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01/25/2009 Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY 9January 25, 2009)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

The ailing Chicago Tribune newspaper has finally sold the Chicago Cubs and their home ballpark, Wrigley Field, for about $900 million. The team and stadium (along with a 25 percent share in a regional sports TV network) were bought by billionaire Tom Ricketts and his family. The Ricketts family founded the Ameritrade online stock market brokerage.
The Tribune bought the Cubs and Wrigley Field from the Wrigley family for just over $20 million in 1981, but put the Cubs on the market in 2007. Real estate mogul Sam Zell originally agreed to buy the team, but that deal fell through. The Chicago paper filed for bankruptcy protection last month, and a judge will likely need to approve the sale, along with other major league owners.
On the field, the Cubs signed Japanese veteran pitcher Ken Kadokura to a minor league contract. The 35-year-old right-hander will be a non-roster invitee to the Cubs’ spring training camp in Arizona next month. In 13 seasons of Japanese ball, Kadokura went 76-82 with a 4.32 ERA for four teams. He was 0-2 in 11 games for Yomiuri in 2008.

Former All-Star second baseman Jeff Kent has retired from baseball after 17 seasons in the major leagues. The 40-year-old Kent made the announcement last week in Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, where the California native spent the last four seasons.
Kent was a five-time All-Star and the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2000. He hit 377 homers in his career, 351 of those as a second baseman (most ever for a player at that position). Kent batted .290 lifetime with 1,518 RBIs. Last season, he passed Ralph Kiner, Gil Hodges and Carlton Fisk on the all-time home run list, and overtook Billy Williams, Dave Parker and Mickey Mantle on the all-time RBI list.
Kent was drafted by Toronto in 1989, and went on to play for six major league teams, batting .276 with three homers for San Francisco in his only World Series appearance in 2002. He batted .280 and stroked 12 homers in 121 games for the Dodgers last season.

Two veteran major league infielders are going to Japan for 2009. Edgardo Alfonzo has accepted an invitation to go to spring training with the Yomiuri Giants, while Tadahito Iguchi is returning home to play for the Lotte Marines after four seasons in the big leagues.
The 35-year-old Alfonzo played 12 seasons for five teams, last appearing in the majors with Toronto in 2006. A career .284 hitter, the Venezuelan crashed 146 homers and drove in 744 runs. He played in both the All-Star Game and World Series with the New York Mets in 2000. Last season, Alfonzo played for Quintana Roo of the Mexican League and Long Island of the independent Atlantic League.
The 34-year-old Iguchi came to the Chicago White Sox in 2005 after spending eight seasons with the Daiei Hawks, including a 2003 season in which he hit .340 with 27 homers, 42 stolen bases and 109 RBIs. Iguchi batted .278 with 15 homers as the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, but after another strong campaign in 2006, he declined rapidly. Iguchi spent last season hitting .232 for San Diego.

The Mazatlan Venados and Los Mochis Caneros were both stretched to seventh games in their respective Mexican Pacific League semifinal series, but the two teams prevailed to advance to the MexPac championship series.
Mazatlan won the deciding game of their series with Guasave, 4-1, as Adrian Gonzalez had three hits. In the other semi series, Mochis bopped Hermosillo, 9-5, to close out their series. Luis Suarez drove in four runs for the Caneros.
The Venados then won the first two games over Mochis, prevailing 1-0 Wednesday night as Pablo Ortega combined with two relievers on an 11-inning shutout in which Ruben Rivera’s RBI single ended things in the opener. Mazatlan won Game Two, 6-2, on Thursday behind Jon Weber’s two doubles, two runs and two RBIs.

As close as the Venezuelan League’s first round of playoffs were, it was no surprise that three teams tied at the top with 9-7 records, necessitating an extra day of games to determine which two teams would advance to the Venezuelan Series.
In Thursday’s opening tiebreaker, regular season champ Caracas beat Aragua, 6-2, as Marco Scutaro singled in a run in the fourth inning and squeezed in another run in the seventh to help send the Leones to the finals. Following their loss, Aragua had to beat La Guaira in order to join Caracas in the Venezuelan Series. That they did, riding a two-run homer by Rene Reyes and a solo bomb by Luis Meza to beat the Tiburones, 3-1. Five Aragua pitchers combined to scatter eight La Guaira hits in the win as Jesus Delgado took the win.
Caracas and Aragua opened their best-of-7 series for the Venezuelan crown on Friday.

After winning the first two games of their best-of-9 Dominican Series matchup with the Cibao Gigantes, the Licey Tigres didn’t break a sweat in being literally handed a Game Three win Thursday night. The Tigres beat Cibao in the opener, 3-2, last Tuesday and repeated in Game Two one night later with a 9-7 win as Cibao’s Felix Martinez was ejected after a heated seventh-inning dispute with home plate umpire Jeff Macias.
Martinez was listed on the Gigantes’ lineup card before Game Three on Thursday and Licey manager Jose Offerman protested, claiming Martinez was suspended for the contest. After a conference with league officials, umpire Chris Tiller ruled in favor of Offerman and ruled Martinez ineligible for the game. Cibao manager Luis Dorante then pulled his team off the field and out of the dugout, resulting in a 9-0 forfeit win for Licey. Game Four was scheduled for Friday night in Cibao.

Luis Matos scored on a Fernando Cortez sacrifice fly to left in the bottom of the second inning to give the Ponce a 1-0 lead over Arecibo Wednesday night, and the Leones had to make that margin stand up the rest of the way to win Game Three and take a 2 games to 1 lead in the Puerto Rico League championship series. Javier Vazquez scattered four hits and struck out six Arecibo batters in 6.1 innings to take the win for the Leones.
Ponce won the opener, 2-1, as Miguel Abreu scored on a 10th inning error, while Rene Rivera’s two homers keyed Arecibo’s 9-4 victory in Game Two of the best-of-7 series.

The Korea Baseball Organization’s eight teams will open the season with four games on April 4. In all, each Korean team will play 133 games this year, an increase of seven games per club over their 126-game slates in 2008. All eight teams are returning from last season, although a cloud continues to hang over the former Woori Heroes. The Heroes replaced the Hyundai Unicorns on the league roster last year, but the franchise was a mess from Day 1 and the sponsoring Woori Tobacco Company severed their ties in midseason after failing to pay league fees.
In 2009, playoff series are reverting to a best-of-5 format after seven-game sets in 2008; and games will be halted after 12 innings, ending the so-called “limitless overtime rule” under which teams played until there was a winner, regardless of duration of the game.

The Australia Baseball Federation’s Claxton Shield competition has concluded its six-round regular season schedule, with three teams left standing in contention for the Shield. The Perth Heat ended up with a 12-6 record, finishing first in the five-team standings, earning a semifinal bye and an automatic berth in the final series.
Playing the best-of-3 semis this weekend are the 10-6 Victoria Aces and 9-7 New South Wales Patriots. Both teams were tied for second at 8-5 heading into their series last weekend, but the Aces crushed the Patriots, 12-2, last Sunday to win the series and the number two slot in the tables. Victoria catcher Grant Karlssen cracked a 3-run homer in the third inning to erase a 1-0 Patriots lead in the deciding game. New South Wales finished one game ahead of the 8-8 Queensland Rams, who swept 1-15 South Australia in their season-ending series to keep the Rams’ slight playoff hopes alive.

Taiwan’s Minister of the Sports Affair Council says the federal government will put up 10 million Taiwanese dollars ($300,000US) to help the Chinese Professional Baseball League establish a farm system for the four-team circuit.
Leaders of CPBL teams attended a joint press conference called by Taiwan Premier Liu Chao-shiuan announcing the plan. According to the Taipei Times newspaper, Liu said, “Normally, a population of 10 million can sustain a good baseball team. Taiwan, a nation of 23 million people, has four teams. You can imagine how difficult it is for the four enterprises to run a baseball team.”
The Taiwanese league has been plagued by rampant gambling and game-fixing over the years, resulting in a drop in attendance and the offseason expulsion of two franchises.

The Israel Association of Baseball announced it has entered into negotiations with a group of Americans headed by minor league baseball entrepreneur Marv Goldklang to develop plans for a return of pro baseball to the Middle East nation.
Pro baseball was tried in Israel in 2007, but the six-team league experienced financial problems and disbanded after completing its 46-game schedule that year.
According to IAB chairman Haim Katz, Goldklang’s group hopes to revive pro ball in Israel with a fully-staffed league and improved facilities over the next year or two.

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