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01/13/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 2"

Sunday, January 13, 2007
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

North American Baseball

No stranger to waiting until the ninth to enter a game, former reliever Rich “Goose” Gossage waited until his ninth try on the ballot to enter baseball’s Hall of Fame. Gossage was the only player selected by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, receiving 466 of a possible 543 votes, or 86 percent.
A nine-time All-Star who saved 310 games for nine teams between 1972 and 1994, Gossage becomes only the fifth reliever to enter the Hall, joining Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter in Cooperstown.
Former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice missed out again with 72 percent and ex-outfielder Andre Dawson came in third with 66 percent, while the same writers who deified Mark McGwire during his 1998 assault of Roger Maris’ single-season homer run record snubbed McGwire for a second year in a row, giving him just 24 percent toward the 75 percent needed for enshrinement as a result of his suspected use of steroids during his playing career. McGwire blasted 583 homers with 1,414 RBIs for his career.

A congressional hearing involving Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Clemens’ former trainer, Brian McNamee, has been postponed from Wednesday until February 13. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a joint investigation into steroid use in baseball with the Department of Justice, and will still entertain testimony Wednesday from commissioner Bud Selig, players union chief Donald Fehr and former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, whose report on steroids in baseball is the centerpiece of the investigation.
McNamee told investigators and Mitchell last year that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormones in 1998, 2000 and 2001, a charge that Clemens denies. Pettitte has acknowledged that McNamee injected him with steroids twice. On a recent episode of “60 Minutes” on CBS, Clemens claimed that McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine, not steroids.
The 45-year-old Clemens is eighth on baseball’s all-time wins list with 354 victories. He came out of retirement and rejoined the New York Yankees amid great mid-game fanfare at Yankee Stadium last year, but the anticipation exceeded the event as he went only 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yanks, who were eliminated by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs.

Longtime Minor League Baseball executive Pat O’Conner has been unanimously selected to succeed Mike Moore as president of that organization. O’Conner came to Minor League Baseball from the Houston Astros organization in 1993, and has served as Moore’s lieutenant ever since. He becomes the eleventh president of Minor League Baseball, formerly known as the National Association. Neither the Mexican League nor Gulf Coast League was represented at the election.
O’Conner began his career in the minors in 1980 as an administrative assistant with Vero Beach of the Florida State League. He had subsequent stops in Greenwood, South Carolina and Beaumont, Texas before becoming the Astros’ director of Florida operations and general manager of Houston’s Florida State League affiliate in Osceola. He was the Florida State League’s Executive of the Year in 1988.
The sole nominee to replace Moore to be put forth last fall by Minor League Baseball’s board of trustees, O’Conner’s term began January 1.

Caribbean Baseball

The Venezuelan League postseason is underway with a five-team round-robin playoff tournament in which each club plays ten games, followed by a marathon best-of-9 championship series between the top two round-robin finishers.
The Oriente Caribes finished the regular season with a league-best record of 39-24. Lara finished the regular season five games behind the Caribes at 34-29, followed in order by Aragua at 32-31, Margarita at 31-33 and La Guaira at 30-33. Zulia, Caracas and Magallenes all missed the playoffs. Caribes skipper Marcos Davalillo was named Manager of the Year, garnering 34 of a possible 40 votes. Davalillo is the son of former minor league outfielder Pompeyo Davalillo, and is in his first season as manager of the Caribes after serving as a coach for ten winters.
Two playoff games were held Wednesday night in Venezuela. Aragua shut out Lara, 6-0, behind the four-hit pitching of Cubs farmhand Cory Bailey over 5.2 innings. The Tigres’ Alex Romero had a triple and two RBIs while Alberto Callaspo stroked two singles and a double, driving in two more. In the other contest, La Guaira pounded the Caribes, 9-2, as the Tiburones’ Oscar Salazar whacked a pair of two-run homers to lead the 15-hit attack.

The Dominican League playoffs have begun with another round-round tournament, although things are a bit different than in Venezuela. Four teams are battling it out in the Dominican postseason, as opposed to five in Venezuela, and the top two teams will advance to the Caribbean Series next month instead of one apiece for Venezuela and the Mexican Pacific League. The Dominicans are the host nation for the Caribbean Series, which will feature four teams from just three leagues since the Puerto Rican League folded prior to this winter.
The Cibao Gigantes narrowly edged out the Licey Tigres for the regular season title by half a game with a 29-18 record. The Cibaenas Aguilas finished third at an even 24-24, while the Oriente Estrellas’ 23-26 mark was good enough to finish two games ahead of the Escogido Leones for the fourth and final playoff berth. The Este Azucareros finished dead last at 19-30.
In playoff action heading toward this weekend, the Estrellas have the top record at 7-4 following an 4-3 loss to Cibao on Wednesday as outfielder Caonabo Cosme’s two-out RBI single drove in the winning run to lift the Gigantes postseason record to 4-7. Licey is second in the playoffs with a 6-5 record, while Cibaenas is 5-6.

After posting the best record in the Mexican Pacific League during the course of the regular season, the Obregon Yaquis needed a solo homer by Texas Rangers prospect Jason Botts to avoid elimination from the six-team Mex Pac playoffs Wednesday night. The Yaquis managed just two hits off the Los Mochis Caneros, but one of them was Botts’ fourth inning leadoff bomb to left field, and that was just enough to give Obregon a 1-0 win and send their series into a seventh and final game. Yaquis starter Dan Serafinin scattered eight hits and a walk over six innings for the win, while closer Joakim Soria retired the Caneros in order in the ninth for his second playoff save. Botts’ homer was the only blemish on a superlative performance by the Mochis pitching staff, who received no support from their offense despite a three-hit night from speedster Dionys Cesar.
In other Mex Pac playoff series, Culiacan beat Navojoa in five games to advance to the semifinals, while Mazatlan eliminated Guasave in a four game sweep. Since the Obregon-Los Mochis series is going the full seven games, both teams will move on in the playoffs due to the Mex Pac’s “lucky loser” rule allowing the first round loser with the best record in their series to advance along with the three winners.

Asian Baseball

The Orix Buffaloes have announced an agreement to acquire veteran Venezuelan slugger Alex Cabrera, who left the Seibu Lions after contract talks broke down earlier this offseason. The 36-year-old Cabrera’s name appeared in the Mitchell Report on steroid abuse released last month. He has a career .306 average in seven Japanese seasons, all with the Lions. He has hit 273 homers, including a single season record-tying 55 homers for Seibu in 2002, and has driven in 686 runs. Last season for the Lions, he hit .295 with 27 homers and 81 RBIs while earning 600,000,000 yen.
Cabrera’s new contract, which is set to be finalized in a few days, is expected to bring him 250,000,000 yen in 2008. However, the contract will be voided should he fail a doping test at be conducted when he arrives for spring training next month.

After posting a 22-7 record with a 2.07 last season, star pitcher Daniel Rios has left the Doosan Bears and the Korea Baseball Organization to try his hand in Japanese baseball. The 35-year-old Rios gave the Bears and KBO a dubious Christmas present last month by signing a two-year, $3.78 million contract with the Yakult Swallows on December 25. The contract calls for Rios to earn $950,000 in 2008, and up to $2.75 million with bonuses in 2009. Rios led Doosan to a runner-up spot in the Korea Series last fall.
The Seoul-based Bears have taken their first step toward replacing their ace by signing pitcher Sun-woo Kim to a $1.6 million deal. The right-handed Kim was 8-8 with a 4.87 ERA for Fresno in the Pacific Coast League in 2007 as a farmhand for the San Francisco Giants. Once considered one of Korea’s top pitching prospects, the 31-year-old Kim pitched major league ball for the Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds, compiling a 13-13 record between 2001 and 2006 with a career 5.31 ERA.
The Bears also announced the signing of 35-year-old pitcher Gary Rath, who won 17 games for Doosan in 2004 before, like Rios, jumping ship to Japan. Rath, who pitched briefly for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins in the late Nineties, will earn $230,000 in 2008. Unlike Kim, Rath is a soft-tossing lefty who gets batters out with smarts rather than stuff. He was unimpressive in his Japanese stint with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, but moved to Taiwan last season and posted a 12-5 record for the La New Bears in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, which is considered a step below the KBO in overall quality.
Kim and Rath are both expected to slide into the Doosan starting rotation behind Matt Randel, who was 12-8 for the Bears last year. The team is also said to be likely to re-sign free agent slugger Dong-joo Kim, whose talks with Japan’s Yokohama Bay Stars recently fell through.

A 30-year-old veteran of the Mexican League has signed a contract with the China Trust Whales of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. Outfielder Carlos Rivera is crossing the Pacific after hitting a resounding .410 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 101 games with the Oaxaca Guerreros last season. The Whales have also re-signed outfielder Carlos Villalobos, who hit .359 with right homers and 52 RBIs in 50 games after joining China Trust in midseason last year.
Also in Taiwanese baseball news, the President Lions announced that pitcher Pete Munro will not be with the team in 2008. After going 14-7 with a 2.03 ERA last season, Munro is returning to the United States in hopes of attending a major league training camp next month.
The CPBL has held its annual winter draft, and the Sinon Bulls made infielder Yi-Chuan Lin the number one overall pick. The Macoto Cobras picked outfielder Chih-Yao Chan second, followed by the China Trust Whales selection of pitcher Chia-Chun Tang with the third pick.

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