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02/24/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 8"
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008
by Bruce Baskin, Radio Miami International
World Baseball Today is aired Sundays at 10:30AM ET on WRMI (7385kHz)
For a FREE online subscription to WBT, email WorldBaseballToday@hotmail.com
NATIONAL LEAGUE REPORT
NEW MARLINS BALLPARK APPROVED
Miami-Dade County commissioners have finally approved a new 37,000-seat retractable roof stadium for the Florida Marlins. The ballpark would be built on the site of the Orange Bowl, which is due for demolition. The Little Havana site was not the first choice for the Marlins or Major League Baseball, who preferred a downtown location.
The commissioners approved a basic plan for a $515 million stadium that would open in time for the 2011 season. The county would pay $347 million in construction costs for the ballpark, mostly from tourism taxes, while the Marlins would pay $155 million and keep all stadium revenues. The team would be renamed the Miami Marlins before the facility opens its gates.
Major League Baseball has given a 30-day deadline for a decision on whether county or city police and fire departments will be patrolling the new facility, while a local car dealer is trying to talk commissioners into putting the stadium issue before voters.
HOWARD WINS $10 MILLION IN ARBITRATION WITH PHILS
Chalk one up for Ryan Howard. The Philadelphia slugger won $10 million in arbitration with the Phillies, tying Alfonso Soriano’s 2006 record for highest salary received through that process. Howard made $355,000 during his 2006 MVP season and $900,000 last year. The Phils had offered him $7 million for 2008, but Howard became the first player to win in six arbitration cases this season.
Howard batted .268 with 47 homers and 136 RBIs in 2007 after a 58-homer year in 2006, when he also hit .313 and drove in 149 runs. The 28-year-old first baseman won the National league Rookie of the Year award in 2005 by belting 22 homers with 63 RBIs in just 88 games after replacing an injured Jim Thome in the Philadelphia lineup.
The Phillies hadn’t gone to arbitration since defeating Travis Lee in 2001, and had been undefeated in seven arbitration decisions prior to Howard’s award.
TEIXEIRA SEEKING NEW CONTRACT WITH BRAVES
Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira is entering the final year of his contract, but he’s not going to spend Spring Training worrying about it. As he says, “That’s why I hired an agent.” However, when your agent is Scott Boras, things can get a bit complicated.
In the first place, this has not been the best of off-seasons for Boras, who was not involved with client Alex Rodriguez’ contract negotiations with the New York Yankees and was recently called a “bad person” by former client Gary Sheffield. Plus, Boras is expected to seek $20 million a year for Teixeira from the Braves, who are often reluctant to deal with the agent because they consider his demands outrageous.
For his part, Teixeira is content to concentrate on the game and trust Boras to handle the business end of things. The 27-year-old hit .306 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs for Texas and Atlanta last year, his fourth straight 30-homer, 100-RBI season. He’ll be making $12.5 million with the Braves in 2008.
AMERICAN LEAGUE NEWS
MANNY SHOWS UP IN RED SOX CAMP…ON TIME
Outfielder Manny Ramirez arrived at the Boston Red Sox training camp in Fort Myers, Florida last week. What’s unusual is that Ramirez arrived in camp on time for the first time in three seasons. Ramirez left heads shaking with the comment, “I might be late two years in a row, but I’m always on time.”
Ramirez helped the Red Sox win the World Series last year despite having one of his worst offensive seasons, batting .296 with 20 homers and 88 RBIs. He’s 26th on the all-time list with 490 homers, and should crack the 500 mark this year. The left fielder is entering the final season of his eight-year, $160 million contract with team options for 2009 and 2010 at $20 million each.
Boston general manager Theo Epstein is willing to wait before negotiating a new contract, claiming “We’re looking forward to Manny continuing to work hard and have a great year.” Ramirez wasn’t breaking much of a sweat last Thursday, skipping the team’s conditioning drill. Boston manager Terry Francona said, “I give Manny credit for being smart enough to sneak out of here.”
PENA LOOKING FOR REPEAT OF LAST SEASON WITH RAYS
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena is in a much better position entering the 2008 season than he was a year ago, and he aims to keep it that way. After being released by Detroit in 2006 and spending most of that season playing minor league ball in Boston’s system, the 29-year-old Pena was signed by the Rays a year ago as a non-roster invitee and ticketed for the minor leagues, but was brought back to the majors after an injury to Greg Norton.
Pena went on to set Tampa Bay team records with 46 homers and 121 RBIs, while setting career highs with a .282 batting average, 103 walks, a .411 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage. He became the first player in big league history to hit 40 homers the season after being released, and was rewarded by the Rays with a three-year, $24 million dollar contract.
Rays manager Joe Maddon says, “All I want him to do is approach every day like he did last year…If we can just get him to stay there, I’m sure the good numbers are going to follow.” Pena himself says, “Last year was a magical year, no doubt about it.”
CABRERA PUSHES URIBE OVER TO SECOND WITH CHISOX
Orlando Cabrera has begun Spring Training in Tucson, Arizona with the Chicago White Sox after being traded over the winter by the Los Angeles Angels for pitcher Jon Garland. The 33-year-old Cabrera batted .301 and scored a career-high 101 runs while collecting a Gold Glove at shortstop with an American League-best .983 fielding percentage as the Angels won the AL West last year. He played on Boston’s 2004 world champions and has been in the postseason three of the past four years. Cabrera will make $9 million in the final year of his contract in 2008.
Cabrera’s trade to the Pale Hose came two weeks after Chicago had signed shortstop Juan Uribe to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. Uribe started at shortstop for the White Sox when they won the World Series in 2005, and made several great plays in Chicago’s sweep over Houston. However, with Cabrera’s arrival, Uribe is being moved to second base by manager Ozzie Guillen.
INTERNATIONAL BASEBALL UPDATE
2009 WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC FIELD SET
There’s a familiar look to the field of national teams announced last week for the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The same 16 countries who took part in the 2006 inaugural event were named. All eight teams who made the second round in the ’06 WBC received automatic berths, including defending champion Japan, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and the United States.
The other eight countries who failed to advance past the first round have been invited to the 2009 event, including Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Panama, Italy, South Africa, China and The Netherlands.
The venue and schedule for the 2009 World Baseball Classic is expected to be released this spring. Major League Baseball and its Players Association, who are organizing the tournament, are considering expanding the number of countries and territories in the WBC, with qualifying as a prerequisite to reaching the main competition for the 2013 tournament.
SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL TEAM HEADS TO TAIWAN
South Korea’s National Team has gone to Taiwan to prepare for next month’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Taichung. Head coach Kyung-moon Kim and 29 players arrived in Taiwan last Friday, two months after losing to Japan in the first round of the qualifier in Taichung last December.
South Korea will compete with seven other countries, including Taiwan, Mexico, Canada and Australia, in qualifying matches between March 7 and 14 in Taichung. Only three teams will advance to the Olympics in Beijing this summer.
WALK-OFF HOMER ENDS CUBAN ALL-STAR GAME
The eleventh modern-era Cuban All-Star Game was held recently in Santiago de Cuba, and a homer by a member of the visiting team ended the affair as the Occidentales took a 6-5 win over the Orientales. The game at Guillermon Moncada Stadium was unique in that the visiting team was allowed to bat last, but reserve catcher Yosvani Peraza made the most of the arrangement by drilling a pitch from Ciego de Avila’s Jorge Luis Longa deep into the right field bleachers to settle matters. It marked the second time in five years a walk-off homer ended the Cuban All-Star Game, with Las Tunas’ Daniel Castro’s bomb ending the 2004 contest in Santa Clara.
Earlier in the All-Star Weekend, Antonio Pacheco’s grand slam gave Orientales an 11-7 win over Occidentales in the Veterans Game, while Sancti Spiritus’ Yulieski Gourriel edged Juan Carlos Pedroso, 8-7, in the final round of the popular Home Run Contest.
JAPANESE COMMISH SCRAPS PACIFIC LEAGUE’S POWELL RULING
Japanese baseball commissioner Yasuchika Negoro has overturned the Pacific League’s award of the rights for 31-year-old pitcher Jeremy Powell to the Softbank Hawks after Powell signed contracts with both the Hawks and Orix Buffaloes, touching off a dispute between the two teams. Softbank announced the signing of Powell three weeks after Orix said they’d signed him. Powell was 0-2 last year for Yomiuri.
Negoro said he wanted to hear both sides of the story, but added it wasn’t up to him to settle matters between the teams, leaving open the question as to who would.