A preview of the Dominican Winter League, taking a look at the teams, stadiums, managers, and players to watch for.
The "National Religion" came back on October 16th, as the Dominican League launched its 56th edition. Reliably praised as having the highest level of talent among the winter leagues, one should expect to watch another mix of highly ranked prospects, mid-level major leaguers, a few recognizable American players, veterans looking for another shot, and some major league stars between now and the end of the Caribbean Series in February. The league format has six teams playing a 50-game regular-season schedule, with the four best records advancing to a long 18-game round-robin playoff, and the two remaining best clubs play a best-of-nine final series to decide the league's champion. Without further ado, here's what this season will bring us:
Tigres del Licey (Licey Tigers)
Home: Santo Domingo
2008-09 record: 26-24, fourth place (tied) regular season; 12-6, first place round-robin; beat the Gigantes in the final series 5-0.
Ballpark: Estadio Quisqueya; strong pitcher's park, with a Park Factor of 92.
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Derek views the series' conclusion from all the remaining angles.
Now that I'm telling you how lucky and blessed I am, I guess it's as good a time as any to tell you that I didn't cover the Caribbean Series in person in Carolina on Wednesday, but rather from San Juan. The reasons are too boring to share, but on the theory that if given lemons, make lemonade, I took the opportunity to take in some of the televised options for watching the Caribbean Series.
First, briefly, there was the afternoon game, which I wasn't able to catch in its entirety. I tuned into this one using MLB.tv, which had been the topic of a lot of reader e-mail after I asked how the English language broadcasters were doing on Unfiltered. The consensus seemed to be that the father/son team of Victor and Cookie Rojas were all right, and the other team of Felix DeJesus and Eddy Perez were...um, not. Perhaps the most emphatic email I got about the DeJesus/Perez pairing came from reader S.T.:
The longest game in Caribbean Series history made for a very long day for one intrepid reporter.
There was a point in the first game of yesterday's Caribbean World Series doubleheader--men on second and third, two outs, 16th inning, Gregor Blanco swinging right out of his socks on the first pitch, and whiffing two pitches later--when I thought, this game will not die. It's like Dracula, the Wolfman, and John McLane, rolled up into one.
I'm getting ahead of myself. I arrived at Estadio Municipal Roberto Clemente Walker (as the stadium of the Carolina Giants is formally known) more than six hours prior to Blanco's strikeout. The mission was simple--pick up my press credential, get up to the press box, and dig in for a doubleheader. The first game was Venezuela against the Dominican Republic, or the Aragua Tigers against the Cibao Eagles. The second game--Puerto Rico (the aforementioned Giants) against Mexico (the Hermosillo Naranjeros)--was the main event of the first day, given the hometown crowd. However, DR/Venezuela was the highlight, the grudge match between last year's champion and runner-up, a confrontation anticipated even before the Caribbean Series schedule had been released.
Puerto Rico hosts a wondrous refuge for baseball fans during Super Bowl weekend, and it's going to be a fun one.
The Caribbean Series (that's the actual translation of the series' name-how the "World" often gets jammed in there remains a mystery to me) has been played since 1949, when the teams involved were Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Cuba. Around 1960, the tourney was discontinued when political problems arose with Cuba. It was resurrected ten years later with the current four teams-Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
For those of you who are familiar with international baseball tournament play (or who paid attention to the World Baseball Classic last March) the format of the Caribbean Series will be familiar. Four teams play a weeklong round-robin tournament, two games a day with each team playing each opponent twice, for a total of six games. In the event of a tie-and as someone with plane tickets back to the States, I hope this remains theoretical-a playoff would be played on the day after the scheduled end of the series, on February 8th.
Jim looks at how the most dominant team in the NL will deal with an offensively talented foe.
While the difference between the Mets and Dodgers isn't all that great, the gap between the Mets and Cardinals is--unless Los Angeles feared the possibility of seeing Chris Carpenter twice in a short week. Probably, there's no conspiracy here, and the Dodgers simply wanted to give their regulars a day off after they had clinched a postseason berth the day before. Still, with their number one starter shelved for the duration, the Mets do not appear to be as intimidating as a team that ran off with its division in June should be.
It's an all-employment issue of The Week in Quotes, as Jose Lima's still looking for a job, Miguel Tejada and Manny Ramirez may be after a transfer, and Theo Epstein might be back to reclaim his old job.
"There will be no trade. I'm staying in Boston, where I'm familiar with the system and where I have a lot of friends, especially David Ortiz." --Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez, on how his desire to leave Boston is gone (MLB.com)