Thursday, February 02, 2006

Live Blog: Caribbean World Series

I'm laid up at home, which means that I've got time on my hands. Luckily, there's also baseball on TV--Puerto Rico vs. the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean World Series, on YES. So I'm live blogging it, even though the game is actually being played on tape.


The announcing team is Billy Sample and Jim Leyritz, which gives me The Fear. They start off in what looks like a studio, so despite the fact that both men are in short sleeves, I bet that they're announcing this off a video feed rather than on location.

Here are the lineups for the two sides:

Dominican Republic -- Licey Tigers

2B Anderson Hernandez
DH Erick Aybar
SS Miguel Tejada
1B Willie Otanez
LF Napoleon Calzado
3B Ronnie Belliard
RF Timo Perez
C Sandy Martinez
CF Melky Cabrera

P Juan Cruz

Puerto Rico Gigantes

SS Alex Cora
2B Ruben Gotay
CF Jose Valentin
LF Pedro Valdes
DH Alex Cintron
1B Edwards Guzman
3B Luis Figueroa
C Jon Lin Pachot
RF Jose Feliciano

P William Collazo

Top 1st -- Three up, three down. The last out is Miguel Tejada, which brings up an issue with the WBC. Everyone has been sniping this week about star players possibly getting injured in the WBC, yet they forget that some pretty big names play in Winter Ball. No one's whining about the possibility of Tejada breaking his leg right now.

Bottom of 1st -- After a nice slap hit down the leftfield line, Ruben Gotay does some bonehead running, getting gunned out by Orioles farmhand Napoleon Calzado.

Top 2nd -- Calzado swings like a blind man at three pitches from the lefthander Collazo.
Ronnie Belliard (misidentified by Sample as "Rafael Belliard") hits into a DP grounder, but beats it out. Belliard looks like Manny Ramirez these days, and his uniform's so sloppy, that watching him in the Dominican Winter League in 2004, I nicknamed him "Pigpen." Gotay makes a nice play on a Timo Perez grounder to end the inning.

Bottom 2nd -- Cruz is struggling here, which is a bad sign for Oakland, given that he's
not exactly facing a major league lineup. Gets out of a two-out two-on jam, thanks to a nice play by Belliard.

Top 3rd -- After a seeing-eye leadoff single by catcher Sandy Martinez, Melky Cabrera comes up. Cabrera shows some nice selectivity, running the count to 3-0, and ultimately working a walk off Collazo. Mets farmhand Anderson Hernandez follows with a bloop hit, to load the bases for Angels farmhand Erick Aybar. Aybar taps into a 5-2-3 DP. Bad job. Still, with Tejada at the plate and first base open, it's a shock to see Collazo challenge the former MVP. Tejada drills it down the thirdbase line, hard enough that it gets stuck under some padding in foul territory. Collazo is ultimately bailed out by the fact that Willie Otanez forgets that there are such things as cut-off men--on a single, he goes too far rounding first, and gets nailed, on a play that looks like a 9-1-3 putout.

Bottom 3rd -- again, Cruz in a jam, one-out, two-on for Jose Valentin. Valentin, who played 3rd for the Dodgers last season, is expanding his repertoire by playing center field in Winter Ball. Valentin coughs it up, popping up to Pigpen after running the count to 2-0. Still, Pedro Valdes bails him out by blasting a 3 run shot to dead center, just past Melky's reach. PR leads, 3-2.


After some technical difficulties, we're off the inning-by-inning work, for a while.

Billy Sample's brutal on play-by-play, constantly mixing up the names of the Hispanic players. One side has a junkballing lefty whose last name is Collazo, the other a lanky left fielder whose name is Calzado. They're not interchangeable, Billy.

Meanwhile, the King, Jim Leyritz, doesn't have an announcer's voice. But he is paying attention, noting that the Dominicans had to send someone up there to take some pitches when Collazo got two outs on three pitches in the top of the fifth.

Meanwhile, the camera work reminds you just how good major league baseball broadcasts of the HD Era are. Compared to what we're used to, this Caribbean League footage from Puerto Rico looks like it's being shot from night.

Still it's baseball, with people who are trying to win, so I'm watchin'.


In the top of the 6th, two on, one out, they've pulled William Calzado, in favor of Orlando Roman. The only thing I know about Roman, other than he's righthanded, is that he's a "refuerzo," or reinforcement, to the Gigantes roster.

In the Caribbean World Series, each of the Caribbean countries is represented by the team that won their local Winter League championship. In this case, the Licey Tigers won the Domincan Championship, and the Carolina Gigantes (Giants) won the Puerto Rican Winter League. The roster of each championship team is then augmented with a limited number of players from other teams' rosters. On the PR team, Feliciano, Valentin, Cintron, and Pachot are all reinforcements, since I guess that the Gigantes were really weak in the outfield. Tejada and Cabrera were both reinforcements for the Dominicans.

This Roman guy isn't looking too good, allowing a game-tying single to Ronnie Belliard, and then hitting Timo! in the knee to load the bases. Former major leaguer Sandy Martiners gets struck out on three pitches by the next Puerto Rican reliever, whose last name is Agosto.

Valerio de los Santos, another guy who's seen some service time in the majors, takes over in the bottom of the inning for Licey.

While I'd always cheer for the Dominicans in the Caribbean Series, beause of my Dominican heritage, it's a little bit sweeter for me this year because I have a pretty direct link to the Licey ballclub, one of the two teams that plays in D.R.'s capital, Santo Domingo (the other capital team is called Escogido). It turns out that my great-great grandfather, along with a great^2 granduncle, were among the founders of the Licey ballclub, back in 1907. So I'm an in-born fan.

Speaking of Licey, one of the non-reinforcements, Anderson Hernandez, hits a one-out triple in the top of the 7th. Pressure's on Erick Aybar--who's playing DH (or BD--Bateador Designado) after being displaced from short by Miguel Tejada, but who plays ahead of much-hyped former Red Sock Hanley Ramirez on the Licey club. Aybar doesn't come through with the man on third, so Tejada gets walked with two outs. Fool me twice, shame on me, I suppose. The Gigantes follow with a pitching change, and Willie Otanez at the plate.

The reliever is righthander Federico Baez. Baez feeds some good breaking stuff to Otanez, but hits a Baltimore chop over the pitcher's head, fielded by the shortstop who throws slightly off-line, and the ball is knocked out of firstbaseman Guzman's mitt. Calzado pops one out to Valentin to end the inning, D.R. leads, 4-3.


Pigpen makes a great play from one knee to lead off the bottom of the 7th! going to his left, Belliard caught the ball in the hole, tumbled to the ground and rolled over to make a great throw to first from one knee.

While De Los Santos works the inning, we see lefty Carlos Perez warming up (along with former Diamondbacks closer Jose Valverde) in the pen. Perez is one of the Perez brothers, along with former Yankees Pascual and Melido. Perez is interesting because he's a quasi-fugitive from justice, who has stayed in D.R. for the past few years after a young woman sued him for rape, and won a huge default judgment. He's still alive, still pitching, and (last I heard) still trying to get back to the majors, even at the age of 34. But the second he draws a salary in the United States again, his accuser will be there to garnish his paycheck. Although Perez protests that he's innocent, he didn't do much to support that claim by leaving the U.S. mid-case and letting his accuser win by default.

Blech, what a sordid thing to be writing about, when I'm overjoyed to be watching my first baseball in months. Part of me doesn't want to believe that Carlos is a rapist, just because I used to enjoy watching his brothers pitch so much. Pascual was such a goofball, that it's easy to forget that he was one of the worst free agent signings in Yankee history once upon a time--he signed in November, 1989, pitched 14 innings in 1990 and got injured, was still injured in '91, when he only got 74 innings in. And then he was busted on the old substance policy, and disappeared from Major League Baseball.

But when Pascual Perez was doing his thing, he was damn entertaining. I remember his pick-off throws between the legs--Perez would bend low, like Mike Mussina, when he pitched from the stretch. Sometimes he'd peek at the runner between his legs, bend even further down, and flip the ball from between his legs, kind of like a standing football snap. Pascual was a good hitter and baserunner, which didn't figure since he was tall and gangly.

All the Perez brothers were animated figures on the mound, prone to celebrate strikeouts with a fistpump or, if the K ended the inning, a little dance coming off the mound. Many complain bitterly that such exuberance is unprofessional, and sometimes it was (after all, Carlos struck out only 448 guys in his 823 major league innings, and he was extremely celebratory for each one of those whiffs) still, I tend to dislike the stony stoicism of so many major leaguers today. There just isn't enough color, sometimes. The Perez boys were color, all right.

And speak of the Devil, in the bottom of the 8th, Perez is on the mound. Perez still has the same herky-jerky motion, and attendant control problems that so often accompany such a motion. Still seems to throw hard enough, though. During his major league career, Carlos was a control pitcher, who didn't strike out many or walk many.

More boneheaded baserunning by P.R., as Valentin gets picked off by Perez. Good thing, too, since Perez then walks Valdes, and is replaced with Jorge Sosa of the Braves. A grounder and two singles later, P.R. has tied the game at 4.

Sosa looks like a guy who was sent to the Winter League to work on his breaking ball, but doesn't realize that his countrymen would appreciate it if he treated this game like it matters. His slider has been high and over the plate, and one of those hangers over the plate was the ball that Luis Figueroa hit to tie the game.

Man, is Billy Sample bad. Licey pinch-hits for Melky in the top of the ninth, and Sample's caught with his pants down. Maybe they are on-site after all. Leyritz makes his first mistake of the evening, claiming that Hernandez, who gets an infield hit after the unknown pinch hitter grounded out, is the "leadoff hitter." Moments later, he catches himself like a guy who's just hit a rough spot on the sidewalk, "ONE out and Hernandez on first." Now Erick Aybar comes up, and is identified by the on-screen graphic as Cabrera. Aybar hits into a double play, and now Sample can't remember how many outs there are. Bottom of the ninth coming up, tied at 4.


Jose Valverde is the new Dominican pitcher. Valverde throws hard and straight, with bad mechanics that have his push leg swinging around his landing leg after each pitch pitch. With one out, Alex Cora singles off Willis Otanez's glove at first. The King, whose voice is the low rasp of a pack-a-day smoker, is doing a nice job, despite his boner last inning. He mixes in anecdotes about his own winter league experiences with nice observations on the field.

Ugh, hard grounder takes an insane bad hop on Tejada, making it 1st and 2nd with one out. Jose Valentin is up, and despite all the lovely things Plachtke had to say about Valentin last year, he's being praised by Sample and Leyritz as clutch. Well, he advances the runners with a big hopper to the first baseman.

Not exactly the kind of clutch we had in mind.

So with the winning run 90 feet away, it's Jorge Padilla--a pinch hitter I never heard mentioned in the broadcast, facing Valverde. First base is open, but Valverde just pours in the gas, smoking Padilla on a fastball high and outside.

This leads to one of those Perez-style celebrations American baseballists seem to mind so much.


It's still Baez in the top of the 10th, as Tejada leads off. Two quick outs by Miguel Tejada and Otanez, leaving things up to Napoleon Calzado. Calzado got a hit earlier in the game, but his swing looks like it has a Grand Canyon-sized hole in it. Calzado fists an easy fly to left, giving the Puerto Ricans another shot to win the game.

The D.R. team--indeed, most of these winter teams--are somewhat hack-happy. Which make for some innings where the team looks like worldbeaters, and others where they go down easy, like a completely different team.

Eddie Ramos, an unaffiliated pitcher, is the new Licey lanzador in the bottom of the 10th. Ramos looks a bit like Pascual Perez did, with a big 'Fro under his cap, a windup that has him all over the mound on every pitch. It leads to a little dance move at the end of each pitch, as he straightens out his lower body (which has gotten all twisted up in his follow-through), and backs up the mound. All he needs to do is throw an Eephus pitch, and I'll think that this is just a fever dream.

After two quick outs, Ramos starts getting hit, and soon it's 1st and 2nd, with Feliciano at the bat. Ramos is able to pop Feliciano up to strand the runners.


Houston, we've lost the announcers! In silence, punctuated only by cheering and the umpire calling out "ball!" Pigpen walks. Alexis Gomez, who apparently came in after Timo was hit by the pitch, pops up a bunt, which falls between the catcher and first baseman, but just barely. They still get Pigpen at second, because he couldn't get a good jump with the ball in the air.

Now it's a man on first for Sandy Martinez. Bit of trivia--Martinez was actually on the 2004 Red Sox team, getting in three games at the end of the regular season. This makes me wonder, was that enough to get him a World Series Ring? A half-share of the World Series loot?

Not that I'm still bitter or anything. Sandy pops out, leaving things up to...Melky Cabrera?

Oh, yeah, Sample's phantom pinch hitter was actually Melky. Melky does a nice job, stroking a single to right, getting Gomez to second, and forcing a pitching change.

The new pitcher is Brad Salmon, as the sound from the announcers weaves in and out like a drunken driver. Salmon's pitching to the the Player of the Game (so far), Anderson Hernandez. Salmon's all over the place, and the count runs to 3-2, before Hernandez smacks his fourth hit of the game, and brings in the go-ahead run. The Puerto Ricans then forget about Hernandez, who steals second without a throw, or even a pitch, as the Gigantes were appealing at a base, apparently claiming that Melky didn't touch second on his way to third.

Again, an astute observation by Leyritz that the ball is live during that appeal. I wonder, is that a stolen base or just an advancement on a throw? It becomes academic with the third out, but any way you slice it, Dominicans lead, 5-4.

Ramos stays on for the bottom of the inning, still doing his little dance swivel after every pitch. Alex Cora leads off with a double deep in the rightfield gap, putting the tying run in scoring position with nobody out, and immediately bringing big Roman Colon out of the pen for Licey. Colon's in the (Detroit) Tigers organization, and he brings a boring fastball (or maybe even a sinker) to bear on Ruben Gotay, who nearly ties the game on a sinking liner that's barely caught by Otanez.

One out and runners on again for Jose Valentin. Valentin takes Colon's fastball for a ride to deep right field, which is caught by Gomez. The fly moves the runner over to third, and leaves it all in Jorge Padilla's hands.

With a guy on third, Colon is peppering the ground in front of the plate, and to his credit, Martinez blocks two pitches that could have tied the game. Padilla fouls off the first payoff pitch; Colon gets a visit at the mound from Miguel Tejada (a "Hey kid, don't f--- up" visit) and then...screen goes blurry with digital "snow". We miss the pitch, but then again, so did Padilla. Game over.

Thanks for sticking with me through the Live Blog of the leadoff of the Caribbean World Series. Catch you later, when hopefully, I'll be healthier.

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