Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tank Cubs, Tank: The Chicago Cubs Should Sell

Danville, Kentucky -- Folks, sometimes it's tough to know when to throw in the towel. Men of my generation were taught to persevere - to keep grinding, even as our bodies fail us and our spirit breaks. That drive to survive and outlast your opposition is what kept brave men alive in the jungles of Guadalcanal and the forests of Ardennes; it's what kept tired men toiling on the assembly line long after their dignity and the union were gone. That instinct is what gives me the strength to finish my 6th hot dog at a 4th of a July barbecue, long after my stomach is full and my wife tells me to stop eating, for the love of God.

Folks, the Chicago Cubs - 2016's miracle team - need to throw in the towel. We all know why. Ben Zobrist, the World Series MVP, looks old and broken. Addison Russell has played exactly like you'd expect somebody drafted by saber-nerd Billy Beane to play. Kyle Schwarber has been demoted to Triple-A Iowa, and might not be back in the majors until the 2020 Iowa Caucus showdown between Chelsea Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, and Corey Booker. The team's chemistry is shot, in part thanks to Miguel Montero throwing his own teammates under the bus. Jake Arietta's ERA is more inflated than Evan McMullin's sense of self-importance. Worst of all, there's no David Ross around anymore to anchor the team with veteran presence.

The final nail in the coffin for the Cubbies? They disrespected our President. Bad things happen to people who cross the Donald - ask Mika or Morning Joe.

Meanwhile, Chicago's competition in the NL Central is formidable. While the Cubs' roster looks broken and deteriorated, the Milwaukee Brewers look like a complete team. The Cubs' offense has looked utterly lost at the plate and totally un-clutch (batting a PATHETIC .231 with Runners in Scoring Position), while the Brew Crew are led by bashers like Eric Thames (aka Barry Bonds reincarnated), Travis Shaw, and the inexplicably filthy Eric Sogard (hits the ball So-Yard). Don't sleep on Hernan Perez either - with 10 home runs, 8 steals, and defensive versatility, he looks a true super-utility player, perhaps the next Ben Zobrist. Also Ryan Braun is on this team.

Point is, the sun has set on the North Side of Chicago. It's time for Theo Epstein to be realistic. This is Milwaukee's division. A team that can't stay above .500 has no business buying at the deadline - the prudent thing for the Cubs to do is tank and try to collect some prospects for their next run.

Kris Bryant should be traded to the Boston Red Sox, who have a deep farm system and are in desperate need of a third baseman. Throw in Jon Lester and Koji Uehara for old time's sake. The Cubbies could probably, at a minimum, get Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Jay Groome in return.

Since the Cubs won't be contending this year, they have no use for a lights out closer. Wade Davis should be traded back to the resurgent Kansas City Royals for Jorge Soler. Unlike the Cubs, the Royals have managed to stay above .500 this year.

Nobody should be off limits: Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, etc., should all be moved for whatever the Cubs can get. The Cinderella Story was nice while it lasted - but it's time for Epstein to act before this supposed "team of destiny" turns into a pumpkin.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ban the Warriors

Danville, Kentucky -- Thomas Jefferson, the father of enlightenment liberalism, once wrote: "it is not by the consolidation or concentration, of powers, but by their distribution that good government is effected." Indeed, America has long grappled with the problem of power being concentrated in the hands of an elite few, preventing many honest Americans from sharing in the bounties of our great nation. President Andrew Jackson, hater of paper money and the plundering financial barons, recognized this problem and rightly vetoed Congress's attempt to re-charter the Second Bank of the United States in an effort to restore economic independence to the common man. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew this, and rightly cracked down on the Wall Street marauders responsible for the Great Depression, re-distributing wealth from the rich few to the hard-working many. President Donald J. Trump will soon follow in this great tradition, and is on the precipice of launching a fierce attack on entrenched oligarchy and corporate globalist robbery like no President ever before.

Folks, the NBA should take a page from Jefferson, Jackson, Roosevelt, and Trump's book. It is not by the consolidation or concentration, of players, but by their distribution that good basketball is effected. Despite boasting more exciting superstar players than ever before, NBA basketball has never been less compelling. A historically good (but historically choke-prone) 73-win Golden State Warriors team added Kevin Durant last off-season. The Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers absolutely cruised to the NBA finals, facing no real competition en route to winning their conferences. In the NBA, the rich keep getting richer. Next season the arms race will continue once the Cavaliers inevitably acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. It's time to stop this madness before it spirals out of control, and the NBA becomes a two-tiered league of contenders and D-League wannabes.

President Obama's greatest mistake, other than attending an Ivy League school and being a weak-kneed liberal, was that he didn't break up the big banks after the 2008 financial crisis. Bernie Sanders knew this, and would've won the 2016 Democratic Nomination with this argument had George Soros and Debbie Wasserman Schultz not rigged the game to stop him. It's time for Adam Silver to do what Obama couldn't: break up the big teams, the teams that have become too big to fail. Redistribute the wealth by putting Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets as punishment for betraying Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. End the concentration of the league's premier talent in two teams, or basketball's inequality crisis will escalate until upward mobility for weaker teams is extinguished. The fate of the game of basketball is on the line.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Return of the Pelf

Danville, Kentucky -- A man cannot undo his mistakes. He can only learn to live with them. This is the lesson taught to us when we wake up on a Sunday morning with aching, heavy limbs and a throbbing migraine, with vodka sweats oozing out of our pores after a night of sorrowful drinking alone. This is the lesson taught to us when the dream of NAFTA withdrawal -- the dream of undoing the foolish trade policy mistakes of Clinton and Bush -- recedes further and further into the realm of fanciful and wishful thinking. This is a lesson the Detroit Tigers must learn after foolishly parting ways with Mike Pelfrey, electric right-handed pitcher and ground-ball artist.

The Tigers cannot now undo the mistake of unconditionally releasing Mike Pelfrey; he has been signed by the Chicago White Sox, who will happily throw him out on the mound every fifth day on the Tigers' dime. The Tigers may deeply regret this move. A White Sox rotation anchored by Mike Pelfrey and James Shields would've been quite formidable in 2010. Pelfrey will join a White Sox team that is already off to a surprisingly strong start, thanks to Detroit Tiger turned Tiger-killer Avisail Garcia, a man on a mission to exact revenge against the team that traded him at the 2013 trade deadline. Pelfrey and Avisail will find common cause in their efforts to avenge the team that said they were no good. Fangraphs keeps calling Garcia a major regression candidate, but the eye-test says he has turned a corner. Avi is seeing the ball well; he has confidence at the plate and appears to have changed his swing approach in the off-season. The Tigers dismiss the newly-stacked White Sox at their own peril, especially since they offloaded known clubhouse cancers Chris Sale and Brett Lawrie.

The Tigers must learn to live with their mistake to put Pelfrey in the hands of a hated divisional rival. They have, to a degree. They sport a winning (11-10) record. Yet their bullpen remains a bigger, stinkier, hotter mess than the Creamy Jalapeno Wings at Chili's.

The Tigers bullpen bungles high-leverage situations like Paul Ryan bungles Obamacare repeal-and-replace efforts. They could really use a guy like Pelf right now; who can wiggle his way out of jams by inducing double-plays. Unfortunately, the Tigers will now be paying Pelfrey to turn those double-plays against them.

The circumstances are cruel; Pelfrey will face off against Matthew Boyd, the handsome young man who out-pitched him for the final rotation spot back in spring training. Pelfrey doesn't have Boyd's boyish good looks or disappearing change-up, but he does have pluck born from years of major-league experience.

It won't be easy for Pelfrey to return to Comerica Park, the stadium where he was regularly greeted with groans, hisses, boos, and obscenities. Pelf is a man of steel, and won't let the cool reception he inevitably faces shake him. With ice blood in his veins, Pelfrey will twirl ground-ball after ground-ball, doubling up plodding sluggers like Victor Martinez and Alex Avila with ease. Pelf has pitched well in Comerica Park as a visiting pitcher before. As the ace of the Minnesota Twins in 2015, Pelf turned in some of his finest performances against the Tigers:

That being said, Pelf will have his work cut out for him. The Tigers offense is not at full strength with Miguel Cabrera and JD Martinez missing in action, but Jim Aducci and John Hicks are just as dangerous in their own wily, gritty way. 
When Pelf returns to the Motor City for his first game as an opposing pitcher since his untimely release, I predict a strong effort. Pelf will labor through 5 innings of 2 run ball, the only runs coming off a mistake pitch to the red-hot Tyler Collins. The Tigers have already made the mistake of releasing Pelfrey; the worst mistake they could make now is to underestimate him.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Royal Rematch: The Giants Return to Kansas City

Danville, Kentucky -- There is no feeling more disturbing than the familiar becoming foreign. I think it was the spring of 2009. I was exhausted after a long day of working at the tire factory, and eager to go home and recuperate. But when I got home, the fridge was empty. I had eaten my last pepperoni Hot Pocket® for breakfast. Grudgingly, I went back to my car and headed to a nearby McDonald's.

McDonald's is great because it's familiar. McDonald's is a pillar of stability in a fragmented world torn asunder by the forces of globalization, the decline of the conventional nuclear family, ideological polarization, and forcible secularization. The connective glue that once held society together has disappeared. All the old institutions that once gave a man certainty -- the church, the union, the Blockbuster video store -- are all gone. Yet, a man can find comfort in the knowledge that at McDonald's, you can get the same burger in Danville as you can in Marmet, Flint, Bakersfield, and Deerfield. Or you could, at least.

That evening in the spring of 2009, I walked into McDonald's; but I didn't recognize what I saw. Apple slices. Side salads. Carrots. Parfait. Cucumbers. Sandwich wraps. Oatmeal. It dawned on me how long it had been since I had last been to a McDonald's. In a few short years, McDonald's went from being an unabashed all-American staple, to a weak-kneed Panera-wannabe. McDonald's was great because it had a formula: tasty food served quick for a cheap price. It wasn't healthy, but that wasn't the point. In attempting to cater to health-conscious liberals, McDonald's forgot what made them great.

No thanks, McCommunists.
Folks, for a while it looked like the Royals forgot what made them great as well. I felt a similar sensation -- that disconcerting vibe when something familiar feels foreign -- when I watched the 2017 Kansas City Royals. The 2015 World Champion Royals were great because they played their brand of baseball. They stole bases. They bunted. They played great defense. They made productive outs. They did the little things. They went to third base on a single. They put up runs without hitting dingers. It was Royals baseball, and they were proud of it.

The 2017 Royals had an abysmal 2-6 start because they forgot this formula. They were without Jarrod Dyson, the teams's swaggering id, and one of their primary threats on the base-paths. They uncharacteristically signed Brandon Moss, a lumbering slugger who had previously been their sworn enemy as an Oakland Athletic and Cleveland Indian. They traded elite closer Wade Davis for some kid from the Cubs who hits dingers and can't play defense. Their once invincible bullpen was a shadow of its former self, giving up runs in bunches in the late innings. The Royals looked out of their element, like a fruit salad at a burger joint. Until one man stepped in.

With two dominating starts, Jason Vargas got the Royals back on the winning track and stopped their season from being smothered in the cradle. So far this season Vargas has been the unquestioned ace of the Royals staff, besting even the beastly Danny Duffy. His most recent start -- a 7.2 inning, 8-strikeout, 4-hit performance against the Oakland Athletics -- not only put an end to a horrific losing streak; it put Vargas firmly in the Cy Young conversation. That's no small feat for a man recovering from Tommy John surgery. On a pitching staff that is now full of mercenaries like Ian Kennedy and Chicago Cubs castoffs, Jason Vargas is an anchor of familiarity, a reminder of the glory days when guys like Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen were mainstays of the Royals rotation.

Folks, some familiarity is just what the Royals needed. Thanks to Vargas, the Royals are looking like their old selves, having clawed back to the .500 mark after that awful start. That momentum is a good thing, as the San Francisco Giants -- their rivals from the 2014 World Series -- come to town for some inter-league action. On Wednesday, Mr. Vargas will square off against Madison Bumgarner, the man who single-handedly thwarted the Royals' World Series hopes that autumn. Although Bumgarner's reputation as a postseason God was tarnished this past fall when he ran into the Cubs buzz-saw, nobody in Kansas City has forgotten what he did in 2014: 3 games, 20 innings, 1 run.

Vargas doesn't usually crack baseball's list of dominant lefties: Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, David Price, etc., etc. After a couple more starts and a chance to prove himself against a hated rival, that will change. And when it does, the league better watch out.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

TWTW's 2017 March Madness Preview

Danville, Kentucky -- It's that time of year again, folks. The time of year where kids leave it all on the court. The time of year when boys become men. The time of year where my panicked wife frantically calls the police for information about my whereabouts after my phone dies while watching basketball at Buffalo Wild Wings for days at a time. It's March Madness time, folks.

Unlike Rachel Maddow, I won't waste your time with a twenty-minute buildup culminating in nothing. I'll cut right to the chase. Here are the games to watch during the first round of this year's tournament:

Maryland (6) versus Xavier (11)

Folks, I'll be upfront that I have a slight bias for the Musketeers, a scrappy team hailing from Cincinnati. But this game has huge upset potential. This Maryland team is soft; softer than the mushy interior concealed within every terrapin's protective shell. This is to be expected from Maryland, a soft state. I once spent a night at the Caroline County Department of Corrections for using non-standard crabbing technology in violation of state regulations. Maryland's crabbing scene isn't the only thing that's overrated: their basketball team has had some bad letdown losses to the likes of Penn State and Nebraska. The Musketeers will get it done.

Michigan (7) versus Oklahoma State (10)

This is another intriguing can't miss game. Brad Underwood is one of the most underrated coaches in the country. Michigan, on the other hand, is the school that passed on the blue collar fierceness of Rick Pitino en route to irrelevance for most of the 2000s. Stillwater is a much tougher town than Ann Arbor. Take the upset, folks.

Cincinnati (6) versus Kansas State (11)

I'm taking K-State here folks. Don't get me wrong - I'm a Cincy man through and through; the city that brought us Pete Rose, the best chili on the planet, and Neil H. McElroy, the Defense Secretary under President Eisenhower. But K-State has so much momentum after falling just a point short of winning the Big 12 tournament when nobody expected them to. Don't best against momentum, folks.

Dayton (7) versus Wichita State (10)

This is the crowned jewel of first round match-ups during this year's tournament, featuring two of my favorite teams. Wichita State and Dayton are teams that love to beat Ohio State; both of them handed the Buckeyes shocking Ls in 2013 and 2014 respectively. I have nothing but respect for Dayton; it's a great area, with one of the best Taco Bell restaurants I've ever been to - this place was clean as a whistle. But pick the underdog here, folks. Not that Wichita should be underdogs; they've been criminally under-seeded by the crooked NCAA elites that want to lock out small schools from the competition. The Shockers are a team that could run the table at this tournament.

Teams to Watch:

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are a team on the upswing, fresh off of an excellent Big 12 tournament where the 'experts' thought a Kansas Jayhawks victory was a fait accompli. This team plays with such tenacity, using the full court press for entire game to grind down the willpower of their opponents. I think this is the year they make a deep run. They say the Appalachian mountains are alive with the sound of coal mining once more, folks. They're bringing home some hardware this March too.

Purdue: Purdue is another blue collar team that is going to turn some heads. This is the school run by Mitch Daniels; former Republican governor of Indiana who handed over control of the state to our current Vice President, Mike Pence. The Boilermakers are not to be trifled with.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Not the End of the Line: Omar Infante for Tigers Opening Day Center Fielder

Danville, Kentucky -- It's easy to forget what a marvel trains are. Before Al Gore's internet, before Dwight Eisenhower's interstate highways, before Henry Ford's Model-T, only railroads connected Americans to one another. America's system of rail transportation has roots dating back to the First Transcontinental Railroad of the 1860s, a marvelous but loose network of train tracks that connected the country's breadbasket to the western frontier and the still fledgling settlements on the Pacific coast. Before the dawn of the railroads, America didn't have time-zones. Life was isolated, parochial, and pastoral. The emergence of railroads made every corner of the continent accessible and revolutionized our way of life.

Folks, in the summer of '75, there was nothing better than hopping aboard a train and seeing how far it would take you. One hot, smothering day in July of that summer, I was feeling particularly defeated. The bitter taste of the Watergate scandal was still depressing my spirits. An oppressive tax code and restrictive land use ordinances were hindering my dream of opening Danville's first ever combination sports bar and daycare center. I needed to see the world beyond my humble Danville abode. I longed for the sense of adventure that my ancestors must've had as they broke fresh ground in the New World and explored the vast and uncivilized frontier lands. So I headed down to Louisville's historic Union Station. I took a train to St. Louis. Then Fort Worth. Then El Paso. I took train after train after train till I ended up in Salt Lake City, Boise, and finally Reno.

Several hundred dollars worth of train tickets and a few weeks later, there were no more trains left to ride. No more sights I hadn't seen. Unlike my ancestors who were lured out west by the promise of unexplored land and new challenges to conquer, by 1975 all the blank spaces on the map had been filled in. I didn't find adventure or new beginnings out west; all I found was a gang of bikers that jumped me and left me for dead in the desert after a misunderstanding over gambling. I can still feel the coarse sand in my beard and the midday sun beating down upon me as I laid there in Nevada's barren wastelands, my face in the dirt. I can still smell the scorched dusty earth. I can still taste the sand. It tasted like the end of the line.

Many folks are saying that Omar Infante has reached the end of the line as well. The thirty-five year old second baseman from Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela certainly seems to be past his prime, a relic of a bygone era of baseball, an anachronism like the idea of riding trains in 2017. He has had a storied career. Since making his debut with the Detroit Tigers in 2002, he has played every position except pitcher, catcher, and first base. He's been an AL Champion four times: with the Tigers in 2006 and 2012, and the Kansas City Royals in 2014 and 2015. He's had a 7 RBI game, been a postseason hero, spun gem defensive plays, and done everything else under the sun. But last season he was unceremoniously cut by Kansas City, seemingly marking the end of the line for him.

But it wasn't to be the end for Omar. Al Avila's Detroit Tigers have brought Mr. Infante's career full circle by giving him a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, and one last opportunity to prove he belongs in the majors.

Omar has risen to the occasion, folks. He sports a massive .400 batting average so far this spring. Earlier today he netted a pair of doubles and RBI while turning several eye-popping defensive plays in the field. Omar's efforts to revive his career haven't gone unnoticed.

In spite of Omar's monstrous spring training output, the Tigers won't commit to giving him a roster spot for the regular season. That's a mistake, folks. The Tigers need to think outside the box. Mr. Infante is thinking outside the box. He suggested that he'd like to play center fielder for the Tigers.
The organization should take him seriously and give him a chance. Their season depends on it.

The Tigers' infield is set: future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is a fixture at first base. Gold Glove winner Ian Kinsler will be the starting second baseman. Defensive specialist Jose Iglesias will be the starting shortstop, while up-and-coming slugger Nick Castellanos mans the hot corner.

The Tigers' center field situation is much less clear. Anthony Gose struggled in Double-A last year after being demoted for a clubhouse incident with Toledo Mudhens manager Lloyd McClendon. Tyler Collins has had unfortunate incidents of his own, and has not set himself apart in spring training. Recent acquisition Mikie Mahtook has had an abysmal spring training, sporting a .074 batting average. Youngster JaCoby Jones holds the most promise but probably needs some more seasoning in Triple-A.

Omar, on the other hand, is major league ready right now. Omar's offensive explosion in spring training has laid to rest fears that his bat won't play. His glove will play in center field too. He has a total of 609 major league innings played in the outfield under his belt, including 182.2 innings in center field. Even the most ardent stats-lover would have to acknowledge Omar is the man for the job:

[source: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/i/infanom01.shtml]

He's never committed an error in center field. His fielding percentage in center field is a perfect 100%. Folks, that's a track record that none of the Tigers' other center field options have.

Omar is the center field solution the Tigers didn't even know they had. Omar's veteran presence, playoff experience, smooth glove and hot bat would solidify the Tigers' center field situation and give the team certainty heading into the regular season. Louisville's Union Station has laid dormant for several decades, but it's clear that this is not the end of the line for Mr. Infante. It's up to the Tigers to let Omar aboard, lest he ride off into the sunset with one of their competitors.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Only World Baseball Classic Preview You'll Need - Part II

Danville, Kentucky -- Welcome to Part II of my power rankings of all 16 World Baseball Classic teams. You can read part one here. I'll cut to the chase, folks. These are the bottom eight teams. Some are worse than others. All are worse than America. Without further ado, here they are:

9. Korea

Korea has an exciting team, folks -- and not just because these players were born and raised in the shadow of a nuclear-armed madman. Although doubts remain as to whether North Korea has ICBM technology capable of striking the mainland United States, there can be no doubt that the Korean national team is stacked with power. Korea has one of my favorite players in the whole world, folks: Dae-ho Lee, native of Busan, South Korea and former Seattle Mariner. Dae-ho showed some real pop last year with the Mariners, hitting 14 bombs with 49 runs driven in.

But the real reason to love Mr. Lee is his demeanor. He's always smiling; as a Mariner, he was truly a ray of sunshine in an otherwise perpetually overcast and grungy city. He's a jolly, rotund fellow, evoking a simpler era of baseball when sluggers like Babe Ruth crushed hot dogs in between innings in the dugout. I dare you to look at this man and not feel a warm, tingly sensation deep in your heart.

More importantly, he made his homeland proud, becoming an ambassador of the game and hero to Koreans everywhere. Thanks to Dae-ho, we have some of the greatest home run calls of all time.

(skip to 50 seconds)

Dae-ho represents everything that is great about the game of baseball. It breaks my heart that he has left the MLB and announced his intention to return to Korea's league. But I have to respect the man for loving his country. The fact that the Korean team also has Seung-hwan Oh -- aka the "final boss" -- is just a cherry on top. This Korean team could go places.

 10. Colombia

Don't sleep on Colombia, folks. Not that Colombia's amphetamine snorting population does much sleeping anyway thanks to abundant supply of narcotics. Colombia lacks the position player talent of the teams ranked higher than them here, but they can pitch. Although they often fly under the national radar, Colombians Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran are two of the most quietly brilliant pitchers in the MLB. I'll also be playing close attention to Colombia's Dilson Herrera, one of the prospects my Reds acquired in the foolish Jay Bruce trade.

But the real guy to watch on this squad is Yohan Pino, or as I like to call him, "Pino Noir," because his slider has more depth than the bitter notes of a fine red wine. Mr. Pino was an unsung hero in the Royals 2015 World Series championship. Yes, I know he got put on waivers mid-season. But before that he had an impressive 3.26 ERA and several excellent high-leverage appearances. Like Bernie Sanders after the DNC conspired against him, Pino spent 2016 watching all the action from the sidelines. But he recently signed a minor league deal with the Twins. I think he could go places. During the World Baseball Classic, we'll find out if he can. Because of their strong pitching -- led by Quintana, Teheran, and Pino -- this Colombia team has sneaky upside.

11. Japan

I'm not very high on Japan's team, but I'm obliged to mention that Japan's own Nori Aoki, Kansas City Royal turned San Francisco Giant turned Seattle Mariner turned Houston Astro, is a hell of a player. He's a world class talent. I love his swing. He won't hit for much power. But he can slap the ball all across the field and boasts a career .286 batting average in the MLB. It's a joy to watch him play. In an era where the nerds have decided that strikeouts don't matter and that batting average is irrelevant, Nori shows how valuable it is to have a guy that can put the ball in play. 

That being said, I'm down on Japan. The rest of the team outside of Aoki isn't particularly interesting. And as a country, Japan is adrift. Several weeks ago, Japanese Prime Minister Abe looked out of his element with a real leader like Trump.

The World Baseball Classic is about the talent on the field, but it's also about the intangibles, like the national mood of each respective country. With Japan's precious TPP trade deal recently killed by Trump, momentum is definitely against Japan. It's not happening for Japan this year.

12. Netherlands

On the surface, the Netherlands has quite a bit of talent. Although most of the team has names like "Stuifbergen," "van den Hurk," "Heijstek," or "Thijssen," the discerning baseball fan might notice a few big names. Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons and Kenley Jansen all apparently play for the Netherlands. But I'm not buying it. To illustrate why, let me point you to a map.

Yes, that's the Netherlands right next to Merkel's Germany and right across the European-body-of-water-I-learned-in-high-school-but-can't-remember from the lawless crime-hole Sweden. European social democracy has been a failure. The Netherlands national baseball team will be too. Next.

13. Canada

Canada is a team so pathetic they couldn't even persuade Joey Votto to take some time away from meaningless spring training games to stand around with a bat on his shoulder and try to draw walks on behalf of his country. Don't get me wrong. Canada has some interesting players. Like Braves slugger Freddie Freeman. Or 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau. There's also the intriguingly named Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey. But this is Canada, folks. A country that's perpetually second fiddle to the U.S.A. Not happening.

14. China

To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about China's team. I think the Chinese Communist Party has more or less suppressed all information about their national team, which is par for the course with this authoritarian nightmare of a country that stifles freedom of expression and the open exchange of ideas. I'll still put them ahead of Mexico and Australia because of China's sheer ruthlessness. 

15. Mexico

Mexico has some real gems on their team. Like Joakim Soria, the Royals' designated 8th inning guy and one of the best free agent signings Dayton Moore has ever made. There's also Sergio Romo, the scary-as-hell looking guy who recorded the final outs of the 2012 World Series for the Giants and for some reason got signed by the Dodgers. Did I mention that team Mexico has a lot Dodgers? Also on Mexico's team is the left-handed wunderkind Julio Urias and hitting guru Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it's just not Mexico's year. Not with The Wall on the way, along with punitive tariffs aimed at bringing back manufacturing jobs that Mexico stole via NAFTA. Next.

16. Australia

Australia occupies the last place spot in my power rankings. Look, I love Outback Steakhouse as much as the next guy. In fact, I've praised Outback's excellent Australian cuisine in glowing terms not once, but twice. This team has some pieces I like. Peter Moylan, the bespectacled ex-Royal with a slider juicier than Outback's QUEENSLAND CHICKEN & SHRIMP PASTA™, plays on this team. He had a 2-0 record and a 3.43 ERA last year with the Royals.

There is some fight in this team. Literally. Aussie Warwick Saupold of the Detroit Tigers organization got in a brawl last summer. We can assume this fight started when another bar-goer made an insensitive joke about Steve Irwin. 
But outside of Moylan and Saupold, things are looking bleak for Australia in my opinion. Countries that get on Donald Trump's bad side won't be long for this world, folks. The folks down under may serve Bloomin' Onions with the best of them, but they're bad allies and even worse at baseball outside of a few exemplars like Moylan. They're dead last, barring a miraculous effort to make amends with President Trump from Prime Minister Turnbull or a major splash like an official sponsorship from Outback.


There you have it folks. All 16 teams. Or rather, America and 15 losers. Enjoy the WBC, folks.