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Canada’s Little Leaguers down Chinese Taipei

Source: CBC , TSN

Canada is moving on to the next round at the Little League World Series after upsetting nemesis Taiwan in a must-win game.

Yi-An Pan pitched five innings and added a home run Monday in a 5-3 victory for the team from Langley, B.C. It’s the first time Canada has beaten a team from Taiwan at the tournament in 17 tries.

“Less mistakes today,” said Canadian coach Jason Andrews. “We’ve got two wins so far this tournament, for a Canadian team, that’s the most we’ve had in a while.

“We are starting to get more comfortable with the crowds. The kids seem less nervous. I’m less nervous as coach.”

The victory improved Canada’s record to 2-1 and earned it a spot in the next round, where it will face Japan on Tuesday after the defending champions beat Saudi Arabia 13-4. The loss eliminated Taiwan from the tournament.

Pan allowed two earned runs on nine hits over five innings of work before leading off the top of the sixth with a homer to give Canada a two-run lead. Pan’s homer was Canada’s first of the tournament.

“[Pan] is a gem to coach,” Andrews said. “I call the pitches for the team. He was hitting his spots really well today. We’ve been working with Yi An with getting him to drive the ball and he did a pretty good job of it today.”

Cole Cantelon recorded the final three outs to get the save.

‘Really nervous’

“I was really nervous,” said Cantelon, who went to a 3-1 count on his first batter, but came back to strike him out. “Getting that out really calmed me down.”

Canada opened a 2-0 lead in the first with back-to-back hits that saw both players score after Taiwan’s pitcher threw a wild pitch followed a passed ball.

Canada added another run in the second before the Taiwanese batters capitalized on two wild pitches and a passed ball of their own to tie the game 3-3 in the third.

Connor McCreath’s leadoff hit in the fourth resulted in the go-ahead run thanks to a sacrifice bunt, a Taiwanese error and yet another passed ball.

Taiwan had the chance to tie the game at four in the bottom of the fifth with Chi-Ling Hsu on third base with two out. Hsu attempted to steal home on a passed ball but Ian Burns collected the ball in time to throw to Pan, who tagged Hsu.

That set up Pan’s solo shot in the sixth to cap the scoring at 5-3.

Canada has participated in 52 Little League World Series, including the last 46. Canada’s lone appearance in the title game was in 1965, when a team from Stoney Creek, Ont., lost 3-1 to Windsor Locks, Conn., in the final.

Canada’s team at the Little League World Series will need another upset in an elimination game to continue their run in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The team from Langley, B.C. faces Hamamatsu City, Japan today in a game you can see on TSN2 at 4pm et/1pm pt.

The team from Langley defeated Saudi Arabia 6-5 in the first game of the tournament before dropping an 8-0 decision to Venezuela on the weekend.

Japan defeated Aruba and lost to Mexico before beating Saudi Arabia yesterday.

The winner of the today’s game will move into the International Bracket semi-final on Thursday against the loser of tomorrow’s Mexico-Venezuela game.

Blue Jays deny stealing signs

Source: TSN

Last season he was shooting down suggestions of steroid abuse. This season he’s defending his team against allegations of sign stealing.

Jose Bautista wonders what he and the Toronto Blue Jays will have to answer for next.

In the latest twist in what has become an ongoing saga, an ESPN report says at least four members of an opposing team — identified by Bautista as the Chicago White Sox — claim the Blue Jays stole signs from outside the field of play during games at Rogers Centre.

“This is just ridiculous and fictitious,” Bautista said. “I’m intrigued to see what they’re going to come up with next week or next year to try to decipher why we’re playing good or why we’re doing good or something,” the Toronto Blue Jays right-fielder said before Wednesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.

Bautista has 33 homers this season, tops in baseball, and led the majors with 54 last season. As his home run total mounted last year he had to listen to suggestions that steroids might be involved.

“Doing things that are illegal in the game of baseball, this has not happened here and it won’t happen,” Bautista said. “That’s not the way I do things. That’s the same answer I gave last year about the whole steroid thing.”

Players in the visiting bullpen noticed a man dressed in white in the outfield at the Jays’ stadium in April of 2010. According to the website’s report, the players said the man made signals from the outfield stands to Toronto batters, apparently alerting them to what pitch was coming.

“I don’t see how you can look at the ball and look at that at the same time,” Bautista said. “It’s impossible in my head. From reading the article, I have no idea how they claim this is done. … It would help anybody to know what’s coming. Of course it does.”

The all-star was supported by Toronto’s front office.

“This is stupid,” said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos who denied that his team stole signs in the article and did so again before Wednesday’s home game against the Oakland Athletics.

“There’s zero truth to this,” Anthopoulos told reporters. “No one’s ever contacted me. No GM has picked up the phone and called me.

“The way I was raised, if I have an issue, if I had a concern, if I think someone on the other side is doing something I’m going to call, I’m going to walk across the field (and) go talk to someone. I’m going to do something like that. No there hasn’t been anything like that at all.”

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi suggested last month that the Blue Jays might be stealing signs at Rogers Centre. Yankees catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., said at the time he suspected the Toronto players were stealing signs from second base.

Girardi had little to say when asked to comment on the latest allegations against the Blue Jays.

“People have been stealing signs since the beginning of time,” Girardi said before the Yankees hosted the Angels. “It’s your job as a club to protect your signs.”

Asked about the matter before his game at Baltimore, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen acknowledged being aware of Toronto’s reputation for sign stealing.

“People talk about it,” Guillen said. “If it works, they should be in first place.”

The Blue Jays entered play Wednesday at 58-57, fourth in the AL East and 14 games out of first place. They’re 28-27 at home, where they were no-hit by Detroit’s Justin Verlander in May, and 30-30 on the road.

Verlander’s May 7 no-hitter was one of four times the Blue Jays have been shutout this season, with three of those coming at home.

Both Guillen and Girardi said protecting signs is the responsibility of the catcher.

“If you have stolen signs, you have a dumb catcher,” Guillen said. “If you see guys stealing signs, change the signs.”

Blue Jays fans and players had some fun with the allegations during Wednesday’s game. Several fans in the outfield seats wore white shirts, with one holding a sign that read “FASTBALL.” Another a few rows back held one that read “I’m stealing your signs.”

Seated in the bullpen, reliever Casey Janssen fashioned a pair of binoculars out of two paper cups and a roll of tape, and wore them around his neck.

Still, not everyone was laughing. Anthopoulos wondered why former Blue Jays players or personnel weren’t contacted for the story.

“To do something like this would take a whole lot of work by this organization to keep everybody quiet,” he said. “I just wish people would look at the common sense component first and say ‘Is this really realistic?’

“Think of what would have to go into all this stuff. Really that’s as far as it goes. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair to our players, I don’t think it’s fair to the organization.”

Added Bautista: “This is sad, funny and ridiculous at the same time,”

The right-fielder could not recall any past issues with the White Sox.

“To me it’s unprofessional,” Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia said. “It’s a joke. It’s somebody discrediting our success. As a baseball player, I think there’s zero chance of it working. I’m very upset about it, because I take it personally.”

Catchers often use multiple signs to try to eliminate any chance of an opponent picking up on something — usually a runner at second base — and using it to their advantage. Stealing signs from outside the field of play is generally deemed to be unacceptable.

According to the ESPN report, some visiting teams have started using multiple signs between catcher and pitcher at the stadium, even when no Blue Jays are on base

“First of all I think that the statements that were made — and all I can speak to were the recent statements — they’re completely misguided,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “And it’s to suggest that if a player does well it’s for other reasons rather than hard work and making adjustments. Players change. We see it all the time, Players will make fundamental adjustments and they’ll reap the rewards of those adjustments and the work.”

Michael Teevan, the public relations director for Major League Baseball, said there are no electronics allowed in dugouts or team areas. However, when it comes to sign stealing, there are no clear rules on the issue.

“In terms of sign stealing, I’m not aware of anything that’s in our rules about it,” Teevan said. “Traditionally as the old saying goes, it’s something that teams kind of police themselves.

“But in general I would say that if a club calls us with something to look into, then we’d look into it.”

Teevan added that MLB has not received a complaint.

Farrell, who was the Boston Red Sox pitching coach for the previous four seasons, said there were no suspicions that the Blue Jays were doing anything abnormal in attempting to steal signs when he was with Boston.

“Nothing outside the norm of location might be being relayed from second base or something that I would venture to say to a certain extent every team does,” Farrell said. “It’s the same reason why we equip our pitchers either there or here with multiple sets of signs.”

“It’s a story for today,” Anthopoulos said Wednesday. “But for me it’s, a non-story.”

Cubs play the name game, draft sons of Gretzky and Dunston

Source: Big League Stew

Written By: Ian Casselberry

The second day of the MLB draft usually brings some fun with it in the form of familiar surnames. Many times, the selections are good-natured nepotism. Maybe a team’s manager has a son who plays baseball. Last year provided some good examplesof that.

But selecting amateur talent with famous pedigree can also just be a coincidence. The best player available may happen to be the son of a world-class athlete, such as one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

Trevor Gretzky, the son of Wayne Gretzky, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the seventh round on Tuesday. He’s a 6-foot-4 first baseman from California and committed to play for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State next season. But Trevor’s father has said they’ll sit down as a family and evaluate whether going to school or turning pro is the best decision.

However, the Great One’s son may have tipped off his preferences from his reaction to being drafted by the Cubs. See for yourself:

That enthusiasm (or lack there of) looks familiar. It reminds me of me when the dentist’s office calls to confirm I have a cleaning scheduled for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. We kid, of course. Maybe Trevor Gretzky is just a low-key dude. Must be that even-keel lineage.

Moving along, several other players with baseball bloodlines were selected on Tuesday. Teams may have been aided in the process by fathers passing their established names down to their sons. Easy to draw a connection that way.

• Dante Bichette Jr., a high school third baseman from Florida, was selected by the New York Yankees with the 51st overall pick. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Dante Bichette Sr. are good friends, so much so that Girardi named his son after the former Colorado Rockies slugger and Bichette Jr. calls Girardi “Uncle Joe.” But Bichette Jr. is also committed to play baseball at the University of Georgia, so he has a decision to make.

• Dwight Smith Jr. was drafted two picks later by the Toronto Blue Jays. Smith is a prep center fielder from Georgia, playing ball about four hours away from Atlanta, where his father spent two seasons with the Braves. Smith Jr. has a scholarship to Georgia Tech also on the table.

• Twelve seasons with a Shawon Dunston in their lineup apparently wasn’t enough for the Cubs. Drafting Shawon Dunston Jr., a high school outfielder out of California, in the 11th round (his father was the No. 1 overall pick in 1982) may give them more Dunston (and more Shawon-o-Meter!) The Cubs will have to convince him not to play baseball at Vanderbilt, however.

Ivan Rodriguez(notes) was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round. But the prep star from Miami is choosing to go his own way, going instead by the name “Dereck.” And unlike his father, who’s still playing catcher for the Washington Nationals, the younger Rodriguez plays center field.

• One more player worth noting is Johnny Reuttiger, nephew of Notre Dame football legend Rudy Reuttiger. (Rudy!) The junior Arizona State outfielder was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the eighth round.

Other legacy picks include Alex Santana (Dodgers), son of Rafael Santana; Jack Armstrong (Astros), son of Jack Armstrong; Ryan Garvey (Phillies), son of Steve Garvey; and C.J. McElroy (Cardinals), son of Chuck McElroy. Also selected was Kyle Gaedele, the great-nephew of Eddie Gaedel, shortest player in baseball history.

Still waiting to be picked as we write this: Brandon Bonilla, son of Bobby Bonilla; Tyler Bream, son of Sid Bream; David Lucory, brother of Jonathan Lucroy(notes); Matt Scioscia, son of Mike Scioscia; and Ozney Guillen, son of Ozzie (and disappointed with his late selection last year).

Also available is Scott Boras’ son, Trent. I bet a team gleefully anticipates that negotiation. The younger Boras is already committed to play baseball at USC, just like his older brother, Shane, was when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in 2008.

Jose Bautista is the best hitter in the game

Source: The Toronto Star
Written by: Richard Griffin

How locked in at the plate is Jays right fielder Jose Bautista?

Consider, his most dismal at-bat this season may have come Sunday at Target Field against Kevin Slowey and the Twins: half-swing foul, checked-swing strike on a pitch in the dirt, then a weak grounder to short — seemingly unfocused and overanxious.

The extenuating circumstance, of course, was that Bautista had already hit three home runs in the game.

The 30-year-old late bloomer can be forgiven.

Bautista is no longer a sideshow performer, a novelty act from north of the border who, after a 2010 supernova of horsehide pyrotechnics, would surely disappear into the background where experts were certain he belonged.

Baseball has seen plenty of those. Does the name Brady Anderson ring a bell? How about Luis Gonzalez, who did not hit more than 15 homers until he was 30 years old, then hammered 57 in 2001 at age 33, then never more than 28 again.

The baseball brilliant Bautista, new face of the Jays clubhouse and its clear leader, has been on a roll since Sept. 5, 2009 — enough time for pitchers to make adjustments given the tremendous scouting tools available in this era of video breakdowns and statistical analysis.

Since that date, heading into the Motor City on Monday night, Bautista had played 220 games with 218 hits in 783 at-bats (.278), 80 home runs and 173 RBIs. He’s had 132 extra-base hits, drawing 146 walks while striking out 159 times for an on-base average of .399, a .659 slugging mark and 1.058 OPS.

His plate coverage and discipline stand out in a lineup that offers little, if any, protection on a daily basis.

The jury had been out on the wisdom of the decision — by inexperienced general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Rogers ownership — to trade veteran Vernon Wells and his big contract to the Angels, then use the money to sign Bautista to a five-year, $65 million deal.

“Performance wise, he’s better than he was last year, which no one expected,” Anthopoulos says of Bautista’s fabulous start. “That being said, with the contract we gave him, we certainly expected Jose to be a very good player and more importantly to bring all the intangibles that he showed us — high character, humility, work ethic, selflessness, leadership and someone who was proud to be a Blue Jay representing both Toronto and Canada.

“I think we’re all amazed that he continues to improve. Last season was incredible. I’m not sure that there are words to describe what we’re seeing so far this season.

“As for credit, first it has to go to the player. It’s up to the player to make adjustments, work hard and then go out and perform. Second, a lot of credit needs to be given to (former manager) Cito Gaston and (hitting coach) Dwayne Murphy. Jose called Cito after he signed his contract to thank him for all he did for him. So, I’d say it’s a combination of three people.”

Here is how this space ranks the top 10 hitters in baseball, with contract status from the website Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

1. Jose Bautista, Jays

Five years/$65M to 2015 + option

On a recent trip to the Rogers Centre, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has played with and managed some of baseball’s great hitters, offered his impressions of Bautista.

“He plays the game right. He hustles. He’s good for the game, not necessarily good for the Red Sox,” Francona said. “We’ve gotten him out, but . . . you either make a mistake or he sits on a pitch. That bat comes though the zone and, man, it’s pretty. If you’re a baseball fan, it’s fun to watch. Unfortunately, when he’s on the other side, it’s not.

“He gets himself in the best position to hit. I remember hearing him talk when this all started. He said he got his foot down quicker . . . and he’s right. He’s in a better position to hit and, man, he has more good swings than a lot of hitters. If you have hand-eye co-ordination and you’re strong and quick and you have 10 good swings a night, you’re probably going to get some hits, or some homers.”

2. Joey Votto, Reds

Three years/$38M to 2013

The 27-year-old Etobicoke native has picked up where he left off in 2010, when he was named the National League’s MVP and Henry Aaron Award winner. The Reds first baseman uses the entire field, spraying hits to all corners and plays in a home-run hitter’s ballpark. Votto was the third Canadian-born MVP in history, joining Larry Walker and Justin Morneau.

Votto overcame bouts of depression, resulting from the sudden death of his father, and talked about his rise to the top after he won the MVP over a man he admires, Albert Pujols.

“I had a really, really difficult time I guess getting over the death of my father,” Votto said last winter. “It’s still difficult for me sometimes now. It’s hard when you lose someone in your life that means so much. It was a difficult 2009 and quite a bit less difficult in 2010, and I think that was definitely a big reason why I was able to stay on the ballfield every day and succeed and make progress and feel better about life.”

3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Eight years/$152.3M to 2015

The 28-year-old Venezuelan has been a star since helping the Marlins to a 2003 World Series win in his rookie year. The cash-strapped Florida franchise could not afford to hang onto him and he was traded to the Tigers in 2008. Cabrera continues to be one of the most consistent power hitters in the game, noted for his approach and preparation.

4. Matt Holliday, Cardinals

Seven years/$120M to 2016 + option

Maybe a surprise to some, the 31-year-old Oklahoma native has been a much-coveted star since leading the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. Traded to the A’s in 2009, he was dealt to the Cards part-way through his first season in Oakland, signing a long-term deal in St. Louis. If Albert Pujols decides to leave, the Cards will still have a bat around which to build their lineup. Holliday has posted an OPS above .900 for six straight years as one of the game’s most consistent stars.

5. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox

$5.5M, 2011

Seven years/$154M, 2012-18

The 29-year-old San Diego native had been toiling spectacularly out of the spotlight for years with the Padres before being tossed into the cauldron that is the AL East. The slick-fielding first baseman is trying to disprove the myth of players struggling to adapt to the AL. Gonzalez has moved up in MVP voting each of the past four years — from 20th in 2007 to fourth last year. The Sox have been heating up with Gonzalez’s bat, so if Boston makes it to the post-season the left-hand-hitting slugger has a chance to continue that upward trend.

6. Albert Pujols, Cardinals

Seven years/$100M, expiring

The 31-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is clearly the top major-league hitter of the last decade, but has dropped down the list because of his current season, fraught with all the distractions surrounding a pending free agency. It’s been a circus since the off-season and may have affected his contributions to the Cards thus far. Pujols has an active streak of 10 straight seasons with an OPS over .900, seven above 1.000. Even with Holliday in the same lineup, it’s Pujols opposing managers point out as the man they don’t want to beat them.

7. Josh Hamilton, Rangers

Two years/$24M to 2012

Almost 30, the North Carolina native may be the best pure athlete in baseball, but has had to fight personal demons and a series of injuries to convince people he is for real and here to stay. Hamilton, last year’s AL MVP, is almost ready to return from a shoulder injury. He has only been able to stay healthy one season, in 2008, driving in 130 runs with a .901 OPS. He has to be on this list based on a combination of what he has done and what is possible.

8. Evan Longoria, Rays

Six years/$17.5M to 2013 + options

The 25-year-old California native is the face of the Rays offence and is continually improving. His batting average and on-base percentage have increased each of his first three seasons. He has missed much of 2011 due to injury but is back and has played every day in May.

9. Ryan Braun, Brewers

Eight years/$45M to 2015

Five years/$105M, 2016-20 + option

The 27-year-old California native has been building his resume since winning rookie of the year in 2007. His is a star on the upswing and if the Brewers lose Prince Fielder to free agency next winter, much more responsibility will be placed on his shoulders.

10. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners

Five years/$90M to 2012

The Jays suffered a devastating defeat in Seattle because of manager John Farrell’s refusal to pitch to Ichiro with the tying run in scoring position. Instead, he walked the 37-year-old Japanese star. Ichiro stole second and a single scored both runs for a huge M’s win. People criticize Ichiro for his low on-base average and an OPS that has exceeded .850 only twice in 11 years, but it’s impossible to argue with 10 straight seasons of 200-plus hits — and he’s on pace for another. Maybe he doesn’t draw enough walks or see enough pitches for statistical analysts, but maybe it’s because when he swings the bat he is making solid contact most of the time. This is a hitters list.

The Great Escape: Astros fan uses Spider-Man skills to avoid cops

Source: Big League Stew
Written By: Ian Cassleberry

It’s been a rough year for Houston Astros fans.

Their team has lived down to preseason expectations with the worst record in the National League. Coming into this weekend’s series with the Mets, the Astros had lost nine of their last 15 games. And Friday night’s opener was set to bring more disappointment as they’d blown a 4-0 lead and trailed 6-4 in the ninth inning.

Someone in the stands at Minute Maid Park had all he could stands and couldn’t stands no more. He was going to provide some entertainment, whether it was for himself or the reported 28,791 in attendance. With one out remaining in the game, the fan made a mad dash from the right-field stands onto the field.

Plenty of fans, of course, have run onto baseball fields before. Maybe there’s some juking and dodging of police and security, but the ending is almost always the same. The interloper gets tackled (or Tasered) by the authorities and everyone moves on.

Well, not this time.

Not only did this guy outrun those in hot pursuit, but he used Tal’s Hill — Minute Maid Park’s infamous center-field incline — to elude capture. What, you thought that hill was just a hazard outfielders occasionally stumbled upon while tracking fly balls?

The fan wasn’t done from there, either. From the center-field platform, he climbed up a berm onto the patch of grass high above the wall before scaling yet another wall to escape from view and presumably run into baseball lore.

Unfortunately, the ending to this potentially legendary dash wasn’t as romantic as we might like to imagine. As ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reported on Twitter, the fan did make it out of the stadium but was apprehended soon thereafter.

Was he later identified as Peter Parker? Authorities are not saying at this time.