of Mexican League ball, Arredondo broke the old mark of 490, set by Antonio Briones, who is now a member of the Salon de la Fama (Mexican baseball’s Hall of Fame). The 37-year-old Arredondo broke in with the Monclova Acereros in 1990 and spent three years apiece with the Jalisco Charros and Mexico City Diablos Rojos before joining Yucatan in 1997.

The Leones lead the South Division standings at 7-1. Mexico City and Monterrey are tied for the North lead at 6-1. The Mexican League All-Star Game was scheduled for Sunday in Cancun.


As America’s college baseball season winds down towards its World Series in Omaha, five players have been nominated for USA Baseball’s 2009 Golden Spikes Award, amateur baseball’s highest honor. Among those selected for consideration are San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who went 13-1 with an NCAA-leading 195 strikeouts for the Aztecs this spring. Strasburg is expected to be the top overall selection of the Washington Nationals in Tuesday’s amateur draft.

Joining Strasburg on the list are North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley, Alabama outfielder Kent Matthes, Arizona State pitcher Mike Leake and Kansas State pitcher A.J. Morris. The five players were whittled down from an initial list of 30 nominees. The Golden Spikes Award will be presented at the Major League All-Star Game July 14 in St. Louis.


Japan’s twelve Nippon Professional Baseball teams continued their interleague play into June. Six games were played last Wednesday, including a 3-2 come-from-behind win for the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers over the Rakuten Eagles of the Pacific League. The Tigers scored three times in the eighth and held on for the win.

In other games Wednesday, the Yomiuri Giants and Lotte Marines played to their second consecutive curfew-ended tie, this one a 1-1 deadlock. The Giants lead the Central League with a 29-15-6 record. The 26-20 Yakult Swallows lost ground to Yomiuri by losing to Seibu, 8-1, as the Lions’ Hiram Bocachica broke a 1-1 game wide open with a grand slam.

The Pacific League-leading Nippon Ham Fighters took a 7-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp. Hichori Morimoto ended a 2-2 tie with an eighth-inning RBI double as the Fighters went to 29-19-1, two games ahead of 27-21-2 Softbank. The Hawks kept pace with the leaders by shutting out Yokohama, 3-0, for their tenth win in eleven games.


When the SK Wyverns were able to hold off the Samsung Lions, 6-5, last Sunday, it meant the defending Korea Baseball Organization champs prevented a weekend of series sweeps throughout the KBO. Jae-Song Park of the Wyverns went 3-for-5 with a homer, a stolen base and three RBIs to help SK maintain their league lead with a 32-16-4 record after losing the first two games of the series.

Elsewhere in the KBO last weekend, the second-place Doosan Bears are one game closer to the Wyverns in the standings after taking three straight games from the Hanwha Eagles, including a 2-0 shutout last Sunday as starter Sang-hyeong Kim pitched seven innings of five-hit ball.

The KIA Tigers swept the LG Twins, including a 5-2 series-closing victory last Sunday to go to 27-22-3 for the season. KIA starter Rick Guttormson struggled for the “W” on the mound for the Tigers, throwing 125 pitches in six innings while allowing five runs.

The Seoul Heroes took three straight from the Lotte Giants. The Heroes’ Sung-yong Lee had a great day in Saturday’s 10-8 victory, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and six RBIs.


You have to wonder how long Alex Rodriguez would last in Taiwan. While A-Rod is as talented a player as there is in baseball, he’s also becoming known for his insecurity, which would not serve him well as an import player in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, where doing your job does not necessarily equate with keeping your job.

Just weeks after the Uni-President Lions released third baseman Rico Washington despite the former Cardinal’s top-ranked offensive output among third sackers, the La New Bears have sent Tim Raines, Jr. packing after 15 games. The one-time Orioles outfielder was let go despite hitting .327 with a .367 on-base percentage while stealing 11 bases in 13 attempts.

It’s hard to find fault with that kind of production, but apparently the Bears had a problem with a leadoff hitter who was getting on base and running successfully. No logical reason has been given by team management for Raines’ ouster, but rumors are floating that there was tension between him and La New manager Yi-chung Hong, who led Taiwan to an embarrassing performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Go figure.


The Batangas Bulls won both their games against the Cebu Dolphins last weekend to finish their Baseball Philippines Series 5 regular season with a perfect 10-0 record. The Bulls will have a first round bye for this weekend’s playoffs along with the Manila Sharks, who are 6-3 and have clinched second place. The bottom four teams will play each other to determine the final two seeds in the semifinals next weekend at Manila’s Rizal Memoria Stadium.

The Laurel brothers put on an offensive show for Alabang last Sunday against Taguig. Matt and Jay Laurel each homered three times in the Tigers’ 16-1 thrashing of the Patriots.


Because baseball is a minor sport in Europe, some people may hold the misbegotten notion that the game is a casual thing there. In fact, it is anything but casual in the more competitive leagues, including Italy’s Serie 1A. Just ask Mario Labastidas.

Labastidas was relieved of his duties as managers of the Montepaschi Grosseto Orioles last week after the O’s won just eight of their first 23 games this season, miring the team in sixth place in the eight-team league. The tipping point was reached last Saturday when Grosseto was shut out in both ends of a doubleheader with league-leading Rimini, 2-0 and 1-0. Rafael Garcia and Chris Di Roma got the wins for Rimini, who now leads Fortitudo Bologna by 1.5 games with a 17-6 record.

Orioles team president Roberto Ferri sacked Labastidas last Monday, replacing him with Paul Minozzi. Winning the Italian league pennant in 2007 has not meant stability in the manager’s office for Grosseto. The team dismissed Mauro Mazzotti midway through last year’s playoffs, with Minozzi named interim manager then, too, before Labastidas was hired in the offseason.


A look at the Spanish Division of Honor standings would give the impression that the Puerto Cruz Marlins have had an easy time of it this season, but looks can be deceiving. Yes, the Marlins are undefeated after 20 games and are allowing fewer than two runs per game, but Puerto Cruz escaped Bilbao last Sunday after winning two games against San Inazio, including a tight opening contest in which they had to come from behind late to put the game away.

San Inazio was in position to deliver the Marlins’ first loss of 2009 by holding a 4-2 lead after seven innings, but Puerto Cruz’ Richard Montiel cracked a three-run homer to key a five-run eighth inning outburst that handed the defending champions a 7-4 lead. Each team scored once more to make the final score 8-5, as Marlins starter Leslie Nacar survived an 11-hit San Inazio attack to go to 9-0 on the season. Puerto Cruz breathed easier in the nightcap, winning 7-1 as Luis Perez went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and Ivan Granados won his eighth game by scattering four hits over eight innings.

FC Barcelona split two games with the Viladecans to go to 16-4, four games out of first place.


The Hertfordshire Falcons certainly aren’t playing like an expansion team. The British National League’s newest franchise posted a pair of victories over the Richmond Flames last Sunday at Grovehill Ballpark to create a four-way logjam at the top of the league standings. Kimiyoshi Saionji clubbed a walkoff double to drive in Darrin Ward from first base in the bottom of the seventh to give Herts a 7-6 win in the opener. Ward then took the mound in the second game, and struck out the side in the top of the seventh to preserve a 5-4 win to become the third British League pitcher to reach three wins in 2009, joining Richmond’s Michael Osborn and Henry Collins of Bracknell.

Four teams share first place, with 5-3 Bracknell having a higher winning percentage than Herts and London, who are both 6-4, and 7-5 Richmond. Croydon is in last with an 0-8 record.


It’s not hard to find parallels between Puerto Cruz in Spain and the Bern Cardinals of the Swiss League. Like the Marlins, Bern has won four straight pennants. Like the Marlins, Bern is unbeaten this season. And, like the Marlins, Bern had to work to keep the slate clean last weekend.

Bern won twice against the Embrach Rainbows to go to 13-0 with a four-game lead over the second-place Lausanne Cardinals, who are 9-4. In the opener, however, Bern was trailing, 3-1, until Johnny Perigos hit a two-run homer in the sixth to knot the score at 3-3. The score remained the same before Bern notched three runs in the top of the ninth, including a homer form player-manager John Baum on the first pitch he saw. Travis Imboden posted his first save with a 1-2-3 outing in the bottom of the ninth frame.

Imboden started and won the second game, 9-5, to drop Embrach to 5-7.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


When umpire Mark Carlson tossed Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano out of a Major League Baseball game last Wednesday against Pittsburgh, the show was only beginning. Zambrano was ejected for vehemently objecting to Carlson’s call on a close play at home plate. After Carlson gave him the thumb, Zambrano mockingly gave Carlson the thumb, threw the ball into center field, tossed his glove to the infield, and then battered an unarmed soft drink dispenser in the Cubs dugout before Chicago manager Lou Piniella was able to get Zambrano to go to the locker room.

As a result, Zambrano was suspended for six games for what MLB’s Bob Watson termed “inappropriate and violent actions on the field and in the dugout.” Zambrano will not appeal the decision. Piniella (who is not exactly the shy, retiring type himself) agreed with the suspension, saying, “This is not the WWF…this is professional baseball.” Thanks for noticing, Lou.


When the Brockton Rox of the independent Can-Am League took the field for their season opener against the Sussex Skyhawks last Thursday night, history was made. The Rox pitching coach this season is Justine Siegal, the first woman ever to coach a men’s professional baseball team.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Siegal has a varied background in baseball, including a stint coaching with Springfield College’s men’s team in Massachusetts this spring. She is married with an 11-year-old daughter, who will travel with her on road trips this summer.

Siegal was hired by the Rox on May 4. Team owner Van Schley said, “The doctrine of professional baseball is going to undergo an alteration.” Brockton manager Chris Carminucci says “It absolutely does not matter to me that she is a woman. I needed to fill out my coaching staff.”


One of two berths in this season’s Cuban National Series championship series has been taken. Villa Clara defeated Ciego de Avila, 2-1, last Monday night to take their Oriental Division final series by a 4 games to 1 margin. Villa Clara won the first three games of the series before Ciego de Avila put up an 8-2 win in Game 4 to stay alive. However, Villa Clara sealed the deal Monday when rookie Ramon Lunar whacked a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.

The question remains as to who Villa Clara will square off against in the title set. La Habana leads Pinar del Rio in the Occidental Division finals, 3 games to 2, but unusual steady rainfall over the past week has been keeping that series from wrapping up. La Habana’s Ernesto Molinet’s three-run homer keyed a 6-1 win over Pinar del Rio on May 23, the last game played before the rains arrived.


The first half of the Mexican League’s 2009 season is in the history books. The Mexico City Diablos Rojos slipped past the Reynosa Broncos on the final day of the first-half schedule to win the Northern Division title with a 32-18 record, a half-game up on 31-18 Reynosa. Mexico City earned eight points for finishing first while Reynosa collected seven. The Mexican League uses a points system over both halves of their season to determine playoff seeding.
In the LMB South, Quintana Roo cruised to the first half crown with a 35-15 mark, three games ahead of second-place Yucatan, who finished at 32-18. The second half schedule is underway.


Eight national teams converged in Bangkok last week for the 2009 Asian Cup tournament. The teams were split up into two groups for round robin play in the first stage of competition, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the semifinal round.

Pakistan won the Group A title with a perfect 3-0 record, including a 9-4 upset over host Thailand. Sri Lanka also surpised the Thais, 3-1, on the opening day of competition, and went on to finish second in Group A at 2-1. Thailand was third at 1-2, and Malaysia was winless in three games.

Indonesia finished first in the Group B round-robin with three wins, and their 7-2 victory over Hong Kong on May 27 clinched a spot in the Cup final. Hong Kong was second at 2-1, Myanmar was third at 1-2 and Cambodia brought up the rear of Group B at 0-3.

In the crossover semifinals, Pakistan beat Hong Kong, 7-2, followed by Indonesia’s 7-4 win over Sri Lanka. Indonesia then took a come-from-behind win over Pakistan, 2-1, in the final by scoring twice in the eighth inning. Cambodia won their first-ever international tournament game with a resounding 20-8 consolation win over Malaysia (despite Cambodia 's Joe Cook having to manage the team via cell phone from Alabama because he couldn't make the trip to Bangkok), while Thailand shut out Myanmar, 5-0, in the other consolation game.


The Korea Baseball Organization’s All-Star Game fan balloting began last week and will run through June 17. Fans in Korea can vote at all seven KBO ballparks, online or by cell phone.

Voters will select ten players from a group nominated by the four “Eastern” teams, including the SK Wyverns, Doosan Bears, Lotte Giants and Samsung Lions. Similarly, ten players will be picked from a group nominated by the KBO’s four “Western” teams: Hanwha Eagles, Kia Tigers, LG Twins and the sponsorless Seoul Heroes. The managers for the two All-Star squads, SK’s Sung-geun Kim and Hanwha’s In-sik Kim, will each choose ten additional players after fan balloting is concluded. The All-Star game will take place July 25 at Gwangju’s Mudeung Stadium, home of the Kia Tigers.

In the KBO standings, the defending champion Wyverns are out in front with a 29-14-4 record. Doosan is second at 25-16-2, Kia is third with a 23-21-3 mark, and LG is fourth at 22-22-3.


Following an offseason that featured a gambling scandal and the reduction of two teams, the folks running Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League can be forgiven if they breathe a collective sigh of relief now that attention on their league is centered on a tight pennant race.

The defending champion Uni-President Lions and the La New Bears have been swapping the lead in the CPBL standings all season, with the Sinon Bulls staying in the mix. Only the Brother Elephants appear to be out of contention, although you can never say “never” in baseball.

The Lions topped the Bulls, 7-5, May 25 to pull to a 22-16-2 record while Sinon fell to 20-18-2. Uni-President third baseman Jose Castillo went 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. Castillo, who played for the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros last season, came to the Lions in early May after failing to stick with the Washington Nationals this spring.

One night later, the Bears lost to the Elephants, 6-4, in front of over 7,000 fans. Brother’s Chia Chia hit a homer with three RBIs to lift his team to a 14-26-1 mark while the Bears fell to 21-17-1.


After getting a considerable amount of attention when one of their teams signed and pitched a 17-year-old female knuckleballer, Japan’s Kansai Independent Baseball League is struggling to survive.

Eri Yoshida made her debut for the Kobe 9 Cruise on March 27, becoming the first woman to play in a Japanese men’s pro game. Since then, the Kansai League has struggled mightily to make ends meet financially. The four teams are forming a company and taking over the league from Stella, Incorporated, who formed the league but has defaulted on distributing revenues. The matter will end up in court. Supposedly, the Kansai League will expand to five teams next year. We’ll see.

And Yoshida? She’s been shelved by a sore shoulder and hasn’t pitched since her debut.


The Amsterdam Pirates took two out of three games in their series last week with Mr. Crocker HCAW, and hold a 3.5-game lead over DOOR Neptunus and the Konica Minolta Pioniers in Dutch Major League baseball. The Pirates are 17-4, while both Konica Minolta and Neptunus are 12-6-1.

Amsterdam and Mr. Crocker were tied at one game apiece in their series before the Pirates won the rubber match, 7-2, last Sunday. The Pirates registered a 7-5 win in the opener as leadoff hitter Wesley Connor racked up five hits. Mr. Crocker’s Joey Eijpe won a 3-2 pitcher’s duel against Amsterdam’s Adam Blackley in Game 2, setting up the series finale one day later.

Konica Minolta didn’t fare nearly as well in the series with Corendon Kinheim, losing three in a row to last year’s second-place team. Corendon won the opener, 4-2, as Dave Bergman allowed two runs on two hits in seven innings and swamped the Pioniers, 13-3, in the second game before completing the sweep with a 7-1 win last Sunday. Ryan Murphy tossed a complete-game two-hitter and hit a three-run homer for Corendon.

DOOR Neptunus moved into a tie for second with Konica Minolta by taking three in a row from MediaMonks RCH by an average score of 11-2, including a 14-0 shutout shortened by the mercy rule.


The defending German Baseball League champion Regensburg Buchbinder Legionaere have picked up where they left off in 2008, snapping up a pair of wins last weekend against the Saarlouis Hornets to stretch their perfect record to 16-0 in the current Bundesliga season. Needless to say, Regensburg is on top of the German League’s South Division standings.

Mike Heaney’s bases-loaded triple in the top of the ninth gave the Legionaere a 7-6 come-from-behind win in the May 22 opener. Whitney Pierce cracked a two-run homer for Regensburg in the game, while Ludwig Glaser homered and drove in four runs for the Hornets.

One day later, it was all Eddie Aucoin, who tossed the first no-hitter of the German season for Regensburg in a 5-0 whitewashing. Aucoin struck out nine and walked none, but hit two Saarlouis batters en route to the first no-no since Solingen’s Enorbel Marquez-Ramirez threw one last year.

Speaking of Marquez-Ramirez, he threw an 11-strikeout shutout for Solingen on May 24 against the Dortmund Wanderers. The Alligators gave Marquez-Ramirez more than enough support with seven third-inning runs as Solingen ran their North Division-leading record to 16-2.


The Rouen Huskies and Savigny Lions are 1-2 in the French Elite League standings thus far in 2009, and that’s how they finished in the 12-team Challenge de France tournament.

The two teams first crossed paths during first round pool play, with Rouen routing Savigny by a 15-1 score on May 22 in Montpellier. In Pool A play, the Senart Templiers went a perfect 3-0 to qualify for the final four, while the La Guerche Hawks came in second in the pool at 2-1.

The semifinals were held May 23, with Savigny eliminating Senart, 4-1, and Rouen tripling up on La Guerche, 6-2. The title game went to Rouen, who topped Savigny by a 7-5 count. By winning the Challenge de France, Rouen gets an automatic berth in next year’s European Cup. The other slot from the French Elite League will be filled by this year’s pennant winners.


AVG Draci Brno has moved into sole possession of first place in the Czech Extraleague standings by slipping past Technika Brno, 8-6, last Wednesday night to go to 14-2 on the season. The game was a lot closer than Draci is used to playing, since the team has been winning by an average score of 10-3 over 16 games. Technika dropped out of a tie for first with Draci, and is now second in the eight-team Extraleague at 13-3.

Brno’s third Extraleague team, the Brno Express, was surprised by seventh-place Liberac, 3-2, Wednesday night. The Express are in third at 9-7, making it effectively a two-horse race at the top.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


When Edwin Jackson came to Detroit in the offseason, the Tigers knew the former Tampa Bay pitcher would be a solid addition to their starting rotation. The 25-year-old Jackson proved as much May 21 as he battled to a 3-2 home win over the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park.

Jackson fought his way through an eight-inning, 132-pitch effort for Detroit’s sixth consecutive win, which gave the Tigers a 23-16 record and a three-game lead over the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central Division standings. Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth gave Detroit a 3-2 lead, and Fernando Rodney held the Rangers scoreless in the ninth to save the win.

Elsewhere in the American League, Toronto still leads the East Division at 27-16. Boston is second at 24-16, and the New York Yankees have won eight straight to improve to 23-17. In the AL West, Texas is still on top at 23-17 despite losing to Detroit, while the Los Angeles Angels are 20-19.


After missing most of April with a ribcage injury, Milwaukee reliever Trevor Hoffman is back in the Brewers bullpen, and the National League Central Division leaders have benefitted. Hoffman tossed his sixth consecutive 1-2-3 inning Tuesday night in Milwaukee’s 4-2 win over Houston at Miller Park, giving the Brewers their seventh straight win and 21st in their past 26 outings.

Hoffman, who came to Wisconsin from San Diego in the offseason, is 10-for-10 in save opportunities this year. He has retired 19 consecutive batters and 23 of the past 24 hitters he’s faced since April 30. His May 19 save against Houston preserved the win for Dave Bush, who is now 3-0.

The Brewers are 25-15 and lead the NL Central by two games over 23-17 St. Louis. In the East, Philadelphia is on top at 22-17 despite losing 12 of 20 home games. The Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s best record at 29-13, well ahead of 19-20 San Francisco in the NL West table.


Santiago de Cuba will not repeat as Cuban National Series champions this spring. Santiago’s hopes for a third straight pennant crashed when they were beaten by Villa Clara in their Oriental Division semifinal series.

Villa Clara now leads regular season champion Ciego de Avila, 2 games to 0, in the Oriental final series. Ariel Borrero homered in both games as Villa Clara took 8-0 and 8-3 wins. Game Two was tied 3-3 in the top of the eleventh before Villa Clara scored five times and held on for the victory.

La Habana and Pinar del Rio are tied at a game apiece in the Occidental Division finals. Pinar won the opener, 3-0, behind Rafael Vales’ two-run homer before La Habana won Game Two, 7-4.