Someone Please Remind Why the World Baseball Classic Exists

You already got a taste of what a fraud I think the World Baseball Classic is based on my criticism of ESPN for continuing to use A-Rod to promote the WBC in commercials. In that vain, I’m still wondering what the point of this entire event is. Surely I understand that the U.S. doesn’t send its pro athletes to the Olympics to compete in baseball, and that’s fine with me. We already have the highest level of competition playing 162 games a year (not including the playoffs) from almost every baseball-playing country worldwide. The only reason I have to say “almost” is because many of the top Cuban players are forbidden from leaving the country. Still, it doesn’t take much more than looking inside the dugout for any team in MLB to realize we already have a global game going.

MLB has players from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Curacao, Japan, China, Korea, and Australia, and that’s only off the top of my head. The best players in the world already convene in the U.S. to play against each other at the highest level of baseball; they do it in a little something called Major League Baseball. Many teams have international training facilities to further mine the globe for the top baseball talent. Heck, they’re even trying to get players from India now, too. And up until this year when the economy turned sour, MLB had been a vastly successful league with immense popularity and growing fan bases. Knowing that fans already have and support their teams, why are you trying to create some event to supersede what we already have and what’s already working?

Too many players turn the opportunity burden down because their MLB careers are more important, automatically making the WBC inferior in terms of competition to MLB. The WBC allows bogus roster rules, letting guys like A-Rod who were born in the U.S. play for the Dominican, and guys like Frank Catalanotto play for Italy. I suppose if they had a Team Poland they’d allow me to try out considering I’m 1/8th of it. Like that makes any sense. They’re trying to drum things up like this is a matter of nationalism and civic pride. I, along with millions of others, am just hoping my pitchers don’t get hurt or burnt out in a useless event. Just what I need — the Angels bullpen tiring out in July because of a bunch of meaningless innings they threw in March. So one more time, outside of TV revenue, why does the World Baseball Classic exist??

Lack of Contract Had Manny Ramirez Freaking Out

All that nonsense about having confidence in Scott Boras to get a deal done was apparently rubbish. Just like I said here about a month ago, Manny was telling Albert Pujols that nobody wanted to sign him. Truth is, he really was worried. From Newsday:

A person close to the situation told Newsday on the condition of anonymity, is that Manny spent most of his free agency “freaking out.” Not only about his lack of suitors but about people discussing that situation publicly.

In all, the person said, Ramirez grew increasingly frustrated by his situation and became more paranoid — so much so that he changed his phone number “six times.”

Manny put a lot of trust in Scott Boras when he changed agents last offseason. They engineered the strategy to get Manny traded away from the Red Sox by having Ramirez dog it. As a result, Manny was penalized in free agency because teams were worried about his character and attitude. Manny lost because his legacy was tarnished by that ordeal (he certainly lost my respect for his lack of hustle), Boras loses because he got Manny nothing better than what Ramirez already had contract-wise, and the Dodgers lose because there’s a player option after the season. The only party that won when Manny finally signed was the fans, and that’s only for about five months before Manny starts making noise about opting out once again. And check this: Manny has so much power that Torre’s not even going to bother with asking him to cut his hair this year. I think we know who holds the power in that relationship.

Jim Edmonds Is Hosting a Pole Dancing Party, Still Unsigned

What do you do when you’re 38, rich, beloved in a city, and unemployed? Well, you do what any other man would do — you host a stripper pole dancing party! That’s what Jim Edmonds is up to, as Deadspin notified us. Check out this flyer:

And if you’re in the ‘Lou, just tell them LBS sent you and you’ll get a 50% discount at the door, and a spot as a guest judge along with Jimmy E. Maybe we should send Allie Gator over there too so she can take first prize and give us a cut. Edmonds: batting .235 on the field, batting 1.000 off of it.

Darryl Strawberry: Voice of Reason

It’s too bad I wasn’t unleashed on this Earth until Straw’s rookie season because from what I’ve been told, he was a pretty darn good ballplayer. By the time I began to understand anything about anything, Strawberry was just a coked-out flame-out the Dodgers were trying to resurrect (ditto the Yankees later on). Anyway, Darryl Strawberry’s moved on to do what every forgotten star does when they’re hard up on cash (and I don’t mean sell a spare kidney) — he’s written a tell-all book soon to drop. Straw was also a guest instructor at Yankees spring training and offered these words of wisdom about steroids:

“Hell yeah I would have used them,” Strawberry said. “Are you kidding me? I mean, c’mon. Some things are part of what athletes go through and they happen …We’re competitive creatures, and we have tremendous drive, a high tolerance, all these things. I’m not saying that it was the right thing to do. But if that was going on in the 80s, that probably would have been in my system too.”

Glad to know that Straw’s still a heavy proponent of drug use. Actually, it’s even better to know that he’s out there at Yankee spring training and still alive. Between the colon cancer, the kidney surgery, the lymph node cancer, and god knows what else he’s put in his body, it’s a miracle he’s still well. Those Steinbrenners sure are a loyal bunch. Let’s just hope he’s not advising the Yankees to do what he said in that quote.

Attention Rays and Cubs: Curt Schilling Might be Willing to be Your Savior

For a guy who hasn’t pitched in over a year, Curt Schilling still manages to keep his name in the news like Britney Spears making a comeback album. Perhaps it’s because he keeps his own blog — 38 Pitches — and because he would have an opinion on the modern proliferation of food poisoning claims against wealthy private homeowners if you asked him for one. Oh yeah, and the guy would also like to remind you that he still is a pitcher in his spare time. In fact, as Deadspin pointed out, Schilling offered up his services to a few teams:

I have said to no one, including myself, that I am definitely coming back, because it’s not true. However if I did, the Cubs, and Tampa, were they to need a starting pitcher for the 2nd half of the season and into October, would be 2 situations I’d be very interested in.

So I’ll be clear here. If I do feel I can be better than I was in 2007, and I do decide to come back, AND either of those teams is in the market for a starting pitcher (because lets face it, both teams have what could be outstanding rotations) I would DEFINITELY be interested in both. The Cubs present as much of a cool challenge for me as the Red Sox did in 04, and Tampa has a roster of guys I’d love to play with.

Schilling also pointed out that the teams mentioned above were not an all-inclusive list, specifically saying that the Red Sox were a possibility, but it happens that they’re already pretty stacked. Now I know a lot of people are pretty sick of Curt Schilling, but I’ll actually defend the guy by saying he’s been such a clutch pitcher this decade that he’s earned the right to have this much attention. I don’t see the storybook ending unfolding where Schilling returns from an arm that basically fell off to lead the Cubs to their first W.S. title in like 100 years, but I would like to see him pitching for someone in October. And yes, that means I’d take him on the Angels in two seconds if he’s interested.

Red Sox Owner John Henry Calls for a Salary Cap; MLB Needs One

Makes you wonder, if the Red Sox were in the A.L. Central, would they be saying the same thing? Surely the Yankees obscene offseason shopping spree prompted these comments from John Henry, but he’s not the first owner to mention the possibility of a salary cap this winter — Mark Attanasio of the Brewers suggest one as well. I know we’re living in a free economic system, but the NBA has the luxury tax and cap, the NFL has a cap, and so does the NHL. The competitive balance in the latter two sports is fantastic (in the NBA it’s harder to achieve because it’s so easy for the top players to dominate the game). Not to say that small-market teams can’t compete in MLB, but there would be a much better playing field if the Indians or Brewers were able to retain C.C. Sabathia instead of seeing him go to New York. Even the Angels — one of the strongest teams in the league financially — couldn’t keep up with the Yankees’ contract offer to Mark Teixeira.

Don’t get me wrong, small-market/low payroll teams are able to shine under the current system, but they do it through a series of shrewder moves like great trades and excellent drafting. Heck, a man’s entire reputation was based on this. But if you ask all front offices, including the Twins, Marlins, and A’s — three teams that have performed admirably given their circumstances — I’m sure even they would all prefer a cap that would help build competitive balance. Now the other side of the argument, beyond the simple free economy idea, is that the Yankees and other teams pay a luxury tax and contribute a generous portion to revenue sharing. Isn’t that already a cap? Well, when they’re out spending damn near a half billion dollars in a recession, my answer would be no. All the free agents in the world won’t buy them a championship, but it gives them an improved shot at one. And count me as someone in favor of competitive balance — that’s what I’d really love to see.

David Ortiz, Ozzie Guillen Are on the Right Track with One-Year Bans

I used to be one of the biggest baseball fans around. This year, things will change. I’m tired of the steroids issue tainting the game and obscuring my enjoyment of it. I’ve had enough of seeing guys like J.C. Romero, Rafael Betancourt, and Guillermo Mota get busted and come back like nothing happened. I’d like to watch the game without having doubts or second thoughts about the legitimacy of player’s performances. To achieve this peace of mind, harsher penalties for banned substance violators should be put in place. To that end, both Ozzie Guillen and David Ortiz took a stand. Guillen says a one-year ban should be in place for first-time violators rather than just 50 games, and David Ortiz expounded up on that thought:

“Ban ‘em for the whole year. I would suggest everybody get tested, not random, everybody. You go team by team. You test everybody three, four times a year and that’s about it. I think you clean up the game by the testing. I know that if I test positive by using any kind of substance, I know that I’m going to disrespect my family, the game, the fans and everybody, and I don’t want to be facing that situation. So what would I do? I won’t use it, and I’m pretty sure that everybody is on the same page. I just want to go out there and make sure that people are not looking at you like, oh, look at this guy. He’s big now. What’s going on?”

Amen. Thank you, Big Papi. Now this is what I’ve been waiting for. What’s so hard about players telling the Union that they want harsher penalties and testing so they can prove their legitamacy? Now it’s on MLB and the union to amend the CBA to make this happen. Ortiz wants it, Ozzie wants it, and I want it. They need to make a bold move to save the game, and this is the one to make. Only difference is I’d like two years for first-time violators. Boy, would that send a message. Best of all, it still wouldn’t prevent creeps like Gene Orza from tipping off the superstars that tests were coming!