By John Manuel and Allan Simpson
January 17, 2006
January 18 Update:
After releasing the first 42 names on their provisional roster on Monday, the United States added 10 more names to its roster before the deadline on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
The most notable of the additions is Alex Rodriguez, who has vacillated between playing for the United States, playing for the Dominican Republic or not playing at all.
“I reached the conclusion that if I played in the Classic, I would play for the United States and honor my American citizenship,” he said on his Web site, AROD.com. “The World Baseball Classic offers baseball and its fans an exciting new forum and I look forward, if selected, to representing the United States in what will be baseball’s greatest international competition.”
The addition of the Rodriguez to the provisional roster does not necessarily mean he will play; however, any player not on the provisional 60-man roster before the Tuesday deadline would not be allowed on the 30-man roster that will compete in the tournament.
“Alex Rodriguez would be a fantastic addition to any team, and we have always respected his decision making process regarding his participation in this event,” said USA Baseball executive director/CEO Paul Seiler. “By naming him to our provisional roster, it simply gives Alex the option to play for the United States, if he should decide to do so.”
Beyond Rodriguez, the biggest addition is Ben Sheets. Of all the players on the roster, Sheets has the most notable history with Team USA
In the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Sheets made three starts against Japan, Italy and Cuba. In 22 innings, he gave up just two runs (both to Italy) while shutting out Japan and Cuba. In the gold medal contest against Cuba, he needed only 103 pitches to throw a complete-game three-hitter while fanning five and walking none. Cuba has won the gold medal in every international tournament it has entered since.
Other additions to the provisional roster include outfielders Jeff Francoeur, Randy Winn, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Holliday, third baseman Eric Chavez, and righthanders Dan Haren, Brett Myers and Gary Majewski.
The four new outfielders give Team USA 10 outfielders on their provisional roster, with Giants star Barry Bonds ticketed for DH. On paper, the outfield competition looks fairly even, meaning manager Buck Martinez will be left with some tough decisions when it is time to decide the final roster. The addition of Chavez means that third base is now the single deepest position, as he will vie with Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and David Wright for a spot on the team, as well as playing time.
— MATT MEYERS
USA Baseball announced 42 members to Team USA’s preliminary World Baseball Classic roster, a list that looks more like a fantasy draft than any team baseball fans have seen outside of all-star competition.
USA Baseball had a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday to get to the preliminary roster limit of 60.
The roster includes two of the greatest players in baseball history, 43-year-old Roger Clemens and 41-year-old Barry Bonds, as well as a galaxy of major league stars young and old. Many, such as Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and Athletics closer Huston Street, have extensive experience playing for Team USA internationally, whether as amateurs or as professionals.
Other players of note include Yankees captain Derek Jeter, Braves stalwart Chipper Jones, Astros slugger Lance Berkman and Marlins lefthander Dontrelle Willis. When the World Baseball Classic was announced in July at the All-Star Game in Detroit, it was Willis who was on hand at the press conference to represent Team USA. He could join an American rotation with other potential arms as Jeremy Bonderman, 2003 Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia.
The American preliminary roster also includes some surprises in the players who are not stars. Lefthander Al Leiter, 40, posted a 6.13 ERA in 2005 with the Marlins and Yankees but is on the preliminary roster. Arizona’s Craig Counsell, a career .261 hitter and 35-year-old infielder, is on the roster, as is his former Brewers teammate Bill Hall.
Canada Roster Has Significant Omissions
TORONTO—Larry Walker was there, along with several members of the team that will represent Canada at the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
But while Walker’s presence Saturday at Baseball Canada’s annual fund-raiser, which coincided with the unveiling of Team Canada’s preliminary WBC roster, provided inspiration for some of his fellow Canadians, his name was notably absent from the roster, leaving a significant void for underdog Canada to fill.
Walker, arguably the greatest position player Canada has ever produced, made it clear to all who attended the roster unveiling that he will not participate in the 16-nation tournament, essentially reaffirming that his 17-year major league career is over.
“There’s a humungous part of me that wants to play,” Walker said. “But health-wise, it’s just not there. My time is up. I’ve not trained at all this winter, I’ve not done anything to get myself baseball prepared.”
Walker ended his career in 2004-05 with the Cardinals, missing 142 games altogether with an assortment of injuries. He missed almost half of last season with a herniated disk in his neck.
While Walker won’t suit up for Canada as a player, he has agreed to be in uniform as a coach, assisting Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt. That was music to Whitt, the Blue Jays bench coach who has doubled as the field boss for Canada in most of its recent major international competitions, including the 2004 Olympics.
“I’d love to have Larry in the dugout as a player,” Whitt said, “but I’m glad he’ll be a part of our coaching staff. Just his presence will mean a great deal to this ballclub.”
Baseball Canada announced a 23-man roster, with seven spots yet to be filled. In addition to Walker, other names that were notably absent were righthanders Ryan Dempster (Cubs), Eric Gagne (Dodgers) and Rich Harden (Athletics).
At this point, only Dempster has told Team Canada officials that he won’t participate. Before saving 33 games for the Cubs in 2005, he missed significant chunks of the 2003-04 seasons with Tommy John surgery and felt his participation in the March 3-20 tournament would not be prudent, having signed a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension last fall with the Cubs to be their closer.
Gagne has expressed a willingness to play, but the Dodgers are concerned about the 2003 Cy Young Award winner being physically fit after he worked in just 14 games last year before having elbow surgery. Injury issues also have prompted the A’s to discourage Harden, who had offseason surgery on his left shoulder, from participating.
Eight members of the 23-man preliminary roster were on hand at the roster unveiling, and all are itching to represent Canada, which is in a preliminary pool with Mexico, South Africa and the United States. Heading Canada’s roster is Pirates all-star outfielder Jason Bay.
“Everyone on the roster is very enthused,” Whitt said. “There’s no question it’s the best pool of players ever assembled by Canada. I’ve had a lot of these players on different international teams in the past, and it’s quite a fraternity. I’m very big on chemistry and everyone gets along extremely well—both on and off the field.”
Peter Orr, a rookie second baseman with the Braves in 2005, played with the 2004 Canadian Olympic team that finished fourth in Athens, and is excited not only by his own participation in the tournament but by the enthusiasm shown by some of his non-Canadian major league teammates.
“It’s not just Canadians that are excited about the event, but everybody I’ve talked to is enthusiastic,” Orr said. “I talked recently to both Chipper Jones (United States) and Andruw Jones (Netherlands), and that’s the first thing they talked about. I’m really looking forward to competing against them.”
Canada’s odds of winning are long, though it will field at least 18 players with major league experience.
“We’ll still put a very competitive team in the tournament,” Whitt said. “The U.S. and Cuba and the Dominicans have been getting all the headlines. We’re quite happy to go in the back door and hopefully surprise a few people.”
Whitt is pointing to Canada’s pool-play game against Mexico as being pivotal in terms of his team advancing to the second round. Only two of the four teams in each of four preliminary pools advance to the next round. “That’s the game we have to win; that’s the pivotal game for us,” Whitt said.
Rockies lefthander Jeff Francis, however, cautions his team not to look past South Africa, Canada’s opening-round opponent.
“We can’t afford to look past anyone,” said Francis, who has been working out at an indoor facility in his adopted home of London, Ontario, in anticipation of getting ready early for the event. “We’ve got to gear up for every opponent.”
Canada’s involvement in the 18-day event, along with that of every nation, could be in jeopardy if Cuba is not permitted to participate. The U.S. Treasury Department denied Major League Baseball permission to let Cuba participate in December, citing the possibility that Cuba might reap a financial benefit from the tournament. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control oversees the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.
The International Baseball Federation responded earlier this month that any country participating in the World Baseball Classic would face sanctions if it played in an event that excluded Cuba on political grounds. Baseball Canada officials were guardedly optimistic that things would work themselves out imminently and that Cuba would be permitted to play, but it was hinted that Canada might not participate without IBAF’s blessing.
“For now, we’ve been told to just stay out of it politically and let the U.S. and Cuba fight it out,” a Baseball Canada spokesman said. “We’re optimistic things will work out and Cuba will be allowed to play.”
Preliminary Roster/World Baseball Classic
PITCHERS—Jeremy Bonderman (Tigers), Roger Clemens (Astros), Chad Cordero (Nationals), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Roy Halladay (Blue Jays), Tim Hudson (Braves), Todd Jones (Tigers), Al Leiter (Yankees), Brad Lidge (Astros), Joe Nathan (Twins), Jake Peavy (Padres), Andy Pettitte (Astros), C.C. Sabathia (Indians), Scot Shields (Angels), Huston Street (A’s), Mike Timlin (Red Sox), Billy Wagner (Mets), Dan Wheeler (Astros), Dontrelle Willis (Marlins).
CATCHERS—Michael Barrett (Cubs), Paul Lo Duca (Mets), Joe Mauer (Twins), Chad Moeller (Brewers), Brian Schneider (Nationals), Jason Varitek (Red Sox).
INFIELDERS—Craig Counsell (Diamondbacks), Morgan Ensberg (Astros), Bill Hall (Brewers), Derek Jeter (Yankees), Chipper Jones (Braves), Derrek Lee (Cubs), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Mark Teixeira (Rangers), Chase Utley (Phillies), David Wright (Mets), Mike Young (Rangers).
OUTFIELDERS—Lance Berkman (Astros), Barry Bonds (Giants), Carl Crawford (Devil Rays), Johnny Damon (Yankees), Ken Griffey, Jr. (Reds), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays).
Preliminary Roster/World Baseball Classic
PITCHERS—Erik Bedard (Orioles), Rheal Cormier (Phillies), Jesse Crain (Twins), Eric Cyr (Angels), Jeff Francis (Rockies), Adam Loewen (Orioles), Paul Quantrill (Marlins), Chris Reitsma (Braves).
CATCHERS—Pete LaForest (Padres), Russell Martin (Dodgers), Maxim St. Pierre (Tigers).
INFIELDERS—Stubby Clapp, Danny Klassen (Astros), Corey Koskie (Brewers), Justin Morneau (Twins), Kevin Nicholson, Peter Orr (Braves), Scott Thorman (Braves).
OUTFIELDERS—Jason Bay (Pirates), Aaron Guiel (Royals), Ryan Radmanovich, Matt Stairs (Royals), Adam Stern (Red Sox).