World Baseball Classic Chat With Alan Schwarz

Moderator: Alan Schwarz has been
Baseball America’s senior writer since 1996 and a member of the staff
since 1991. Alan is covering the World Baseball Classic and is happy to
take your major league questions as well.

Moderator: Alan Schwarz will begin chatting at 3p.m. ET.

Moderator: Well, hello everyone. I’ve just returned from
Brewers camp, where I sat down with Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder for
an upcoming BA Going Deep. Ready to chat about the WBC here in Phoenix,
where the U.S. was stunned last night. Let’s begin!

 Q:  Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks:
kind of impact to you believe the owners have had on the development of
the World Baseball Classic? Would there be that big of a difference in
the competition if guys like Felix Hernandez, Jorge Posada, and Mariano
Rivera were allowed to play for their respective countries?

Alan Schwarz:
I don’t think that the presence of those selected players — who were
not allowed, or at least spooked away from — playing for their
countries would have changed a whole lot. Had EVERYONE played, from
Bonds to Sheets to Guerrero to Ramirez to every other star in the game,
that would be pretty amazing. But it’s not realistic to think that will
ever happen. And you know what? I don’t even work for the Mariners, and
I want to do everything I can to protect Felix Hernandez’ career, too
— just as a fan.

 Q:  Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks:
those crazy Canadians really beat Team USA with Adam Loewen trying to
walk the entire lineup? Please tell me more than half the game was
played on an outdoor ice rink.

Alan Schwarz:
Tee hee. Nope, it was a legitimate game — one that I think turned in
many ways on Chipper Jones’s DP grounder in the first. Loewen’s wheels
were about to fall off, and Chipper, on the first pitch, hit into an
inning-ending DP that gave Loewen the confidence he needed to last, and
succeed, almost through 4.

 Q:  Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks:
the unorthodox deliveries and unusual styles of teams like Japan,
Korea, and Cuba give them an advantage in a short series over a team
that may be more talented?

Alan Schwarz:
Great question. I’ve always thought so, since most everyone agrees that
the first time a pitcher faces a hitter, he has the advantage. (The
statistics back this up, too.) So funky deliveries should only heighten
that advantage. Then again, in one game, all these little advantages
that might really make a difference in the long run are simply too
small to detect, and perhaps make any difference at all. I don’t mean
to disparage the WBC at all — I enjoy it — but this way it’s not a
baseball tournament, but a coin-flipping tournament.

 Q:  Gordon from Atlanta, GA asks:
you think that the WBC will help some players get exposure to get
signed to a major or minor league contract? Has anyone stood out in
your mind thus far?

Alan Schwarz:
I can’t remember his name and don’t want to look it up — I want to get
to many questions — but the South African pitcher who scared Team
Canada the other day was getting quite the buzz. I think he’s 17. Not a
Jose Pett type of prospect — that’s an inside joke for you longtime
readers out there — but someone I bet gets signed pretty quickly.

 Q:  James from Seminole, Florida asks:
Was Adam Loewen holding back on his fastball? I thought he threw in the mid-90’s, but I don’t think I saw him break 89.

Alan Schwarz:
In BA’s Prospect Handbook, it says he throws 91-93, touching 94. I
asked Ernie Whitt after the game how hard Loewen was throwing, and he
said about 90-91, though I think that was his estimate; not radar-gun
supported. (And I didn’t watch the game on TV so I’m not sure what the
ESPN guns said.) Loewen’s delivery was slower than I had remembered,
which would suggest that his fastball gets on hitters a little faster
than it would otherwise.

 Q:  Ted Leavengood from Chevy Chase, MD asks:
seems that everyone except the USA is pretty enthusiastic about the
competition, or more accurately, the only detractors are the MLB, Inc.
owners who believe as usual that the ballplayers are a commodity they
own. Would the impasse not be solved by having the WBC in the winter in
the Carribean when the conflict with regualr MLB schedules would be
reduced? Why was the timing set the way it is?

Alan Schwarz:
There are lots of supporters and detractors everywhere, Ted. But I
think it is fair to say that the U.S. has more of them than any country
(just like people, McDonald’s and trigger-happy Vice Presidents). And
you know what? I understand why ownersGMs would not want their players
participating — their jobs rest on how well their team performs, and
the greater risk (small, perhaps, but non-zero) that a player gets hurt
is something that affects their world an awful lot. They don’t own the
player — but they do own his services; that’s what the player gets
paid so much for. To see those services jeopardized is very
nerve-wracking, regardless of the greater good this tournament might
serve……As for the schedule, I don’t think there’s any way that more
players (than now) would make themselves available six weeks after most
of their seasons’ end. They’ve been taken off the hook by having this
in March, when they would be working anyway. In November, they would
not want to give up their time off.

 Q:  Gordon from Atlanta, GA asks:
Anyone’s stock rise thus far?

Alan Schwarz: I’d sell my Google and go with Adam Stern (NYSE: BBJEW).

 Q:  Anthony S. from Seattle, WA asks:
America, a longtime hot spot for beisbol has certainly made its
presence known in these games thus far. What’s been your assessment of
how the Latin American teams look, and who do you like in the Final

Alan Schwarz:
The best Latin-American teams have been sequestered in different Pools
(Cuba and Puerto Rico, D.R. and Venezuela) in such a way where they are
set to advance to the second round for a big love-in — losses to each
other won’t matter as long as they don’t lose to Australia, etc. And
they haven’t lost a game yet, though Cuba sure tried against Panama.
It’s hard to judge the teams so far. But of course they are very
talented; any onlooker can judge that. Every GM is talking about
Gourriel right now.

 Q:  Antonio Bargas from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico asks:
you think that the strategy of Team USA manager Buck Martinez was awful
versus Canada? Why take out Jeter, Griffey and Varitek when the team
got very close in the game? He just gave Canada a big advantage. And
Why put Leiter, who has been waful since last year, instead of the very
good relievers like Street, Shields and Fuentes?
I think the U.S. should get far in the tournament and has an obligation
to play hard. To see those moves by Martinez, like it was a Grapefruit
game, was disturbing.

Alan Schwarz:
That’s a fair question, but you have to remember that Martinez is
responsible for more than winning — he has to give each player work,
but not too much work, so that he returns to his club properly trained
for the last 10 days of spring camp. It’s the cost of holding this
tournament in early March — which, in my opinion, is the best (or,
more accurately, least bad) time to do it……As for Leiter, the plan
all along was to have him follow Willis with two innings. I don’t think
anyone thought Leiter would make good on predictions that he’d stink
quite so convincingly.

 Q:  Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks:
poorly was Team USA really built? The last minute additions of Gary
Majewski and Al Leiter hurt the team’s chances tremendously yesterday.
Right now, we’re on the brink of elimination. And forgive me, but Roger
Clemens on the mound in a pressure situation isn’t exactly the best we
could hope for–even if it’s against South Africa.

Alan Schwarz:
The U.S. isn’t on the brink of elimination, really. If Canada wins
tonight behind Jeff Francis, they’re in (assuming they beat South
Africa). If Mexico wins, they’re still in unless Mexico scores only one
or two runs while winning. Not very likely……Though I was talking
with Ben Sheets this morning, and he half-seriously brought up an
interesting scenario — since Canada and Mexico both advance if Mexico
wins 2-0, 2-1 or 1-0, the two teams could remove any personal risk and
guarantee their advancement — not to mention make for an easier second
round — by agreeing to have the game end with one of those scores,
therefore eliminating the United States. NEITHER I NOR SHEETS THINK
THIS WILL HAPPEN. But it’s an interesting wrinkle of pool play.

 Q:  Tom R from Norwood asks:
Do you think Adam Stern will do anything productive with Red Sox

Alan Schwarz:
A very well-spoken, educated and self-deprecating fellow, Stern
commented last night that one game doesn’t mean a whole lot. As for his
sticking with the Sox this spring, that’s almost guaranteed, because as
a holdover Rule 5 draft pick he must be kept in Boston for 17 days or
be offered back to the Braves. He’ll probably go down after that, to
get starting time in Triple-A. Despite his skills and attitude (is he
Boston’s Lew Ford? I don’t know) I don’t see him contributing much to
the Sox this year, unless any one of Ramirez-Crisp-Nixon get hurt. He
then could be a worthwhile stopgap, depending on Dustan Mohr, given
what he showed last night.

 Q:  Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks:
out of everyone, was Buck Martinez named Team USA’s manager? I thought
he did a bad job in Toronto, and I feel justified in that assumption so
far in the tournament. Did Tommy LaSorda decline because of his Italian
heritage or was he simply skipped over?

Alan Schwarz:
I’m not saying that Martinez is either a good or bad manager. But my
goodness, you can’t judge him based on two games in this tournament. He
has had personnel dropping out and jumping in left and right, has 30
pitching coaches bitching at him over how to use his arms (when, how
much, etc.) and has to play everyone at least some, because they need
the work and they also don’t want to ride the bench after committing to
this thing. I do believe that committing to using Leiter for innings
4-5 yesterday (it worked out a little differently) was silly. As for
Leiter being on the roster at all, I guarantee there weren’t many other
American lefties with starting experiencestamina willing to play.
Getting starters to commit was the hardest part of this whole thing.

 Q:  nate from madison,wi asks:
what are the chances that Gorriel of cuba defects, that kid can play. could he break latin player signing records?

Alan Schwarz:
Mr. Gourriel is hereby invited to defect at my Manhattan apartment,
where I will have an agent contract waiting for him…..Seriously, I
left my Cuban Guide to Defection at home, and have no insight into his
desire to do that. (Omar Linares, his predecessor as Best Cuban Not to
Play in Majors, routinely said he was loyal to Castro and proved it.)
Again, while I have no specific knowledge, I would think that players
in general might be less anxious to defect now that Castro has one
ventricle out the door. And yes, Gourriel would get at least a top
first-round contract ($4 million?), especially since he’d be on the
open market. I hear the Mets need a second baseman….

 Q:  shawn from waldo asks:
where do I find a book about international baseball history?

Alan Schwarz:
I can’t remember all the names right now, but “You Gotta Have Wa” is
the most notable primer on Japan, and there are several books exist on
Latin-American cultures. Roberto Gonzalez-Echevarria wrote a fine book
on Cuba. And there are several more. I’d troll around Amazon for a
while given those leads.

 Q:  Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks:
short series such as these with pitch counts carefully monitored, do
you think starting pitchers are really that important? Personally, I
love having a guy like Scot Shields–a dominant reliever more than
capable of going more than an inning.

Alan Schwarz:
I agree, though you can’t have 7 guys going mostly only 1 inning,
because you’d run out of pitchers (guys can’t go more than 2 days in a
row) particularly in extra innings, and you’d have other roster
troubles. Last week I asked Marcel Lachemann why the U.S. wouldn’t
start a dominant closer type in the first inning, typically the
greatest lineup threat of the game, before putting in a starter type,
and he said that starters like to start. I think given how this
tournament ain’t exactly regular baseball in the first place, he
dismissed the idea a little too quickly.

Moderator: Well, folks, I have to go out to the park to
work the Canada-Mexico game tonight. Big game! Everyone should tune in
and enjoy it. Have fun, and I’m sure we’ll be chatting again soon.