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01/27/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 4"
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NEWS
HOUSE SUBPOENAS EX-YANKEE INFIELDER
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has subpoenaed former New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch for failing to respond to a letter inviting him to appear before the committee at a February 13 hearing, as well as a private deposition last week.
Knoblauch was named on page 177 in the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball as having received human growth hormone in 2001 from Roger Clemens’ former personal trainer, Brian McNamee. Knoblauch was invited to attend the hearing along with Clemens, McNamee, pitcher Andy Pettitte and ex-Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski, who has already pled guilty on several charges of dispersing illegal drugs to players. Clemens, McNamee and Radomski agreed to appear, but neither Knoblauch nor Pettitte have responded.
Democratic Committee chairman Henry Waxman of California and ranking Republican member Tom Davis issued a joint statement last Wednesday announcing the issuance of Knoblauch’s subpoena. Knoblauch appeared in postseason play four times with the Yankees between 1998 and 2001 after spending seven years with the Minnesota Twins, earning four All-Star berths. He ended his 12-year career with Kansas City in 2002, finishing with a lifetime .289 batting average and 407 stolen bases.
MATTINGLY STEPS DOWN AS DODGERS HITTING COACH
Former American League MVP Don Mattingly has resigned as Joe Torre’s hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers just two months after agreeing to replace Bill Mueller at the post. Mattingly, who cited family reasons for his resignation, will remain with the Dodgers organization as a special assignment coach, but stepped down from the major league job in order to spend more time at home in Evansville, Indiana. No specific details of his situation were released. Mattingly’s son Preston was the Dodgers’ first pick in the 2006 supplemental draft, and hit .210 in Class A ball in 2007.
Mattingly won his MVP award in 1985 at the height of a 14-year career with the Yankees over which he hit .307, won nine Gold Glove awards at first base, and was a six-time All-Star selection. He had been a candidate to replace Torre as manager in New York, but lost out to former Florida Marlins skipper Joe Girardi. He will be replaced as Dodgers hitting coach by Mike Easler, a 14-year major league outfielder and a former hitting coach with Milwaukee, Boston and St. Louis. Easler becomes the eighth hitting coach with Los Angeles since 2000.
CUBS SIGN JAPAN CAREER SAVES LEADER
The Chicago Cubs have signed Japan’s all-time saves leader to a minor league contract for 2008. Right-handed pitcher Shingo Takatsu will be a non-roster invitee to spring training with the Cubs after saving 286 games for the Yakult Swallows over 15 seasons. The 39-year-old Takatsu pitched for the White Sox and Mets in 2004 and 2005, going 8-6 with 27 saves and a 3.38 ERA. He was released by the Swallows last fall.
CARIBBEAN BASEBALL REPORT
AGUILAS ONE WIN AWAY FROM DOMINICAN TITLE
League championship series are underway in all three nations sending teams to next month’s Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic, and one team is a win away from winning a pennant. The Cibaenas Aguilas defeated the Licey Tigres Wednesday night in the Domincan League championships, 7-5, as shortstop Tony Pena capped a five-run sixth inning with a two-run double to put the Aguilas on the brink of their second straight flag. Both Cibaenas and Licey will advance to the Caribbean Series regardless of the outcome of their series because the host county will provide a second team to fill the slot normally taken by the inactive Puerto Rican League.
In other championship series, the Aragua Tigres opened the Venezuelan League title set with a 4-3 win over the Lara Cardenales on Wednesday night. Pirates farmhand Raul Chavez stroked three hits to lead the Tigres, who got a strong 5.2-inning performance from starting pitcher Jose Santiago, who allowed one run while scattering four hits. Meanwhile, the Mazatlan Venados survived the Obregon Yaquis 3-2 in 12 innings Wednesday to knot up their Mexican Pacific League championship series at one game apiece. Christian Quintero homered with one out in the top of the 12th for his first round-tripper since November 25. Quintero entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh frame.
BOER REPEATS AS NICARAGUAN LEAGUE CHAMPION
The Boer Indios defeated the San Fernando Fieras 6-0 in front of more than 8,000 fans in Roberto Clemente Stadium to cop their second straight Nicaraguan League championship. Boer won the best-of-seven series, 4 games to 2.
Dominican starting pitcher Rafael Garcia spun 7.2 dazzling innings for the Indios to win the clincher, while a three-run double by Marlon Abea was the key hit for Boer. The series was tied at two games apiece before the Indios crushed San Fernando 19-3 last Sunday. Boer will now take on the Colombian League champion Barranquilla Caymans in a three game series in Barranquilla. The Caymans swept the Cartagena Indios in four games for the Colombian title. Last winter, the same two teams played a three-game set in Nicaragua, with Baranquilla winning that series, 2 games to 1.
TIGHT BATTLE DEVELOPING IN CUBAN LEAGUE GROUP C
The Cuban National Series season is into its second month, and two Group C teams are engaging in a hot battle for divisional supremacy.
Defending champion Santiago de Cuba has opened a nine-game gap over Holquin in Group D with a league-best 30-9 record, while 21-18 Pinar del Rio is six games up on Metropolitanos in Group A (which is easily the weakest division in Cuba this season with three of the four teams posting sub-.400 records thus far). Things are a little tighter in Group B, with 29-10 Havana holding a three-game advantage over traditional rival Industriales, who are 26-13; but there’s a real battle going on in Group C, where just one game separates 23-16 Las Tunas and 22-17 Ciego de Avila.
Six batters are hitting .400 or better, with Sancti Spiritus’ Yunier Mendoza’s .430 average leading the way. Among Cuban pitchers, Holquin’s Luis Rodriguez has the lowest ERA at 1.65.
ASIAN BASEBALL UPDATE
THREE SIDES INTERESTED IN BUYING UNICORNS
The Korea Baseball Organization’s Hyundai Unicorns are still alive, despite the decision by the KT telecom giant to not sponsor the team for 2008. Hyundai has announced it will not field a team this year and there have been fears that the Unicorns will be dropped from the KBO, creating an unbalanced seven-team league.
However, three groups have emerged to express interest in taking over the reins of the Unicorns. The KBO is not revealing who those groups are, in order to avoid the embarrassment which followed when failed negotiations with the KT, STX and Nonghyup corporations became public. The KBO office did allow that the groups are “neither foreign companies nor Hyundai affiliates.” Two of the parties are said to be very active in negotiations for the Unicorns, while the other is essentially sitting on the fence. One of the conditions the KBO is putting forth is that the team must be based in Seoul.
The Unicorns are four-time Korea Series champions.
SHIMOYANAGI SIGNS CONTRACT TO REMAIN WITH HANSHIN
Free agent left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi agreed last week to sign a two-year contract with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers. Shimoyanagi will sign a contract with the Central League team that pays 400 million yen over the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Shimoyanagi has put up three consecutive double-digit winning seasons for Hanshin. He was 10-8 in 25 starts for the Tigers last year, posting a 4.11 ERA.
TAIWANESE NATIONAL TEAM VISITS PUERTO RICO
Taiwan’s national team is currently in Puerto Rico, where they are playing a 13-game schedule against local competition in preparation for March’s Olympics Qualifiers. The Taiwanese lost their opening game on January 18 to a Puerto Rican side by a 4-1 score. Starter Chen-Chang Lee was touched for three runs and six hits over three innings, while President Lions first round draft pick Wei-Hua Lee tossed the next four frames, allowing just one run on two hits.
Taiwan came back to beat the Carolina Giants 5-0 on January 19 behind a dominant performance by pitcher Chih-Chia Chang. Chang hurled five scoreless innings and struck out seven Carolina batsmen. The Taiwanese then fell to the Puerto Rican national team 4-3 one day later.
DODGERS AND PADRES TO PLAY PRESEASON GAMES IN CHINA
Major League Baseball will be sending two of its teams to China for the first time this March, when the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres play a pair of exhibition games in Beijing. MLB and the Players Association made the announcement last Thursday at a Beijing press conference attended by Dodgers manager Joe Torre and Padres vice president Dave Winfield.
The games will be played March 15-16 at Wukesong Baseball Field, the host venue for baseball during this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing. It will mark the first time that major league teams have played in China. Both the Dodgers and Padres will send split squads across the Pacific, since they also have Cactus League games scheduled the same weekend in Arizona.
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