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Team Israel Tries Again In Tough WBC Tourney
ALSO: NEW ECONOMIC COMMITTEE COULD RECOMMEND SALARY CAP AGAIN
“Color me a heretic, but I would not be opposed to a mercy rule. BUT, it would need to be tied to some benefit for the fans. So, if the game is called after seven because one team is up by 10 or more runs (for instance), then each fan still in attendance gets a voucher for a free hot dog, beer/soda, and ice cream. They already do versions of this with X number of strike outs = a free taco, or Y number of stolen bases = French fries, etc. What do you think?”
— Dan Freedman, Santa Monica, CA
The writer is a regular columnist for Here’s The Pitch. The HTP weekend editor strongly disagrees with his stance but believes in freedom of the press.
Did you know…
After off-season shoulder surgery, Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies will serve as designated hitter in today’s spring opener against the Red Sox [MLB Network at 1:00 EST], according to David O’Brien of The Athletic, but should be back at his usual position sometime next week . . .
San Francisco relief pitchers Taylor and Tyler Rogers, 32, are the fourth set of twins to play together and the first since Jose and Ozzie Canseco in 1990 . . .
New San Diego shortstop Xander Bogaerts was the last Red Sox player left from the 2013 world championship team . . .
Prediction: Don Mattingly, current bench coach of the Toronto Blue Jays, will be the first man hired when some team needs an experienced, dependable, and low-key manager . . .
Shouldn’t the Hall of Fame have an admissions category called “Contributors,” covering coaches, scouts, agents, and others who made major impacts on the game?
Remembering Team Israel 2017
By David Blumberg
“‘We're a team of guys trying to prove ourselves,’ said Ty Kelly, who was slated to play in the Brooklyn qualifier but had to withdraw after the Mets called him up at the beginning of September 2017. ‘We don't have an All-Star team. We have a bunch of guys playing for jobs, guys who are trying to get exposure and show they can still play.’”
Kelly made those comments while speaking to Eddie Matz for ESPN.
It’s been six years since the last World Baseball Classic, in 2017. Many details have faded from my memory in the intervening years, but Team Israel was unforgettable.
Team Israel, almost entirely composed of American players with Jewish ancestry, won Pool A of the WBC in 2017, scoring stunning upset victories over group favorites South Korea and the Netherlands. I remember being shocked and elated at this turn of events, as I was all aboard the Team Israel train.
Team Israel represented, for me and for many other Jewish American baseball fans, pride in our identity and our heritage. They were playing for us and, as such, we threw ourselves behind them whole-heartedly.
They had Jason Marquis, who hadn’t pitched in the majors in two years at that point, as the ace of the pitching staff. The roster also had fringe major-leaguers like Ryan Lavarnway, Cody Decker and Ty Kelly all going up against the world’s baseball stars.
Decker was a particularly eccentric member of the team who largely came to represent the spirit of Team Israel. Perhaps best known now for his work as a fantasy baseball analyst, Decker brought fun and energy to Team Israel.
Decker was sent a life-sized Mensch on the Bench doll by the company that manufactures the toy, and it became the team’s mascot. What is the Mensch on the Bench? I think a picture will speak a thousand words here.
Just in case you’re wondering, yes, I own the normal-sized retail version of that happy fellow you see in the picture (and the ‘Jew Crew’ shirt Decker is wearing).
Team Israel’s run would end in the knockout round, as teams with more major-league stars simply overwhelmed the rag-tag bunch.
Team Israel 2017, though, has been immortalized in many articles, videos, and a full-length documentary since. I know I won’t forget them anytime soon, and hopefully writing about them here is doing my part to preserve their legacy.
David Blumberg is a long-suffering Cubs fan. You can find his baseball opinions on Twitter and other musings on Medium at DGBlog. Follow him on Twitter @DGBlumberg.
Steve Cohen Smirks As Baseball Does Slow Burn
By Dan Schlossberg
Mets owner Steve Cohen made waves throughout the baseball world this winter as he was seemed unbothered by the so-called “Cohen Tax” threshold of the luxury tax.
He not only blew past the $293 million luxury tax threshold, signing 10 free agents and creating a $374 million payroll for luxury tax purposes, but bragged that he did nothing wrong and was simply following rules set by others.
Now his actions have sparked creation of a new “economic reform committee” that allegedly has the goal of trying to reduce revenue disparity between clubs — a tall order when the Mets are paying their players nearly $100 million more than the Yankees, who rank second on Spotrac’s ranking of projected 2023 payrolls.
Cohen not only has the highest payroll in baseball history but the best-paid players — at least in terms of annual average value. Pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander may work every fifth day but still earn $43.3 million each. Nice work if you can get it.
The not-so-subtle hint here is that owners, after spending a combined $1 billion during a free-agent feeding frenzy in December, are again considering a salary cap.
Always anathema to the Major League Baseball Players Association, such a cap exists in football, basketball, and hockey.
Without it, the theory goes, some of the weaker franchises will not only dwell at the bottom of the divisional standings but could even go belly-up.
Even the minimum salary has jumped to $720,000, thanks to the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, and will rise $20,000 a year until it’s time to negotiate a new one — after the 2026 season.
If the owners stick together, the mother of all labor interruptions could smother the game. Owners, players, and fans suffered through the 232-day player strike that wiped out the 1994 post-season and the start of the 1995 campaign. But what if an entire season were actually lost?
Even Steve Cohen’s billions couldn’t squelch such a scenario.
But lets hope cooler heads prevail — not only among the owners but also among the players.
Last time around, the game was halted by a 99-day lockout that intruded upon 2022 spring training. But the union’s eight-player executive committee, which included such high-paid stars as Max Scherzer and Francisco Lindor, voted 8-0 to reject the contract settlement offered by the owners.
Fortunately for the game, the rest of the union overruled them.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Memories & Dreams, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and other outlets. His latest book is Baseball’s Memorable Misses, published February 7. E.mail Dan via firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You worry when guys start up their clock that quickly but [the WBC] is good for the game, I’m told, and that is the bottom line. It enhances our game globally and I support it but I am looking at it selfishly from what’s best for the New York Mets.”
— Mets manager Buck Showalter on the World Baseball Classic, slated for Mar. 8-21
Showalter is worried that some of the players signed up for the WBC won’t get enough playing time to stay sharp when they return . . .
Although the Mets may lose a dozen players, including their starting infield to the WBC, their departure will open opportunities for rookies Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Mark Vientos . . .
The tough assignment handed rookie starter Kodai Senga is stepping into the shoes of Chris Bassitt, the Mets’ most consistent pitcher last season . . .
Spring training stats mean little, using Derek Jeter’s poor rookie showing as a prime example; he went on to be AL Rookie of the Year and a perennial All-Star . . .
Adding Jeter to the FOX television booth does little to break up the top-heavy logjam of former players with no broadcast experience and questionable talent . . .
Cole Hamels, the former World Series MVP, has agreed to start the 2023 campaign in the San Diego farm system as Step 1 in his unlikely comeback.
Know Your Editors
HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.