World baseball classic
The WBC got underway on Thursday, as Japan beat China 4-0. Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish set the pace early, allowing no runs and walking just one batter. The five relievers each allowed exactly one hit and did not walk anyone. Third baseman Shuichi Murata provided offense with a two run homer.

Darvish is a candidate to be the breakout star during this WBC. Many die hard fans already know him, but the WBC will allow him to reach a wider fan base. The 22 year old Darvish is the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother who met while attending college in Florida. They settled in Japan, were Yu was born.

Yu had a very successful high school career. Several major league teams were interested in him, but he stayed in Japan and was drafted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (note: Hokkaido is the name of the island, Nippon Ham is the name of the sponsor, Fighters is the team name).

Yu has had great success for the Fighters:
2005 (age 19): 5-5, 3.53 ERA
2006 (age 20): 12-5, 2.89
2007 (age 21): 15-5, 1.82
2008 (age 22): 16-4, 1.88

Yu has also increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate. The net result is a strikeout : walk ratio of more than 4:1 over the last two seasons.

Of course, it must be noted that many baseball people consider the Japanese leagues to be on par with an AAA league in the US, a step below the major leagues. However, if a 22 year old player was putting up these numbers for an AAA team, the team would be very happy, as these would be great numbers and would suggest that the player would have a successful major league career.

Darvish has stated that he has no intention of signing with a US team any time in the near future and that he would like to win 200 games in Japan. This is a bit disappointing to me, as I would like to chance to see Yu pitch on a regular basis (preferably for my team).

Korea and Taipei face off at 3:30 AM Central time on Friday. This is too late of a start time to meet the TCO’s publishing deadline. The Asian teams are starting a couple days early because of travel considerations (they play the first round in Tokyo; all other pools play in North America)

Baseball injury watch
Alex Rogriguez has a torn labrum in his hip. He may face a surgery that would require four months of rehabilitation. Keep on eye on this story before grabbing A-Rod high in your fantasy draft.

Boating accident
In sad news, two NFL players (Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith) and two other men (Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler) were on a fishing trip in Florida when the weather turned bad and their boat overturned. Schuyler was rescued. The other three have not been found, and hope is fading.

Matt Cassell trade
Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassell and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for pick #34 in the NFL draft. Even with the high value teams place on draft picks, I think this is a great deal for the Chiefs. It is true that Cassell had a lot of weapons at his disposal in New England, but you still have to make effective use of those weapons.

Manny
Manny Ramirez ended months of posturing by finally signing a contract with the Dodgers. Manny will make $25 million in 2009, with a player option of $20M in 2010. $25M of the money is deferred over the span of five years. I’m not a big fan of the player option. In theory, this would allow Manny to hit .200 with 5 HR, and then exercise his option and make $20M in 2010 – but if he hit .370 with 50 HRs, he could opt out and perhaps sign with the Yankees for $30M. If you wanted Manny for two years, make it a regular two year contract.

Kurt Warner
In negotiations that were considerably better (although Warner did allow the 49ers to woo him) Kurt Warner signed a deal with the Cardinals – two years with a total compensation of $23M. Warner will give back $2M if the Cardinals are able to renegotiate the contract of WF Anquan Boldin. I’m a big fan of Warner (although my wife is even more of a fan) and I’m hoping he lights up the skies again next year. Maybe he can seal the deal and win a Super Bowl for the Cardinals (how strange does that sound) and punch his ticket to Canton.

TCO weekend
The Soap Boxers will bring you some light reading this weekend.

Saturday: Some good time wasters on the internet
Sunday: The importance of a good fantasy team name

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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