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World Baseball Classic

All 16 provisional rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic were revealed Thursday with a bevy of big-name Major Leaguers committing to the third edition of the international tournament.

Among the most promiment were Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers third baseman and reigning American League Most Valuable Player and Triple Crown winner, who will play for Venezuela; Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes for the Dominican Republic; Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is on the Mexico roster, and outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina — both of the Cardinals — for Puerto Rico.

2013-01-25_160306The U.S. roster, announced earlier in the day, boasts last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays, the National League’s 2011 MVP in Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, and Mets third baseman David Wright among a host of other All-Stars, including Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

“This is important,” Commissioner Bud Selig said about the tournament. “This is going to be the biggest World Baseball Classic we’ve had. I feel the greatest growth in this sport is international. The World Baseball Classic is our forum to do that. The clubs have been wonderfully cooperative. I’m excited. I think you’re going to see a huge Classic. Everyone is really looking forward to it.”

The tournament will open with Brazil facing two-time defending champion Japan in Fukuoka, Japan, on March 2, and end with the final game in San Francisco, scheduled to be played on March 19. MLB Network will broadcast all 39 games.

Team USA — managed by Joe Torre — is in the Arizona bracket with Canada, Mexico and Italy and will open against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix on March 8. The other three first-round pools will play in Fukuoka, Japan; Taichung, Taiwan; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Being on the other side internationally, the tournament is humongous,” said Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, who was a coach under manager Davey Johnson on Team USA in 2009 and is managing Brazil this year. “There is a tremendous amount of interest and excitement. I think it’s more exciting because of the opportunity it gives the players who are not in the States.”

Teams traditionally talk to more than 600 players about ultimately filling a maximum of 448 spots on the final 16 rosters. This is the only international tournament in which players on 25-man Major League rosters can participate. And this is the first Classic to play qualifiers, with eight teams added to the mix to play the eight teams that didn’t make it out of the first round four years ago.

Spain, Brazil, Chinese Taipei and Canada qualified in games played in September and November. Spain and Brazil are newcomers to the Classic.

Japan won in 2006 and ’09 with right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka named tournament MVP on both occasions. The Japanese will enter this year’s Classic without a Major League player on their roster. Korea, the loser to Japan in the ’09 finals, also is without a big leaguer, although both teams are expected to be well prepared and fundamentally sound as always.

The final game in 2009, at Dodger Stadium, was an epic. Korea tied Japan, 3-3, in the bottom of the ninth against a young pitcher named Yu Darvish. Korea pitched to Ichiro Suzuki in the top of the 10th with first base open, runners on second and third and two out. Ichiro won it on the final pitch of an eight-pitch at-bat with a two-run single. Darvish, entering his second Major League season with Texas, and Ichiro, now with the Yankees, both declined to play this year.

China, new to baseball when the tournament began in 2006, has starting pitcher Bruce Chen, a veteran left-hander who enjoyed a career resurgence recently while playing for the Royals. The team will be managed by John McLaren, with Bruce Hurst the pitching coach and Art Howe the hitting coach.

Cuba, losers to Japan in the 2006 finals at San Diego’s PETCO Park, didn’t make it out of the second round at San Diego in ’09. The Cubans will return with their usual squad of homegrown players, but no readily recognizable names. Pitcher Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, both stars on the ’09 Cuban team, have since defected and are playing in the Major Leagues for the Reds and A’s, respectively.

The Canadian roster includes 12 players who played for Major League teams in 2012, including first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, catcher Russell Martin of the Pirates, closer John Axford of the Brewers, reliever Jesse Crain of the White Sox, outfielder Michael Saunders of the Mariners and third baseman Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays.

Ernie Whitt, an original member of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, will manage the Canadians again and Morneau is slated to be with him for the third time. Whitt has been Canada’s manager in the World Baseball Classic and Olympics.

“Any time you’re out there, and they’re playing the anthem, and you look down the line, and you’re not the only Canadian in the lineup, it’s a sense of pride,” Morneau said. “There’s a lot of emotion involved. There is emotion involved any time you’re playing for your country.”

The U.S. lost in the second round in ’06 and in the semifinals to Japan in ’09. Only four players will be back from the 2009 team: Wright, Braun, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino.

This time, at least making it to the final game at AT&T Park, if not winning it all, is the goal.

“Without a doubt, you get tired watching other countries playing on the last day of this thing,” said Larry Bowa, a former big league shortstop who will be the U.S. bench coach. “When I was playing, if somebody asked me, I would have jumped at playing in this thing. I’m not just going there to hit fungoes. I want to win.”

Around the diamond, the U.S. plans to have a starting eight of Teixeira, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, Rollins, Wright, Mauer, Braun, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Dickey, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, Braves right-hander Kris Medlen and Rangers left-hander Derek Holland will anchor the starting rotation with Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the same role, heading up a deep 10-man bullpen.

The U.S. left one of its 28 roster spots open for a fifth starting pitcher. The provisional rosters were due on Wednesday and the final rosters of 28 players must be filed by Feb. 20.

The Dominican Republic has a roster complete with current Major Leaguers and one free agent. Former big league catcher Miguel Olivo is the Dominicans’ only player not currently signed by a Major League team. Angels shortstop Eric Aybar, Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Padres starter Edinson Volquez and Rays closer Fernando Rodney are also on the roster.

The distribution of talent is going to make it a tough tournament, Torre said.

“Japan is two-time champs and you know that the Dominican is going to be very strong,” he said. “I know Robby Cano is going to be playing second base and that scares me coming right out of the box. [The Dominican] is going to be a very good club. Venezuela is also going to be good and strong and, of course, the Asian countries will be well represented. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

From: Barry M. Bloom / World Baseball Classic

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Top Sports Stories of 2012: From the rise of Linsanity to the fall of Lance Armstrong we count down the biggest stories of the year

The Jerry Sandusky Scandal

The Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Matt Rourke

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 1. The Jerry Sandusky Scandal

It was the scandal that shocked and horrified the nation. Jerry Sandusky, the long-time defensive coordinator under the legendary Joe Paterno at proud Penn State, is found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors. Sandusky, who used his youth charity Second Mile to hand-pick his victims, will spend the rest of his life behind bars. The resulting scandal led to Paterno’s firing (JoePa died in January from lung cancer), and crippling sanctions against the Nittany Lions football program for turning a blind eye to the abuse.

The King gets a ring

The King gets a ring

RHONA WISE/EPA

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 2. The King gets a ring

Nobody received more scrutiny than LeBron James before the 2012 season – and perhaps no one is more celebrated for getting the monkey off his back than the King. In a lockout shortened season, James played at a ridiculously high level through 66 games and all through the playoffs, bouncing his nemesis Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals and taking down Kevin Durant – his likely rival for years to come – in the NBA Finals. After all the All-Star Games and MVP award, King James finally earned the jewelry to fit his nickname.

Linsanity

Linsanity

ANDREW GOMBERT/EPA

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 3. Linsanity!

No single player across any sport owned 2012 more – or for a shorter time – than Jeremy Lin. The Harvard grad is the ultimate underdog story. Undrafted out of college, Lin was sleeping on teammate Landry Field’s couch. His journey and a pun-able last name (check the DN back pages, why don’t you) led to a media frenzy when the struggling Knicks finally gave him a shot. A memorable 38-point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, game-winning shots left and right and overall enthusiasm in resurrecting the downtrodden Knicks endears him to fans and the media alike. We will all remember where we were when ‘Linsanity’ hit.

NFL's uses replacement refs

NFL’s uses replacement refs

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 4. NFL’s uses replacement refs

Come NFL playoff time, if the Seahawks get in or get a home game and the Packers are left out or have to travel, everyone will point to the Sept. 24 game between Green Bay and Seattle. That’s because replacement officials called what appeared to be a clear game-ending interception by Green Bay into a game-winning touchdown for Golden Tate and the Seahawks. The NFL used replacement officials as it locked out its refs to start the 2012 season. After Seattle won 14-12 – which gave us the lasting image of one replacement ref signaling TD and one right next to him signaling an INT – the NFL reaches an agreeement with the real zebras.

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 5. BountyGate scandal in New Orleans

Sean Payton and Gregg Williams were above reproach before 2012, but that’s when the details of what became known as ‘BountyGate’ came out. A full-on investigation by the NFL revealed details of what the league said was players paying teammates for injuring opponents. At the center of it all is a playoff game against the Vikings and Brett Favre, of which the future Hall of Fame QB was knocked out. The findings from the league resulted in a year ban for Saints head coach Payton and GM Mickey Loomis and an indefinite ban for Williams, the Saints defensive coordinator. Players fought and appealed and battled and Jonathan Vilma, whose alleged money was on the table, is back on the field.

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 6. Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace

If there were any supporters of Lance Armstrong left in 2012, it seems they must have deserted him by now. The cyclist abandoned his fight against doping chargers, which resulted in a lifetime ban from cycling (and loss of seven Tour de France titles). In perhaps the biggest and final insult, Armstrong’s foundation, Livestrong, drops his name and all association with the disgraced cyclist.

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 7. Phelps swims into Olympic history

Michael Phelps takes his place among the all-time greats with his 18th gold medal – 22 total in his careeer – at the London Olympics. He indicates he won’t be back for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro, but whispers have begun that we may not have seen the last of him.

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 8. Super Giants pluck Pats… again!

Eli Manning and the Giants survive a thriller to beat the favored Patriots in the Super Bowl – no this isn’t 2007. The Giants did it again in February of 2012, besting Belichick’s Brady Bunch again in Super Bowl XLVII.

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 9. The rise and fall of Tebow

So your 23-year-old quarterback comes off the bench, breathes life into your franchise and leads you to a playoff victory by torching the Steelers with a long touchdown pass in overtime to win. So of course you give him away for a couple of draft picks, right? Doesn’t seem to make sense, but not much does in the world of Tim Tebow. The undisputed king of the 2011-12 season is banished to the Jets, where is forced to backup Mark Sanchez and play personal punt protector. His lack of playing time gets him to ask Gang Green for a trade or release, and Jets brass seems like they will oblige. The only certainty for Tebow seems to be uncertainty.

  • Top sports stories of 2012: 10. Mets finally get no-no in year of pitcher

It was the year of the pitcher – three perfect games happened in 2012, one each from the Giants’ Matt Cain, the White Sox Phil Humber and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez – so it was no surprise the Mets finally broke their no-hitter hex. On June 1, the lefty tossed the first no-no in the franchise’s 50-year history (even though he got a little help from the umpires, but we’ll let that slide).

(SOURCE:New York Daily News)


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