DETERMINED DOMINICANS DOMINATE WBC

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

You can say that the weight of their world, their country that is, was on their shoulders.  The memory of that humiliating loss to the Netherlands that eliminated them in the first round of the previous World Baseball Classic in 2009 still assailed the minds of their countrymen and women.  Beaten, on a world stage, at their own game.  Players and coaches for the Dominican Republic talked all tournament long about putting the memory of that loss behind them and focusing solely on their performance in this year’s WBC, leaving the past where it belonged.  Yet they were always one question in a post-game press conference away, a video replay of it on the stadium big screen during batting practice, or the never timely taunt of an unruly fan yelling at them over the railing, from being reminded of it.  Rock bottom for Dominican baseball.  Manager Tony Peña, however, has been the voice in the team’s other ear.  Reminding them that they cannot undo the past.  Urging them to learn from what happened in the past so that it doesn’t happen to them again in the present.  Keeping them concentrated on the one thing that could erase that painful memory: the title of World Baseball Classic Champions in 2013. Continue Reading →

THE US KEEPS WRIGHT ON WINNING

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The last game for the United States in the 2013 World Baseball Classic had the feel of a Game 7.  That type of intense, playoff baseball reserved for October.  But the calendar does in fact still read March and the “newness” of Spring is just a week away.  The U.S., having survived what third baseman David Wright called “a true Game 7″ against Canada on Sunday afternoon, now had new life, facing Puerto Rico, in the second round of the WBC.  A new round, a new city (from Arizona to Miami), a new venue (from Chase Field to Marlins Park), and, what stood out the most, a new way to begin a ballgame, with the lead.  The first inning of the second round for the U.S. was destined to go scoreless like most early innings for the Americans in round one of this tournament.  But with two out in the first frame, Team USA catcher Joe Mauer doubled to deep, left-center field.  The ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing left fielder, and former University of Miami standout, Ryan Braun to score all the way from first base.  The U.S. drew first blood for the first time in this World Baseball Classic.

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TONY LA RUSSA: ONE CARDINAL THAT CHOSE NOT TO COME BACK

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I too, like former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, was stunned when I read the news that Tony La Russa had retired from managing in Major League Baseball after 33 seasons.  But I can’t blame him.  We should all be so lucky that we get to call it quits while at the pinnacle of our profession.  In that sense, Tony made another shrewd move in a post-season full of them.  And to Tony’s credit, there was no “miscommunication,” no bad connection between his heart and his head.  “I think this just feels like it’s time to end it,” La Russa said.  “When I look in the mirror, I know I’d come back for the wrong reasons, and I didn’t want to do that.” Continue Reading →