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02/03/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 5"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International


AMERICAN BASEBALL NEWS

TWINS DEAL SANTANA TO METS
After entertaining overtures from a number of teams, the Minnesota Twins have decided to deal pitcher Johan Santana to the New York Mets for four prospects. The final piece of the trade depended on Santana’s agent, Peter Greenberg, hammering out a $120 million contact extension over six or seven seasons with the Mets. Greenberg already represents two Mets players, shortstop Jose Reyes and outfielder Endy Chavez, and has a good relationship with New York’s front office. In return for Santana, the Twins would receive outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.
Santana would be entering the final year of his original contract with Minnesota, and would become a free agent after this season’s World Series. Earlier this offseason, the New York Yankees offered pitcher Phil Hughes and outfielder Melky Cabrera for Santana, who turns 29 in March, while the Boston Red Sox made a bid for the former Cy Young Award winner with a package that would have included either outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury or pitcher Jon Lester. Santana turned down a four-year, $80 million extension offer from the Twins.

UMPIRES UPSET OVER MLB INVESTIGATIONS
Major league umpires are livid that investigators have been sent to their hometowns to ask neighbors about their character, including questions about membership in the Ku Klux Klan. The investigations are a reaction of sorts to the revelation last summer that NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on games he worked. The FBI investigated Donaghy, who was found guilty on federal gambling charges and now awaits sentencing.
World Umpires Association president John Hirschbeck claims investigator Tom Christopher of Milwaukee has been asking neighbors questions about whether umpires Greg Gibson, Sam Holbrook and Ron Kulpa are Klan members, wife-beaters or wild partiers. Gilbson and Holbrook live in Kentucky, while Kulpa resides near St. Louis. MLB executive vice president of operations Jimmie Lee Solomon responded that Hirschbeck’s claims were looked into, but determined to be inaccurate.
Hirschbeck said that MLB’s “heavy-handed” approach is a prelude to negotiations for the next umpires’ contract. The current deal ends after the 2009 season.

MARLINS, GONZO AGREE TO ONE-YEAR DEAL
Free agent outfielder Luis Gonzalez has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Florida Marlins. The deal is likely to include $2 million in salary plus another $1 million in incentives, contingent on the 40-year-old Gonzalez passing a physical.
Gonzalez spent the 2007 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, batting .278 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs. He is expected to play both outfield and first base in Miami this season, while serving as a mentor to the Marlins’ younger players. The five-time All-Star has a .284 career average with 346 homers and 1392 RBIs over 18 seasons. He batted .325 with 57 homers and 142 RBIs for Arizona’s World Series champions in 2001.


CARIBBEAN BASEBALL REVIEW

CARIBBEAN SERIES BEGINS PLAY THIS WEEKEND
The Caribbean Series got underway this weekend in the Dominican Republic after the four-team field was determined last week. The host country will be represented by two teams, the Cibaenas Aguilas and Licey Tigres. Cibaenas defeated Licey in the Dominican League championship series. The Aguilas will also be the “home” team, per se, since all games will be played in Santiago’s Cibao Stadium. Licey has nine Caribbean Series championships, more than any other team in the event’s history.
Mexico will be represented by the Obregon Yaquis, who won their first Mexican Pacific League championship in 26 years after defeating Mazatlan 4 games to 1 in the title series, as Alfredo Amezaga tripled and scored the game’s only run in Obregon’s series-clinching 1-0 win over the Venados last Sunday. Since there was no Caribbean Series held in 1981, this marks the Yaquis’ first-ever appearance in the event.
The Aragua Tigres round out the field after topping the Lara Cardenales in six games for the Venezuelan League crown. The Tigres won their second straight title by beating Lara 9-2 Tuesday as Ronny Cedeno and Martin Prado each drove in three runs and Edgardo Alfonzo collected three hits and two ribbies.
The Caribbean Series began yesterday with the first of six doubleheaders in Santiago. Action will begin daily at 4PM local time, with nightcaps set for 8PM.

LENADORES OPEN GAP IN CUBAN GROUP C STANDINGS
What had been a tight race in the Cuban National Series’ Group C has become a fairly comfortable lead for the Las Tunas Lenadores, whose 30-17 record is four games better than the Ciego de Avila Tigres’ 26-21 mark. Similarly, the 34-13 Havana Vaqueros are four games up in Group B on 30-17 Industriales.
Things are less bunched in Cuba’s other two divisions. Even though they are only one game above .500 at 24-23, the Pinar del Rio Vegueros are seven games ahead of both Metropolitanos and Isla de la Juventud Pineros in the weak Group A standings, while the 36-11 Santiago de Cuba Avispas have built the best record in Cuba while running away from the rest of Group D, where the Holquin Cachorros trail by 13 games.
Yunier Mendoza of Sancti Spiritus continues to lead the Cuban batting race with a .430 average, although Villa Clara’s Eduardo Paret is closing the gap at .423. Pitcher Jonder Martinez of Havana is having an outstanding season, with a perfect 6-0 record after seven starts and a Series-leading 1.63 ERA.

BARRANQUILLA CLINCHES INTERNATIONAL SERIES WITH BOER
The Barranquilla Caymans of Colombia won the first two games of a three-match series with Nicaragua’s Boer Indios to clinch the set pitting champions of their respective national leagues in Boer.
A pair of tenth-inning wild pitches by Boer closer Gustavo Martinez resulted in Steve Brown crossing the plate with the winning run as Barranquilla defeated the Indios 2-1 last Tuesday night in the series opener. That was followed by a 5-2 Caymans win on Wednesday as starter Rafael Batista scattered three hits and truck out seven Boer batsmen over seven innings for the win.
The series was a repeat of last year’s matchup between Colombian and Nicaraguan League champions, won by Barranquilla on their home turf.


ASIAN BASEBALL UPDATE

SEATTLE FIRM ACQUIRES KOREAN UNICORNS
After being passed around more often than Heidi Fleiss at a Hollywood party in recent months, the Hyundai Unicorns finally have a buyer. The four-time Korean Baseball Organization champions were in danger of folding in 2008 when no less than three corporations looked under the hood and decided not to sponsor the team after Hyundai announced they were pulling out of the KBO, but a Seattle investment firm last week stepped up and said they’d buy the franchise for 12 million won.
Centennial Investments will operate the Unicorns this season, although the team will not be named after them. Instead, Centennial will seek to sell naming rights to the team from among their larger clients. As part of the deal, the Unicorns will play home games in Seoul beginning this season.

PITCHER SIGNS TWO CONTRACTS WITH JAPANESE TEAMS
Perhaps in an attempt to double his pleasure and double his fun, pitcher Jeremy Powell has reportedly signed contracts with two Japanese Pacific League teams for the 2008 season. The league determined last week that Powell’s contracts with the Orix Buffaloes and Softbank Hawks are both valid. Softbank announced it had signed a contract with the right-hander on January 29, 18 days after Orix announced they had reached agreement with Powell and planned to sign him to the deal after his arrival in Japan for spring training.
Pacific League secretary general Shigeru Murata says Powell will not play for anyone until the issue is resolved, and that the two teams will have to hammer out their differences in face-to-face dialogue. Upon announcing their signing of Powell, Softbank claimed his prior agreement with Orix was void because the league had not announced it officially. The Buffaloes filed a written appeal with the league one day later.
Powell led the Pacific League with 17 wins for Kintetsu in 2004 and has four double-digit win seasons in Japan, but a knee injury last year limited him to an 0-2 record with Yomiuri.

AUSTRALIAN LEAGUE SEASON HEADS INTO FINAL SERIES
The Australian Baseball Federation’s Claxton Shield competition will be climaxing this week with a final series between the Perth Heat and Queensland Rams. Perth finished ahead of Victoria and South Australia to clinch the Southern Division title, while Queensland bested New South Wales and Australian Provincial for the Eastern Division crown. All six teams played 12-game, home-and-away series within their divisions during the regular season, which began in late December. The current schedule marks a return to a more standard season format in Australia after several seasons in which the Claxton Shield was a one-week tournament at a single site.
David Sutherland of Queensland has posted the highest batting average among starting players in Australia with a .469 average over nine games, while Tom Brice of South Australia has been the top power hitter with a league-high four homers and 11 RBIs. Among pitchers, New South Wales’ Timothy Cox has won all three of his starts and has posted a microscopic 0.69 ERA in 13 innings of work, allowing just four hits and one run while striking out 17 batsmen.


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