February 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Venezuela wins Caribbean Series

A team from Venezuela has won this year's Caribbean Series, for the first time since 2006, and the country's seventh such victory overall. Solid pitiching, consistent playing, and clutch hitting were said to be the decisive factors in their triumph. The Aragua Tigres (Tigers) defeated the Mazatlan Venados (Deer) from Mexico, thus remaining undefeated in the series with five straight wins. The final stage of the 51st Caribbean Series was played in Mexicali, Mexico, within shouting distance of California. Even though the Venezuelans have already clinched the title, they still have to play later today (Saturday) because of the round-robin playoff format. They will face Puerto Rico (1-4), while the second-place Mexican team (3-2) faces the Dominican Republic (1-4). All that is left to be decided is who will finish third place and fourth place, and a tie is still possible. See MLB.com and El Universal (in Spanish).

And speaking of international baseball tournaments, the second Winter Baseball Classic will begin on March 5, less than a month from now. The venues include the Tokyo Dome, Foro Sol (in Mexico City), Rogers Centre, Hiram Bithorn Stadium, PETCO Park, and Dolphin Stadium. I've already made diagrams for all of those stadiums except Foro Sol. Hmmm...

Varitek stays in Boston

It took a lot of haggling and a physical exam to nail down the deal, but catcher Jason Varitek and the Red Sox agreed to terms on a one-year $5 million contract that includes an option for 2010. Last year he batted only .220, and at age 36, his future prospects seem to be narrowing. Nevertheless, he is still popular as one of the core players who led the Red Sox out of the darkness into championship status in 2004. Varitek had declined the team's offer of arbitration on Dec. 7, creating much anxiety in Beantown. See MLB.com.

Nats give Perez a chance

The Washington Nationals have signed left-hand pitcher Odalis Perez to a Minor League contract, giving him an opportunity to compete for the starting rotation in spring training; see MLB.com. It's a bit of a comedown for the guy who threw the first-ever pitch in an official game at Nationals Park on March 30 last year.

Was A-Rod on steroids?

UPDATE: Sports Illustrated reports that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, while he was playing for the Texas Rangers, just before he was traded to the Yankees. He was one of 104 players who had positive drug tests, according to an internal MLB survey done that year. There were no explicit prohibitions against such drugs back then, hoewver, so the effect of this news, if true, will purely in terms of his reputation. Unlike Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire, Rodriguez has flatly denied allegations of past drug use. See Yahoo News; hat tip to Bruce Orser. This comes on the heels of the unflattering remarks about A-Rod in Joe Torre's new book.