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12/02/2007 Archived Entry: "World Baseball Today"

Sunday, December 2, 2007
by Bruce Baskin

The "World Baseball Today" program is aired on Radio Miami International (7385kHz) every Sunday at 10:30AM Eastern.
It is shortwave radio's only program dedicated to baseball.



The New York Yankees have signed veteran catcher Jorge Posada to a four-year contract for $52 million, keeping Posada in pinstripes through the 2011 season. Posada will get $13.1 million per year under the deal, making him the highest-paid catcher in baseball after nudging ahead of Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez, who will receive $13 million in the option year of his contract next season.

Posada is a five-time All-Star who has never been on the disabled list. He batted a career-high .338 last season for the Yankees with 20 homers and 90 RBI’s. He will turn 40 in the final year of the contract.

The Yankees are also working to complete deals with third baseman Alex Rodriguez, closer Mariano Rivera and backup catcher Jose Molina.


The Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins pulled the trigger on a six-player trade Thursday, a deal which sent former Number 1 draft pick Delmon Young from Tampa Bay to Minnesota along with shortstop Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Priddie. In return, the Twins sent right-handed pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett and minor league pitcher Eduardo Morlan to the Rays.

The 22-year-old Young has been noteworthy as much for his troubles as his talent, but Minnesota was willing to take the risk after longtime Twins outfielder Torii Hunter left to sign a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Young batted .288 with 13 homers and 93 RBIs for Tampa Bay and was second to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia in American League Rookie of the Year balloting. Harris hit .286 with 12 homers in his first year as a starter for the Rays last year after previous stops with the Expos and Nationals.

Garza was Minnesota’s top draft choice in 2005, and possesses a fastball in the mid-90’s. He is 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA lifetime in 26 appearances for the Twins. Bartlett hit .265 for Minnesota last year, but committed 26 errors while Harris blew just 11 chances for the Rays.


A roster shakeup and new uniforms aren’t all the Rays are seeking these days. Tampa Bay owners formally unveiled plans for a new 34,000-seat open-air ballpark in St. Petersburg on the current site of Al Lang Field, which is used for spring training and minor league baseball. The projected pricetag for the ballpark is $450 million, of which Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg says the team would cover about one-third of the cost. Local voters would have to approve the use of the Al Lang site.

Florida governor Charlie Crist attended last week’s press conference. Crist has said the state should find a way to help the Rays build a stadium to replace the domed Tropicana Field. The team would like the state legislature to kick in at least $30 million.


The Baseball Writers Association of America is considering 11 new candidates for baseball’s Hall of Fame along with 14 holdovers from last winter’s ballot. A total of 575 voting members received their ballots last week. Topping the list of new candidates are former outfielders Tim Raines and Dave Justice.

Raines was a career .294 batter with 2,605 career hits and 808 stolen bases, mostly with Montreal. He won the National League batting title in 1986 and was the 1987 All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player.
Justice was the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1990, and went on to a career in which he appeared in postseason play 10 times in 14 seasons. He won World Series titles with Atlanta in 1995 and the Yankees in 2000. Among the holdovers, former Yankees and Padres closer Rich “Goose” Gossage came closest to induction last winter. Any new members will be announced January 8.

The Veterans Committee will split into two groups to consider a pair of ten-man ballots. One ballot features executives and pioneers, including ex-Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and ex-player’s union chief Marvin Miller. The other ballot consists of manager and umpires. That list contains former managers Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and Dave Johnson, as well as ex-umpire Doug Harvey. Johnson managed the United States to a Gold Medal in the Baseball World Cup last month in Taiwan. The Veterans Committee will announce any new picks at baseball’s winter meetings this week.



A twelve-year veteran of the Chiba Lotte Marines has agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract with the Kansas City Royals, where he will play for former Nippon Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman. Relief pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta is expected to compete for a spot as the Royals’ setup man out of the bullpen.

The 34-year-old Yabuta spent the past twelve years with the Marines, who are managed by Bobby Valentine. He was signed by Kansas City on the urging of Hillman, who spent the past five years managing against the Marines and Yabuta in the Pacific League. The righty was 4-6 with four saves and a 2.73 ERA last season in 58 relief outings prior to opting for free agency. He walked just ten batters in 62.2 innings, striking out 45. He is 44-59 with nine saves for his career in Japan with a 4.03 earned run average. His fastball is in the 88-92 MPH range.

Yabuta will earn $2.5 million in 2008 and $3 million in 2009 with the Royals. Kansas City has an option for $4 million in 2010 with a $500,000 buyout clause.


The Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization have hired Jerry Royster as their manager for the 2008 season. The 55-year-old Royster becomes the first foreigner ever to manager a team in Korea.

A native of Sacramento, Royster was an infielder in the major leagues for 16 seasons after debuting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972. He went on to play for Atlanta, San Diego, the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees before retiring in 1988. For his playing career, he hit .248 with 40 homers and 352 RBI’s in 1,428 major league games.

Royster was hired as interim manager of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002 after former Dodgers teammate Davey Lopes was fired. Royster himself was given the axe in Milwaukee after fashioning a 53-94 record with the Brewers. His last managing job was with the Dodgers’ Class AAA Pacific Coast League affiliate in Las Vegas, going 124-163 in 2005 and 2006. He takes over a Lotte team that finished a disappointing seventh in the KBO in 2007.


If anybody needs proof that baseball is a growing sport, a look at the Philippines is a good indicator. While the United States maintained a strong military presence in that nation for over a century, baseball did not catch on with Filipinos as it did in Cuba or Puerto Rico following the Spanish-American War. However, the new Baseball Philippines league has begun this year, with the help of Major League Baseball.

The six-team amateur league actually began play in late May with a five-week season, and is now in the home stretch of its ten-week Series Two fall schedule. All six teams congregate every Sunday for a tripleheader. The Manila Sharks lead the North Division with a 6-2 record, while the Cebu Dolphins head the South with a 6-3 record. After the regular season ends, the league will hold playoffs. With an 11-5 win over the Marikina Shoemakers last weekend, Manila clinched themselves a berth in the semifinals.



When the Atlanta Braves’ former 20-game winner Mike Hampton journeyed to the Mexican Pacific League this winter, it was with hope of revitalizing a major league career that has stalled with elbow problems the past two seasons. However, Hampton’s comeback bid has been stalled further after less than one inning into his first start with the Navojoa Mayos, when he was forced to leave the mound last Thursday after straining his right hamstring in what was expected to be a two-inning stint. Now, the 35-year-old lefty’s winter season is likely over, casting further doubt on his ability to contend in spring training for a slot in Atlanta’s rotation entering the final year of his eight-year, $121 million contract. Hampton is scheduled to make $15 million in 2008.

The Mayos are tied with Obregon for second place in the Mex Pac with a 24-19 record, four games behind 28-15 Culiacan. Los Mochis is right behind in fourth with a 23-20 mark.


A Cleveland Indians pitcher suffered a spinal fracture and severe brain trauma after a car accident last weekend in the Dominican Republic. Left-hander Juan Lara was hospitalized after his SUV was broadsided on the driver’s side in an intersection by a speeding motorcycle following a Dominican League game involving Lara’s Oriente Estrellas. The two motorcycle riders died.
The 26-year-old Lara is being closely monitored at a hospital in San Pedro de Macoris, but it is not known whether he will have any paralysis. He also suffered two fractured ribs, a perforated lung and bleeding on the brain. Lara spent most of the 2007 season with Buffalo in the International League before pitching in nine games after a September call-up to the Indians, posting a 1.80 ERA with no decisions. He was signed out of the Indians’ Dominican Academy.

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for the Estrellas, who are last in the Dominican League with a 12-20 record. Licey holds first place with a 20-11 record.


The Oriente Caribes continued their hot start in the Venezuelan league, but nobody’s been hotter than outfielder Jody Gerut. Gerut recently underwent a 9-for-24 batting stretch in a seven-game span and actually LOST points on his batting average. Still, the Stanford product (who hit 22 homers for Cleveland in 2003) leads the league in four offensive categories, including a .390 batting average, 55 hits, 34 runs scored, and a .488 on-base percentage. He’s also second with five triples and third with a .567 slugging percentage. He’s had help from infielder Rico Washington, who is second in Venezuela with 26 RBI’s, and pitcher Mike Smith, who tossed seven shutout innings over the Caracas Leones last weekend for his third straight win. Smith hadn’t yielded a run or a walk in a 21-inning stretch up to that point.

The Caribes lead in the standings with a 24-17 record, holding a 1.5-game lead over the Aragua Tigres.


The 47th Cuban National Series is getting underway this weekend. The CNS has 16 teams, one for each province and two for Havana. Each team consists of players from the province they represent. The Santiago de Cuba Wasps are the defending champions after defeating the Industriales Lions in six games in last season's final series.

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