Monday, February 25, 2008

Israel Baseball: Our readers go to bat

We’ve given up on figuring out the blogsites suddenly spurting out overly-optimistic and even blind-to-reality spinposts about the Israel Baseball League in and around the IBL’s own surprise resurgence of spin. It appears that sites like The Bleacher Report simply regurgitate press releases, while blogs like Japan’s My World of Baseball are merely six months behind the ball, definitely overlooked our most recent report from Our Man Elli in Israel or are no more than rubber bouncing boards of other people’s propaganda, as in this latest curveball in its talk of the World Baseball Classic:

"…In 2013 it has been announced that the World Baseball Classic will be expanded to 24 teams. This would accommodate teams in countries that baseball is growing such as Israel, which announced the opening day of its second season for June 22. If the Israeli Baseball league can survive their financial struggles they would be a team added along with probably two additional teams from Europe. Two teams in Europe would allow a first round matchup to be played there. "

If the Israeli Baseball League can survive their financial struggles?”


See what we're up against? As it turns out, four days away from the drop-dead deadline for someone to get plans for a professional baseball summer season locked down, the most sensible responses and suggestions about come from the readers of this site (the clearinghouse for Israel baseball news, and thanks to the reportage and hard work of Our Man Elli, the definitive, first source and site-of-record).

"Let's please note the good and bad
so we get a complete picture
of the league as it was."

Some readers took umbrage at our snide—and probably unjust-- dismissal of IBL players who’ve signed to other, better-respected pro leagues:

Anonymous said...

Come on now! Let's be real here. You make it sound like none of these guys have any talent, and the entire thing is a joke. LET'S GET SERIOUS AND GO DOWN THE LIST BEFORE YOU START RIPPING ON THE PLAYERS!

You don't mention Maximo Nelson who got 6 figures to play in Japan for their league champion!

Juan Feliciano was offered AAA contracts by three teams, and turned them down for more $$$ in Mexico.

The Yankees don't just throw away money (except on A-Rod), Reese and Rodriguez were signed because they can help the organization, and have the tools to succeed. Publicity Stunt my a$$!

By the way, have you looked at the rosters of the teams Feliciano and Rodriguez played on this winter in the Dominican? 10 major league players, and 16 at AAA. Is that a publicity stunt also?

The players struggling in the minors are playing for Independent league teams - the equal to AA -AAA in the afiliated minor leagues. These guys do get signed directly to major league rosters, and they are available to ANY major league team!

How many players do you think get invites to spring training? Everyone knows someone, and if everyone got a gift invitation, there would be 100 invites at every camp.

I say kudos to Dan Duquette - at least someone was doing their job!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person above.
 There was lots of talent in the IBL. The problem was, its difficult to see talent when your players are food-poisoned, forced into summer camp living conditions, play in 90˚ heat with high humidity at mid-day, and play on fields that represent...well, nothing comes to mind to explain how bad it was playing in Gezer and Sportek.
 I'm sure that 'Tabloid Baby' doesn't have any baseball experience ever, so it's easy to criticize when his view of baseball is following Sportscenter, but the truth is that the starting lineups, and many of the pitchers, were all-conference at every level of college, and have played minor leagues, meaning that people with baseball knowledge saw these players as near the top of the game, enough to invest in them.

If you put random MLB players in the IBL, they would have similar season statistics, because most would detest the horrendous situation. The Players of the IBL deserve to be applauded for overcoming the shortcomings of the IBL Brass (and officials) to have provided an entertaining season.

Thanks guys, and thanks TabloidBaby for providing us with the updates (even if they are full of barely stomach-able cynicism) :-)

Anonymous said...

The IBL HAS provided others than are even mentioned in Duquette's note with the chance to continue in baseball. I noticed on the web that Ra'anana infielder Brendan Rubenstein has been signed to play in the Frontier League for this year. Give credit where credit is due, a fair number of the stronger players HAVE gotten the exposure to continue their quest to move up the baseball ladder because there was an IBL. The financial and moral problems of the league have been well documented and are all too real, but there was some good that was produced also. Let's please note the good and bad so we get a complete picture of the league as it was.

"For baseball to succeed in Israel,
you need good, solid baseball players
who can relate to the fan base
and can promote the game."

Others debated how a successor to the IBL would best serve their own interests, the interest of the sport, and the interest of the fans in Israel:

Seth said...

Everybody here is missing the point. Everyone wants to talk about how great the players were, and how amazing it is that they're getting exposure and new contracts in other professional baseball leagues. Mazel tov to them, whoopee.

The bottom line is: NOBODY IN ISRAEL CARES. For baseball to succeed in Israel, you don't need AAA players. You don't need players from 8 countries or whatever. You don't need 90-mph fastballs and knee-buckling curves.

What you DO need is good, solid baseball players who can relate to the fan base, and can promote the game. No kid from Tel Aviv can tell the difference between a single-A and a double-A quality player. He doesn't give a damn whether the pitch is going 92-mph or 82-mph, or probably even 72-mph. What he can do is tell the difference between someone who speaks his language (or makes an effort to communicate in some form or another) and a bunch of randoms who are trying to showcase their talents for leagues abroad.

As long as Duquette thinks the IBL "will be the league of choice for international players," this league is doomed. I hope Rosen realizes that he needs more Israelis and less foreigners. He needs more personality and less unpredictability. And most of all, he needs a freaking Marketing major to explain to him that Israel is not America, and that he should approach this league like a not-for-profit organization, at least for the first few years.

Best of luck. Sure hope somebody's reading this.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with you more. You don't think that you need high level talent to succeed? Why has there been a 30% increase in enrollment in youth baseball since last season. You think that kids won't notice the 41 year old center fielder who keeps dropping the ball and can't run anymore, or the 3rd baseman who throws every other ball into the bleachers and bats .097, or the pitcher that walks 10 and strikes out 1.

Having international players is important. The game is international, and the Israeli players need to see that there are options and opportunities in other contries. How many Israeli kids know that they play baseball in Canada, Australia, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, France... It's not just an American game. Did the kids cheer less loudly for the Dominicans, than the Americans? It's also a chance to meet players from a different culture, and get over the fear and distrust many of the children as well as the adults have of anything foreign.

Yeah, you do need good solid baseball players. Baseball games can take 4 hrs when you have pitchers who don't throw strikes, and hitters that can't hit a ball over a fence, and runners who trip over the bag, and 7 errors every game. Do you think any kid will stay and watch that?

I live in the US, and I sure know the difference between a good and a bad soccer team, and I hate soccer! I'd watch a National team, but sure as heck won't watch a DIII soccer game. Kids are a lot smarter than you think, and they watch ESPN even in Israel and have some understanding of the difference between good and bad baseball.

I'm not in total disagreement though. Having Israeli players is important, and there should be a minimum, which should be increased each year up to at least 50%, but more important is every team should have an Israeli assistant coach to really learn the game so they can teach the game properly when the season ends. We need players to help run clinics, and players who care enough to participate, and communicate with the children. We need Israeli coaches to take part in the clinics, as well as some of the local HS aged players. Most of all you need time and patience, because the game will catch on, just as basketball did, and soccer has in the US.

By the way, Our Man Elli’s description of Boston bagel baron Larry Baras as “The Wizard of Iz” in last week’s interview was shorthand for “The Wizard of Israel”-- a reference to “the Wizard of Oz,” who as generations know, was not really a wizard at all, just a man behind a curtain.


Anonymous said...

Management of the league was surely inept at best and corrupt at worst, that is completely obvious. What was not so obvious is the quality of the top players. These young men were able to perform at an acceptable level despite being treated in an unacceptable way. Athletes need to be given certain things to be able to perform at their best. Not money, but food, food supplements, training facilities, access to good sleeping quarters, ice, batting tunnels, practice etc. For the players to perform as well as they did is commendable and should not be forgotten in all the management mess that we know as the IBL. These players were special people and I believe not enough good things have been said about them.

YHO said...

Another issue: the IBL was not marketed to Israelis. Not just not marketed effectively, but not marketed at all. They should have been giving out free tickets at Israeli pro basketball games and soccer games and at malls, complete with a discount food voucher, to try to get Israelis to give baseball a try. There should have been available free at every game a Hebrew booklet explaining the rules and the flow of play.

Speaking of tickets, did anyone else notice that not only were the tickets entirely in English, but half the back of the ticket was taken up with a rain check policy (also entirely in English) that has absolutely *no relevance* in Israel, where it *never* rains in the summer. How Israeli-unfriendly is that?

Also, teams were all entirely foreign owned. Each team should have had substantial local ownership interest, so that locals could have advised the league what would sell in their locales.

The bottom line is that the IBL was amazingly successful with the Anglo immigrant community, which is a necessary *but not sufficient* condition for success overall. I hope the next group learns some of these lessons.

Anonymous said...

The next group is even more stupider than the first

Anonymous said...

"More Stupider"? Hello pot, meet kettle! Some people just should not have access to a computer!

Anonymous said...

Sure some players looked great.
However,their stats were padded by some lousy players and inferior players. Errors were called hits, bad hops were the rule in most places played. Hope they make it to MBL but take some HGH first

Anonymous said...

It is very true that the stats can not be relied on to mean too much. The biggest problem I saw was the lack of basic baseball knowledge by the people serving as "official" scorers. The did not know enough to serve that function. But hey, most of the people running the league were not competent to hold the positions they held.

Anonymous said...

most of the people running the league were not competent to hold the positions they held. - most??? who WAS competent?

Anonymous said...

Andrew Wilson and Dave Ratner did a fantastic job considering they had a million dollar business dumped in their lap days out of college, and Dan Duquette did his job as well recruiting good players, and more importantly good people. Shoot, Ratner built a field in a week!!!

Other than that, you got me! The coaches maybe? Hertz, Holtz, Pearlman, Shamsky, Ferrara, Baran, Smith - they all seemed to know their stuff. Heck Holtzman walked out, and Blomberg was great with the fans at the games I went to, but he missed more than half the season. I don't blame Blomberg because he told me that they hired him knowing he would have to leave, but who hires a guy who knows he has to leave halfway through the season? Make him a coach then, not the manager. I don't know how Holtz and Pearlman kept that team together! Then to have him jump back in and take over with a week left in the season? Crazy!

Anonymous said...

Who needed Blomberg? Holtz and Perlman picked the best players and had the best team by far . It was their expert managerial skills that made them winners.

Anonymous said...

blomberg didn;t miss half the season - he missed 69% of the season. he was only there for 13 games out of 41.

Anonymous said...

shows what a great job holtz and perlman did

Anonymous said...

"not marketed to israelis"
"give out tickets" "hebrew rule books"
come on give 'em a break
they built something out of nothing. "fields weren't great" - no shit, what did you expect Camden Yard
"Living quarters sucked" - being in israel in the conditions they had probably is better than playing "A" ball in some dusty town in arkansas taking 8 hour bus rides to your next game

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