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.