2 July 2015
Just eleven years ago, Australia was silver medallist at the Athens Olympic Games and should arguably have gone one better had baseball justice prevailed. They were heady and exciting days indeed.
Fast forward to 2015, when there is conjecture about baseball being re-admitted to the Olympics in 2020. If it is, Australia would need to qualify. For any country to qualify, it will need to perform well at the 2019 Premier 12 Series, which is this year being played for the first time.
Australia failed to qualify for the inaugural Premier 12. And just recently, it was confirmed that Australian baseball had been reclassified under the federal budget, resulting in a massive reduction to government funding. What should we make of all this?
There are a number of elements worth reflecting upon, none of which bodes especially well for the future of Australian baseball in international competition – nor even for its elite development at under-aged level, despite transition to an upgraded pathway model for our kids and some outstanding recent outcomes in Little League and Junior League.
Central to all considerations, there is the matter of federal funding into the foreseeable future.
For the 2015/16 Australian financial year, twenty-seven sports have had their overall funding increased, with a quite reasonable emphasis on encouraging greater participation. Baseball, however, is one of a handful of sports – including softball and table tennis – that have been reclassified under a high-performance schedule for 2015/16, a schedule that is “based on their potential to contribute to Australia’s Winning Edge targets” (Australian Sports Commission euphemism for winning medals here, there or anywhere else).
There is an altered high-performance funding formula for baseball. “The whole of sport investment for baseball has been classified as a high-performance grant,” according to ASC guidelines, “due to the possibility of inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Given what the ASC describes as “uncertainty over its inclusion and an assessment by the Australian Sports Commission of the team’s performance potential”, baseball will receive $ 415,000 of high performance funding in 2015/16 – a reduction of $ 430,000 from 2014/15.
Hardly a ringing vote of confidence in our sport’s “potential to contribute”!
While investment in participation is up by a welcome $164,000, total funding – according to Australian Sports Commission documents – will be
$ 875,000 overall, a reduction of $ 266,000 on the 2014/15 financial year.
Any person at national or state level who holds a high performance role will clearly be concerned about this, for jobs – one would suppose – are likely to go. And as high performance roles fall by the wayside, we can reasonably expect that service will be diminished and that our prospects for raising the overall standard of Australian baseball in the near future may be compromised.
It is the classic Catch 22 situation. To gain increased funding support – either from government or the corporate sector – baseball is required to be “more successful”. To be “more successful”, the sport clearly needs to be resourced more generously and targeted more deliberately rather than being downgraded by what is effectively a self-fulfilling recipe for failure.
Overall reduction in government funding – for 2015/16 something in the order of thirty per cent – will clearly make it more difficult for baseball. With the greater emphasis on funding participation – a laudable goal in itself – we can only hope that the sport somehow develops a greater capacity to attract and retain in greater numbers. We need also to hope that our revamped junior pathway programme, the upgrade of coaching requirements and the trend towards more “user pays” services will have a positive impact over time.
Should baseball be readmitted to the Olympic Games for 2020 then we may see a change of funding approach in subsequent years, but only if there is a perceived improvement in our “performance potential” at national level. How that potential will be assessed is not yet clear, although one assumes that it will relate to outcomes at international level in upcoming tournaments.
All that Australian baseball can reasonably hope to do in the current climate is to maximise international playing opportunities – at all levels – and to capitalise on those opportunities within the resources that are available. Although there are funding challenges, Australia simply needs to play more games and to attend more tournaments – especially at senior national level – to become a stronger baseball nation.
Failing that, Australia runs the real risk of becoming a poor baseball cousin on the world stage, despite our players and our teams having punched well above their weight for many years.
And this is where the Premier 12 tournament comes in.
Had Australia qualified for the Premier 12 then it would have been in a position to press for increased high-performance funding and it would have earned a crack at winning a share of the big money that will be on offer from the event. All qualifying nations as a minimum will have their expenses met and they will be strategically placed to argue for a slice of the media and sponsorship pie.
Qualifying for the Premier 12 would have provided an enormous boost to Australian baseball – both locally and on an international stage. The timing of the event, its prestige and its prize money all position the Premier 12 series to potentially become far bigger, even, than the Olympics – simply because the strongest baseball countries have qualified and the very best players may decide to make themselves available during the northern hemisphere off-season.
Whether the series does draw the very best players from Major League will depend on individual contractual arrangements and support of the MLB Players’ Association, although tournament organisers will clearly be negotiating to ensure that the twelve participating teams are the best that can reasonably be made available.
Unfortunately for us, Australia did not qualify for the Premier 12 under IBAF world rankings, which currently have us at fourteen, just a handful of points shy of Panama (thirteen), Mexico (twelve) and Italy (eleven). While there is nothing that we can do about it, some baseball people have raised reasonable concerns about a process that effectively left us out in the cold.
Ranked tenth for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Australia was then among the same crop of nations as Italy (ranked ninth for that series) and Mexico (eleven), while Panama did not make the final group of sixteen. Australia’s performance at the 2013 Classic was not what we would have liked – losing all three first round games to Chinese Taipei, South Korea and Netherlands – meaning that we will be required to play in a qualifying round (as will Mexico, Brazil and Spain) to have a chance of making the cut for the 2017 event.
While the powerhouse baseball nations – as you would expect – have comfortably qualified for the inaugural Premier 12, there are legitimate questions being asked about IBAF ranking procedures, including the provision of points through local, sometimes even weekend tournaments – especially in Europe and Central America. And there is the reasonable query about whether Australia has improved at international level or has declined since those exciting days back in 2004.
The fact remains that Australia simply does not play anywhere near the number of games as other nations, seriously restricting its capacity to earn IBAF points. Earlier this year it played New Zealand and Guam in the Oceania qualifying series, where only half points were allocated for wins. At around the same time, the Caribbean Games offered Central American countries – including Panama and Mexico – the opportunity to improve on their IBAF ranking.
Similarly, in Europe, modest baseball countries have enjoyed the opportunity to improve on their IBAF rankings through the playing of “friendlies” that are able – unlike Australia – to exploit the proximity and the cost effectiveness of playing neighbouring countries.
No such luxury for Australia, of course, although there are knowledgeable people around the sport who believe that Australia could – and should – have sought to participate in more IBAF recognised tournaments at senior and junior levels, notwithstanding the cost sensitivities and the shortage of funding for baseball given its non-Olympic status.
While geographic location continues to pose challenges for Australian baseball – especially in contrast to other countries – it may still be the case that we are not as good at this sport as we may have thought. Although not a great deal separates countries currently ranked eleven through seventeen by the IBAF, perhaps we are still well off the pace in international competition. Or are we? Plenty might disagree.
As the baseball world awaits a decision on the 2020 Olympic Games – one that may be announced in the next nine months – Australia will need to commit to improve on its IBAF rankings over the next four years to realistically have a shot at either the 2019 Premier 12 or the 2020 Olympics.
Just as the Olympics situation is not yet clear, there is uncertainty over a revamp of the IBAF ranking system that is currently under review. At its best dodgy and at its worst potentially quite unfair, the rankings system is complex in its inclusion of a multiplier factor for more prestigious events and a sliding scale of points allocation that is dependent upon the ranking of other nations that a particular country beats. Presented with minimal opportunities to play against top ten senior baseball nations, Australia stands to gain relatively little points mileage from Oceania series against the likes of New Zealand and Guam.
However, while some tinkering might occur, we are unlikely to see any significant overhaul to the rankings system. The key baseball nations will inevitably qualify, while the rankings process will impact more significantly on the contest for placings eight through to twelve.
While there are many positives happening around Australian baseball – including in the junior area – our version of the sport is faced with serious challenges over coming years if it is to become a consistently serious presence on the world stage. With uncertainty surrounding the Olympic Games – and with the 2017 World Baseball Classic and 2019 Premier 12 tournament on the agenda – Australia’s focus will need to be on consistently performing at its optimum level, winning games and placing trust that the cards will fall our way.
Do you, or does your baseball organisation have a view on Australia’s role – or its potential – as a world baseball power given current government funding and our place in the sporting landscape? If so, we would be pleased to consider any relevant submission for publication (email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
Baseball Australia announce Craig Shipley’s appointment as Head of National Teams.
Author: Trish Quayle ABF
Craig , an Australian native from Parramatta, has a long and successful history in baseball. A highly acclaimed Major League Baseball player, executive and current Arizona Diamondbacks Special Assistant to the General Manager Craig has also been on the national team and MLB Australian Academy coaching staff.
The newly created role will see Craig assume responsibility for delivering the performance outcomes of all national teams; guiding all national coaching and support staff, including Jon Deeble and Simone Wearne who remain Managers of the national men’s (Southern Thunder) and women’s (Emeralds) teams respectively.
Baseball Australia CEO, Brett Pickett, said Craig will bring a wealth of experience and intimate knowledge of the game to the BA management team, while continuing his international role with the Arizona Diamondbacks:
“While Craig will still reside in the USA, his unique international position will afford the opportunity to maintain personal contact with our young professional players throughout the gruelling professional season, as well as attend international tournaments Australia participate in.”
Speaking of his appointment, Craig explained why he has taken up this position to support the national teams program in a voluntary capacity:
“Having seen the game first hand throughout the world I can truthfully say Australia’s baseball community is as passionate as any baseball playing country. I look forward to assisting the many dedicated coaches, administrators and players who have worked tirelessly to help our national teams become as competitive as possible.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Aussie legend Graeme Lloyd it seems. He tells much about his career in Nicholas Henning’s latest literary offering, Aussie Baseball Musings, but perhaps the most surprising thing was to learn that in his early days with the Yankees he tells of seeing himself on the back of the local press as “The Blunder from Down Under” and “The Graeme Reaper”. Clearly he wasn’t pitching so well for the Yankees at that stage when the playoffs were just starting in 1996 and in typical NY fashion he was earmarked for abuse. It says a lot about the man that he overcame those initial misgivings to pitch in four games in the 1996 World Series and not give up a hit.
Nicholas has written about the two ABL’s and also focusses on many of the players who have left Australia for the MLB, ‘chasing their dream’. He explores their trials and tribulations in the ‘slave labour’ environment of the minor leagues. His conversations with and about players range from those who were in the vanguard of our attempts to get an Aussie into the big leagues like Phil Dale, Paul Elliott, Matthew Gourlay, Brendan Kingman, Craig Lewis, Mark Marino, Brett Roneberg and Adrian Meagher up to the youngsters who are currently plying their trade in the minor leagues and independent leagues like James Beresford, Daniel McGrath, Ryan Searle, Lewis Thorpe and the Kennelly clan.
Australia has experienced mixed results on the world stage including the Olympics and Nicholas outlines the problems faced by teams over the years including when ex pros were excluded from selection by the then anachronistic rules of the International Baseball Federation up to our unexpected but more than welcome Silver Medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The description of the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 by Aussie Jason Hewitt is personal, descriptive and dramatic.
Of course our former and current Aussie Major Leaguers are mentioned but there are also many players who have slipped under the media radar that Nicholas has tracked down, Players like Matthew Fawcett, Alex Johnson, Richard Olson and Trent Schmutter talk to Nicholas about their personal journeys through college and/or the ABL which has, among other things, become a fertile field for ex pros to get another opportunity; players like Steve Kent and Todd Van Steensel for example. It’s the personal stories that Nicholas has obtained that makes his book such interesting reading as he clearly has personal access to many of the players and his passion for the game permeates every chapter.
It’s well worth the read. The only criticism is the lack of an index making it hard to pinpoint the sections on individual players.
- Please refer to this link to purchase a copy of Aussie Baseball Musings.
By Josh Spasaro/thesatellite.com.au
TEAM Australia’s senior head coach Jon Deeble is barely recognisable in his home country.But that is a vastly different story when he goes to Japan or Boston.
Australia’s “Mr Baseball” also has a role as Asia-Pacific talent scout for the famous Red Sox club.
When Deeble goes to Japan on scouting missions, he gets mobbed by reporters who hammer him with the same question … “Just how did Australia beat superpower Japan twice at the 2004 Athens Olympics?”
That was on the way to the underdog team winning an historic silver medal.
Beating Cuba in the final would have been one of the great team upsets in Olympic history.
It has been almost 10 years since Deeble’s team shocked the baseball world.
Deeble also took the time to chat to me about some other fascinating stories.
Some of those included the covert missions he went on in far-flung areas of Japan, as the only westerner in town, in his efforts to scout and sign star Red Sox relieving pitcher Junichi Tawaza.
Somehow, he and fellow scout at the time, Aussie baseball legend Craig Shipley, pulled that one off.
Deeble recently ran a Major League coaching academy for Australia’s brightest young talents on the Gold Coast, and spoke glowingly about the sport’s future, after Team Australia’s resounding success back in March.
Then, they pulled off yet another big upset, shutting out big-league team the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-0, just before the historic Opening Series in Sydney that also featured the LA Dodgers.
Here is Jon Deeble’s story …
How has the MLB Australian Academy camp gone?
“It’s been fantastic. We’ve had 78 kids in, we’ve had up to a dozen girls who are going away to the world championships, and we’ve had some kids preparing for the under-15 world championships.
“We’ve had a mixed bag, but we’ve had three teams and it’s worked like clockwork. The kids have been phenomenal.
“I would say it’s been the best camp we’ve ever had.”
With these camps only getting better, is this where we’re going to start to see hopefully MLB or high-level players going to America?
“We got 28 kids signed out of here 18 months ago for a total of $4.5 million.
“(Melbourne teenager) Brandon Stenhouse signed with the Yankees at this camp in January.
“This year we’re probably going to get a million dollars worth of kids signed between now and Christmas.
“We’ve got some really good kids coming through this system.
“The coaching staff have been amazing. We’ve got a lot of (former) Major League guys here and they’ve worked fantastic with our coordinators.”
How does this facility get the best out of the players?
“It’s great because we’ve got access to batting cages. It’s all astro turf. We’re getting a third field put in. We’re able to work with 90 kids here, and there are not many other places you can do that.”
What do you think of the Australian Baseball League and the way it’s growing and continuing to develop Major League talent?
“It’s fantastic, and it’s fantastic for our kids. They can see a pathway and they’re saying ‘these guys played here, so it’s achievable to go over to the States and play’.
“We’ve got a lot of good rookie ball kids. There are a lot of good 18 to 20-year-old kids.”
What’s coming up for the senior Australian team?
“It’s a good question. We did so well in March. I think we’re looking at some Asian games towards the end of the year.
“We’ve got to get ourselves into the top 12 for a premier tournament next year.
“There’s a lot on at junior level, and not so much for the seniors. But we’ve got to start pushing these kids through the system.”
How well primed is Australia to capitalise on its Opening Series success from back in March, after beating the Diamondbacks and going so close against the Dodgers?
“It’s hard because you’ve got to keep playing. But we got a lot of publicity, and hopefully we’ll get some more kids playing.
“If we can keep broadening our base, there will be more kids to pick from.
“It’s always hard because you’ve got the AFL, rugby, cricket. Everyone’s fighting for the same players.
“But we’re one of only a few sports that has had increases over the past five years with our participation.
“We really need to get some more kids playing more games. That’s what we’re working on – broadening our base at the bottom.
“The University of Hawaii was in here (on the Gold Coast), San Diego and a few other colleges, and 23 of the 30 Major League teams have been here.”
Australia has many great names for national sporting teams across many codes which includes Rugby League’s Kangaroos and Rugby Union’s Wallabies just to name a few.For years the Australian National Baseball Team was simply Australia but over the last few years they have officially adopted Team Australia as their competition name. For some this name appears to be an unoriginal North American spin off and with the New Zealand National Baseball Team calling themselves the Diamondblacks it seems the Kiwis have come up with a more original team name.Hopefully the Australian Baseball Federation may consider a name change or a return to just Australia, but with so many unique Australian animals, landscapes and interesting history surely we can do better than a mimic name.
The news that the Adelaide Bite have made a managerial change and not renewed Tony Harris’ contract has sparked more discussion on the why it is that our National Coach does not coach at the ABL. This question gained some traction following the disappointing results of Australia’s involvement in the World Baseball Classic and the inevitable debate on where the fault lay – with the selection or the management of the team.
This is one such comment as a result of our announcement of Houston Astros scout Charlie Aliano’s appointment as the Bite’s head coach [see post below]:-
“One day I look forward to reading a posting which confirms changes to the management and coaching staff of the Australian National Team. Charlie Aliano now has his chance to shine in Adelaide and the question I have is why doesn’t Jon Deeble manage an ABL team? Athens 2004 was a long time ago and frankly Deeble should prove himself against all the ABL field managers as I think competition is a good thing for him and to prove his skills. Kevin Jordan did a lot with a thinly stretched Bandits team last year and perhaps Deeble might show his stuff managing Melbourne, but achievements a decade old are exactly that”.
Jon Deeble replaced Mike Young as the National manager in 2000 for the Sydney Olympics and was again the Olympic manager in 2004 in Athens when Australia won the Silver medal. Australia did not qualify for the 2008 Olympics. Jon has also managed the Australian team at the 2006 [finished 13th], 2009 [12th] and 2013 [16th – last] World Baseball Classics.
So the question is – should the National Manager coach an ABL team and so pit himself against other Managers in the country for the right to manage the national team?
Joe Torre, left, MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, speaks alongside St. Louis Cardinals teammate Bob Gibson, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, in La Vista, Neb. Torre said his experience as manager of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic has convinced him that the sport belongs in the Olympics. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
By Eric Olson
LA VISTA,— Joe Torre’s first experience in international baseball convinced him that the sport should be back in the Olympics.
Torre managed Team USA in the World Baseball Classic last month and said he was impressed with how invested the players were in the games even though they had to leave spring training to participate.
The Americans lost in the semifinals of the 16-nation tournament. The Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico in the championship game.
“The World Baseball Classic has showed you the three times it’s been played that other countries have caught on and done a pretty good job of playing baseball,” Torre said.
Torre was in the Omaha suburb of La Vista for a banquet celebrating the unveiling of a statue of his St. Louis Cardinals teammate and Omaha native Bob Gibson. Former Cardinals Tim McCarver and Bill White also were on hand.
The statue of the Hall of Fame pitcher will stand at Werner Park, the home stadium of the minor league Omaha Storm Chasers.
Torre is a Major League Baseball executive vice president but not directly involved in MLB’s efforts to return the sport to the Olympics.
Baseball and softball have been out of the Games since 2008 and have merged in a bid to return in 2020. They are competing against seven other sports for a single spot on the program.
The IOC board will meet next month in St. Petersburg, Russia, to select one or more sports to submit for final consideration to the IOC general assembly in September.
“I’m a realist. I’d like to believe it will happen,” Torre said. “The reason I can’t give you better than that is because I’d like to be sitting across the table and trying to make a case for it, and I’m sort of on the sidelines. That’s not a criticism. That’s the way we’re set up in MLB.”
Torre said that while Japan, Cuba and Taiwan along with the United States, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are the elite baseball-playing nations, the Netherlands and Brazil are among the nations improving rapidly.
“To me, it’s really disappointing if we don’t get people’s attention by what’s been going on in the world and how many more countries are getting interested in promoting the game of baseball,” Torre said.
Though the WBC was overshadowed by spring training and the NCAA basketball tournament in the United States, WBC organizers said the event exceeded global broadcast and ticket sales targets.
“You look at how they filled the ballparks in Puerto Rico and Japan when they were playing there,” Torre said.
Torre said there probably isn’t a better time of year to play the WBC, which will next be held in 2017. He said it would be too much to ask major leaguers to play the WBC late in the year after many of them had played 200 spring-training and regular-season games and playoffs.
“Right now, unless somebody says something to me that sort of strikes a chord, we’re just going to have to keep doing this,” he said.
Torre said he would not be in favor of eliminating the All-Star Game and putting the major league season on hiatus for three weeks at midseason in years when the WBC is played.
“I’ve heard rumblings of that,” he said. “You can’t stop baseball for three weeks. I know they do it in hockey (in Olympic years), but we really can’t do it. There’s a rhythm to our game.”
by Tony Capobianco/TucsonCitizen.com
The World Baseball Classic enjoyed its finest edition in 2013 and a lot of countries have benefited from it. Italy’s competitive run to the second round have boosted interest in the sport. Despite being driven by players from Curacao, the Netherlands’ semi-final success is also expected to boost interest.
“Any success you have on the world stage will definitely help baseball in their country,” said Australian Trent Oeltjen of the Los Angeles Angels. Like in Italy, I hear they’re going crazy over there for the Italian team.”
Even in Australia, where the former English colony have cricket as a popular sport, the sport of baseball is slowly growing there. The national team went winless in Pool B but their success in the past, along with a growing number of Australian Major Leaguers has allowed baseball to grow.
“It is getting a lot better,” Oeltjen said. “When I won the silver medal in Athens and more and more people making the Major Leagues out of Australia, there’s more of a following in Australia.”
In terms of Major League presence, having Australians making it to the Major Leagues help build the interest of baseball in that country more than anything else. Since the beginning of the 21st century, 21 Australians have made it to the Major Leagues. 16 of them are pitchers.
“We have a lot of lefties,” said Australian pitcher Travis Blackley of the Oakland Athletics. “It seems like a lot of lefties always sign out of Australia. What position do lefties normally sign as?”
In this era of baseball, pitchers are like quarterbacks. It is actually easier for pitchers to make it through the minor leagues in into MLB than other positions. Why pitchers go from Australia to the Major Leagues is sometimes because of the lack of pitching mileage that Aussie pitchers have compared to American pitchers.
“We also don’t throw as much as you guys so when its gets to the point where we come over here,” said Australian pitcher Peter Moylan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. “We throw half as much as you guys. So I feel like our arms haven’t been through as much. Kids in high school, kids in travel-ball teams over here, they throw every day. I didn’t throw every day until I was signed and that was when I was 17 years old.”
There’s not that many power hitters coming out of Australia, nor is there many position players in general coming out of Australia. They haven’t been conditioned to face and beat top level pitching like those in the college and minor league system here in America.
“You guys see live pitching from a real young age over here,” Moylan said. “We don’t see live pitching until we turn 11 or 12 years old. So the whole development you guys get is the key what makes guys better hitters.”
However Blackley believes that because many pitchers have made it to the Major Leagues and even in the minor leagues, they’ll better prepare the Aussie hitters to follow the trend. But it will take some time.
“You’ll see that number start to get better,” Blackley said. “They’re starting to get a lot more young good hitters coming through because they’re facing a lot these pitchers now that have made it pretty deep into their careers in America where there’s Double A, Triple A. That just makes the hitting better. Even if they get dominated at first, they start to get better.”
Baseball interest in Australia has recently grown to the point to where Major League Baseball helped found the Australian Baseball League, which goes on during the MLB offseason. Major Leaguers like Blackley would go back to Australia to pitch in order to stay in shape. But players there have a different look at Blackley when he pitched in the ABL.
“I noticed that I pitched in Australia this offseason and guys were pretty pumped up in the box looking to get a hit off me,” Blackley said. “There’s a little bit more pressure on me pitching over there. Everyone watching expects you to strike them out, everyone. They definitely hold me to a higher standard if I’m out there pitching even though I’m out there throwing offseason. They expect me to dominate and it’s not realistic.”
Their profiles have grown as professional athletes in Australia, some more than others. Their presence in the sport has truly helped grow baseball there. Trent Oeltjen has a little league near his home where teams there replicate the MLB teams that Oeltjen played for such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I did a few more TV interviews and radio interviews but still to the general public,” Moylan said. “I was still just a regular guy walking down the street.”
“This didn’t happen in the past,” Blackley said. “It wasn’t a big deal at all. The people in my sport tried to make a bigger deal out of me. I think they were trying to promote the sport.”
“It’s funny because there’s a band in Australia that’s one of my favorite bands and the main guy out of that band is a huge baseball fan. And we got along like a house on fire. I hung out with him almost every week. I went on tour with him. He’s a massive Oriole fan. But he’s now an A’s fan as well but he says, ‘I can go for you against the Orioles if your pitching.’ Now he’s like, ‘I’m an O’s fan and an A’s fan, BUT, if they’re head to head I’m an O’s fan. If you’re pitching I’m an A’s fan.’”
There are many more Australians playing professional baseball in the minor leagues now than before so it’s only a matter of time until their presence makes a similar impact in Major League Baseball as Latin America has over the year, whether or not that impact grows Australia’s interest in baseball remains to be seen.
“I think it lifts the profile of baseball amongst people who are interested in baseball,” Moylan said. “It’s not going to make adventure to people who are Aussie Rules Football fans and have not watched a baseball game. It’s not something that people grew up on.”
With the conclusion of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which saw the Dominican Republic winning the title in the championship game over Puerto Rico, the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) has updated its Men’s Baseball World Rankings.
As a result of Australia’s poor showing it has been dropped from 10th to 13th.
Eric Bynum/BaseballdeWorld reports the following:-
With the update the results from the 2013 World Baseball Classic are replacing the results from the 2009 World Baseball Classic in the Men’s Baseball World Rankings.
New WBC and IBAF World Champion Dominican Republic made the biggest leap, going from 13 to 7, as the team of manager Tony Pena replaced 55.02 points from 2009 with 300.00 points for winning the title. The Dominican Republic has not been in the top 10 of the year-end rankings since its introduction in 2008.
World Baseball Classic runner up Puerto Rico also moved into the top 10 of the Men’s Baseball Ranking, climbing from 12 to 8 (2009: 82.98 points for WBC; 2013: 240.00 points for WBC).
At the top of the standings Cuba, USA and Japan maintained their positions. However Cuba and the United States both will lose 250 points during the 2013 season, as tournament results from the 2009 cycle (IBAF Baseball World Cup, IBAF 16U Baseball World Championship) will be taken off in the fall.
Chinese Taipei, which already led all teams in points for 2012, moved from 5 to 4 thanks to their qualification for the second round at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Surprise semi-finalist The Netherlands climbed from 7 to 5, their best position in the Men’s Baseball Rankings since their year-end 5th position in 2011.
Canada remains in 6th, followed by the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Korea and Venezuela, which round out the top 10. With Cuba, USA, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, COPABE/IBAF America is represented with five countries in the top 10 of the Men’s Baseball Rankings.
Korea suffered the biggest drop, losing 184.98 points due to their ninth-place finish at the 2013 WBC. In 2009 Korea had reached the championship game, which they had lost to Japan.
By John Paul Morosi/foxsports
After Team USA was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, we heard the usual lines about the inability of Americans to meet expectations in the tournament.
That’s not entirely accurate.
After unexpectedly eliminating Venezuela in the first round and the U.S. in the second, the Puerto Ricans pulled off an even bigger upset Sunday night. Behind starting pitcher Mario Santiago, who spent last season with SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization, Puerto Rico stunned twice-defending champion Japan, 3-1, to earn a spot in Tuesday’s championship game.
The Puerto Ricans will meet the winner of Monday’s semifinal between the Dominican Republic and The Netherlands. Considering they were enormous underdogs when the tournament began, the Puerto Rican players could say that they don’t care which team they play.
But that would be a lie.
“Of course, we’d like to play the Dominican,” Puerto Rican shortstop Mike Aviles said of their Caribbean rivals, who won the teams’ first two meetings in this WBC. “Everybody knows that.”
The Dutch have had most-charming-story status in this WBC, but it might be time to reevaluate. While The Netherlands claimed the IBAF World Cup as recently as 2011, Puerto Rico hasn’t won an international baseball championship since the 2000 Caribbean World Series — a yearly event to which its winter league champion has an automatic bid.
Last week, the Puerto Ricans were five outs from elimination against Team Italy before rallying to win. Sunday, they beat the WBC’s preeminent team even though three of their first four pitchers — Santiago, Jose De La Torre and Randy Fontanez — have never thrown a pitch in the major leagues.
“I hope they root for us in the championship game,” Aviles said. “We’re the underdogs. No one picked us to leave the Puerto Rico (first-round) pool. Everybody thought the Dominican and Venezuela were going to leave. Throughout the whole thing, we believed in ourselves.”
Aviles, who was born and raised in New York, is a U.S. citizen. So are his teammates who were born on the island, by virtue of Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory. Debate persists in Puerto Rico over how seriously the commonwealth should pursue statehood. No one knows how a divided U.S. Congress would handle the matter if it reached Washington.
In sports, though, Puerto Rico operates as a nation unto itself. Puerto Rico has its own baseball federation and, thus, its own team in the WBC. Aviles and manager Edwin Rodriguez each referred to Puerto Rico as a “country” during interviews Sunday. After such an historic win, that was appropriate. The “small little place of about 4 million people,” as Aviles described it, is the first team to eliminate Japan in WBC play.
U.S. fans in search of a rooting interest should note that every Puerto Rican run in Sunday’s game was driven in by a player born on the mainland: Aviles delivered a tone-setting RBI single in the first inning, and Alex Rios — the native of Coffee, Ala. — struck the clinching two-run homer in the seventh.
“My mom and dad were born in Puerto Rico, my grandparents were born in Puerto Rico,” Aviles said. “I’ve always said, if I had an opportunity to play for the USA or Puerto Rico, I’d always pick Puerto Rico. It’s my heritage. It’s who I am. It’s what I’ve been my whole life. I’ve been Puerto Rican. Regardless of whether I was born and raised there, it’s my identity.”
Amid hopes that the WBC will grow the sport in non-traditional baseball countries — Brazil, China, Italy, The Netherlands — Puerto Rico needs this tournament, too, and will benefit immensely from what has occurred over the past week. Major League Baseball already treats Puerto Rico as a state for the purposes of the amateur draft — which generally works against young players on the island. Rather than enjoy (lucrative) free-agent rights like their peers in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, signing bonuses for Puerto Ricans are more tightly controlled through the draft system.
The appeal of other sports, such as basketball, also has limited the number of Puerto Rican players arriving to the big leagues. The end result is that just five Puerto Rican-born pitchers — starter Jonathan Sanchez and relievers Javier Lopez, J.C. Romero, Xavier Cedeño and Jonathan Albaladejo — appeared in the majors last year. Of that group, only Romero and Cedeño are pitching in the WBC.
(That said, it’s not as if the Puerto Ricans have deployed a semipro lineup in the WBC. Leadoff man Angel Pagan just signed a $40 million contract, Carlos Beltran is one of the elite switch-hitters of his time, and Yadier Molina is, in the words of Rodriguez and Santiago, “the best catcher in the world.”)
Rodriguez said he addressed the state of baseball in Puerto Rico during his first team meeting. “The last 10 or 15 years, Puerto Rican baseball had been a little bit down,” Rodriguez said. “I think that a good performance from the team in this tournament will put Puerto Rican baseball back on the map — and I think we already accomplished that.
“Everybody talks about the draft, which started in 1989 in Puerto Rico. If you had told me five, seven years ago — right after the draft started in Puerto Rico — that that was part of not having more big leaguers, I would say yes. But that was more than 20 years ago. We haven’t been able to make adjustments. I don’t blame the draft. I have to blame the system in Puerto Rico. We have to take responsibility. We have to make adjustments. This game is about adjustments. We have to make that happen.”
Winning has a way of doing that. The young eyes in San Juan, Carolina and Ponce must be mesmerized by the sight of their countrymen humbling the world’s biggest baseball stars.
“What we’re doing here is starting to give the little kids more hope that good things can happen, good players can come out of that small little area,” Aviles said. “It’s a small little island, but that doesn’t mean it has to be forgotten about.”
One more win, and they’ll be telling stories about this team for generations. And if it’s against the Dominican … well, that will make the fairytale better. Only in America, indeed.