I know that some of you don’t care for the World Baseball Classic. Heck, I ran a poll in After Dark and many of you told me that you didn’t care for it. But I’m asking you to give it another chance. I understand if you haven’t tuned in yet—the games in Asia are being played late at night or early in the morning here—but the Australian upset over Korea and the Panama upset over Chinese Taipei were greatly entertaining baseball. The first few innings of that second game in Taiwan were so loud that you couldn’t hear the broadcasters. It got quieter as Chinese Taipei fell behind, but the cheerleaders were still there trying to rev up the crowd. It’s going to be that loud this weekend in Miami when the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Puerto Rico plays. And that game in Phoenix between USA and Mexico is going to be just as loud.
And since I wrote that last paragraph, the underdog Czechs came back with a dramatic four-run top of the ninth to beat China.
Small country, big dreams.
But I’ll start you out with some non-WBC news for those who still chose not to enjoy it.
- Two of the remaining free agents have come off the board as the Marlins have signed Yuli Gurriel and José Iglesias to minor-league deals with invitations to Spring Training.
- Ken Rosenthal has a big behind-the-scenes story of how Aaron Judge ended up back in the Bronx. (The Athletic sub. req.) In particular, Rosenthal focuses on Judge’s agents and the small agency that Judge has stuck with despite many offers from the big boys to take him on as a client.
- But other than that good news on Judge, the Yankees have some issues. For one, new free agent acquisition Carlos Rodón will start the season in the injured list after being diagnosed with a left forearm strain.
- And right-handed starter Frankie Montas admitted that he wasn’t healthy last year when the Yankees acquired him from Oakland. Montas will miss at least three months after off-season shoulder surgery.
- Brendan Kuty and Chris Kirschner look at what’s next for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to deal with some of these problems that have popped up in Spring Training. (The Athletic sub. req.)
- The Phillies’ Bryce Harper said his goal is to return to the lineup by the All-Star Game after off-season Tommy John surgery.
- Dan Szymborski looks at how badly the Phillies will be affected by the loss of Harper. Szymborski thinks the Phils should have planned better for Harper’s absence.
- Jay Jaffe examines the most recent comeback attempt by Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
- Bob Nightengale reports from White Sox camp where the Pale Hose have vowed to improve over last season when they “played like crap” according to reliever Joe Kelly.
- Leo Morgenstern writes about how the Rockies are going to deal with the absence of Brendan Rodgers.
- Hunter Felt thinks that MLB has finally found a rule change that the fans like with the pitch clock. You may notice a certain baseball blogger you are familiar with being quoted in that article. No, it’s not me.
- Ethan Diamandas notes that the pitch clock may be messing with some of baseball’s “unwritten rules.”
- Emma Baccellieri talks to official scorers as to how the automatic balls and strikes could affect their scorecards.
- Jim Callis has ten “sleeper” prospects who could be Top 100 prospects sometime soon. Two Cubs prospects are on his list.
- Jay Jaffe has the most- and least-improved starting rotations this season. Cubs on neither list.
- David Schoenfield looks at which sub-.500 teams are most likely to improve this year. (ESPN+ sub. req.) The Cubs are on that list.
- Diamond Baseball Holdings are buying the High-A Lansing Lugnuts. DBH already owns several minor league clubs including the Iowa Cubs.
- OK, now those of you who hate the WBC can quit reading now. In case you didn’t want to read my previews, Zach Kram has a primer on the World Baseball Classic.
- Mike Axisa has five “bold” predictions for the WBC.
- Dayn Perry has the most “intriguing” player on each of the 20 WBC teams.
- Maria Guardado has how brothers Luis and Ramón Urías grew up baseball in Mexico.
- Chris Gilligan looks at several players who are on the bubble for making an Opening Day roster who are going off to play in the WBC instead of fighting for that spot in Spring Training. As Gilligan notes, this development may not be great for their teams, but it is great for the sport of baseball.
- For the fashion-conscious, here are the uniforms of the 2023 WBC. I’m a fan of Australia’s, Cuba’s and Mexico’s uniforms.
- Anthony Castrovince has the oral history of how so many of the best players in MLB agreed to play for Team USA.
- Ken Rosenthal has some assorted reports from Team USA workouts. (The Athletic sub. req.)
- Jorge Castillo reports that Mookie Betts is looking good at second base for Team USA. This is important for non-WBC fans because the Dodgers are planning to give Betts some time at second base after the injury to Gavin Lux.
- Freddie Freeman tells Bob Nightengale why it’s so important to him to honor his late mother by playing for Team Canada.
- If you can handle another story on the Cinderella Czechs, here are the current day jobs of the players on the Czech roster.
- The big shocker of the WBC so far is Australia’s 8-7 win over Korea thanks in part to a boner by Baekho Kang worthy of Fred Merkle.
- And this catch by Panama’s Luis Castillo may end up being the catch of the tournament.
- Love him or hate him, Steve Gardner has the story of Cuban superfan Pablo Avila and his car horn at the Taichung, Taiwan games.
- And finally, former Cubs farmhand Alex Katz is big into customizing sneakers and cleats. So check out the Israel-themed cleats that he made as while he pitches for Team Israel.
And tomorrow will be a better day than today, Buster.