Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Urgent! Eladio's dream could end by the weekend!

The E-Rod saga is moving faster than we can keep up. And it could be ending just as quickly! From Chad Jennings' Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre Yankees blog:

"...Chad Moeller is back with the Yankees and Chris Stewart has been optioned -- at least, the assumption in New York is that it's an option, no official word yet -- back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Triple-A team won't have to make a move because Stewart will take Britton's spot on the roster. At least, that's probably how it will be for a day or two. I doubt the Triple-A team will carry three catchers for very long.

"I also doubt the Yankees will keep five catchers on the 40-man for very long. It's worth keeping Stewart for now, especially while the team is waiting for a time table on Jorge Posada, but five catchers take up a lot of space on the 40-man."

Our Man Elli in Israel translates:

"No one picked up Moeller. He's back with the Yanks. This guy quoted above is right-- the Yanks won't and can't keep five catchers on the 40-man roster for long. That means E-Rod could be gone by the weekend-- and that could mean the end of the dream of seeing an IBL alum make the bigs. And that would be sad for everyone involved. All of us. Like you said, E-Rod united us, only this time it would be in sorrow."

Update: Eladio's AAA debut makes headlines!

The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
April 30, 2008
Pair star
in Triple-A
debuts for
Chris Kunda has 2-run double
Eladio Rodriguez has hit
and catches the entire game.

MIKE HAIM For the Times Leader

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Two players making their Triple-A debuts played key roles as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees broke out of their scoring slump.

Chris Kunda was a defensive replacement and stroked a two-run double in his first at-bat, and Eladio Rodriguez was 1-for-3 and caught the entire game, as the Yankees withstood a valiant comeback try by the Buffalo Bisons to claim a 10-6 victory on Tuesday night.

Rodriguez found comfort in his debut, working with starting pitcher Dan Giese, who has become the sudden stopper in the Yankees’ starting rotation. Rodriguez last year was the co-MVP in the initial season of the Israeli Baseball League.

A 29-year-old whose last experience in the U.S. minor leagues was in 2004 as a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization, Rodriguez was signed by the New York Yankees last October and was stashed on the roster of short-season Staten Island before his promotion to Scranton on Monday.

“Our starting pitching was very strong,” Rodriguez said. “When the pitcher throws strikes, the catcher looks good.”

Giese (2-0) was quite effective despite giving up a pair of runs in the fifth inning. The two-run dent marked the first time this season he had yielded more than one run in any game and raised his earned run average this season to 1.35.

Miley was pleased not only with the win, but the progress of his two new players.

“They played well,” said Miley. “Rodriguez was fine behind the plate. I had never seen him play. Kunda’s double was the lead until we added a couple in the ninth. I’m happy the way they played.”

E-Rod doubles, walks twice in AAA Yanks debut

He’s not an Israeli. He doesn't have family in Israel. He's not even a Jew. He was in fact, a “ringer” from the Dominican Republic, brought in with several countrymen to bolster the roster of a fledgling hardball operation. But after his Triple A debut last night as catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Eladio Rodriguez is the Pride of The Israel Baseball League.

Playing against the Buffalo Bisons in Buffalo, E-Rod hit a double and walked twice in the Yankees' 10-2 win. The Bisons scored one run in the eighth off a passed ball to Eladio, but he was not charged with an error.

The hopes pinned on Eladio by both the Yankees and IBL is the most unlikely twist yet in the saga of baseball in Israel. After a knockabout journeyman career that had him on the mound and behind the plate, playing under various aliases and getting-- and losing a shot-- at The Big Show with the Boston Red Sox more than a decade ago, he went on to become IBL batting champ and co-MVP, only to have his minor league contract with the New York Yankees mocked as a publicity stunt to generate investment in the IBL. When he didn’t even show up for spring training in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the laughter intensifed.

But after a chain of mishaps starting with Yankee pitcher Jorge Posada’s injured throwing shoulder, Israel’s E-Rod is behind the plate in Scranton and looking for a possible move up to The Big Show after all.

Even more unlikely, this Spanish-speaking béisboler who's batting .333 has united all sides in the post-season Israel baseball conflict as friend and foe alike cheer him toward Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

¡Viva Eladio! ¡VIVA E-ROD!

Our Man Elli in Israel checks in from Jerusalem on the surprise developments in the New York Yankees organization that could lead to the presence of Eladio "E-Rod" Rodriguez, the Miguel Tejada of the Israel Baseball League, behind the plate for the Yanks' historic last season in the House That Ruth Built (Remember, E-Rod's signing was laughed off as a publicity stunt-- and he never showed up for spring training!

Elli emails:

"I want to point out that E-Rod is the first IBL graduate to make it to Triple A. I don't think there's even one IBL vet in Double A. That's huge. Huge! Larry Baras, of course, must be crowing to all his friends-- both of them (Duquette and Berger-- about how successful the IBL was in getting a player to Triple A. Truth be told, it would never have happened if Posada hadn't gone on the DL, and the Yanks' third-string catcher wasn't released just last Friday-- but what a turn of events!

"That Peter Abraham thinks he'll be in New York soon enough is a stretch, but look at all the crazy self-fulling prophesies that came from the IBL! The way things are going-- it could happen! And THAT would be the living end!

"That's what baseball is all about!"

¡Viva Eladio! ¡VIVA E-ROD!

Eladio Update: "He'll be in New York soon!"

"Chad Jennings reported on his blog last night that the Yankees added the former MVP of the Israel Baseball League to the Scranton roster as a backup catcher. The way things are going with the Yankees, Eladio Rodriguez will be in New York soon enough."
--Peter Abraham,
The LoHud Yankees Blog, The Journal News
of New York's Lower Hudson Valley

Jerusalem Post's editor-blogger: "No Israel baseball book, but I may pen follow-up story for the Post"

Jerusalem Post writer and editor Sam Ser says he’s not planning a book about the rise and fall of the Israel Baseball League, nor was he greasing the skids for an IBL PR swing yesterday when he posted a glowing, ten-month-old Post story about the IBL’s Opening Day (the Jerusalem Post’s last substantial story on the IBL shonda) on his website.

But Sam Ser says he is planning to write an update on the IBL’s saga— the details of which have been painstakingly laid out here, thanks to the intrepid and fearless reporting of Our Man Elli in Israel.

Sam Ser responds this morning to our story yesterday about the appearance on his website of the long, heartwarming story that appeared in the Jerusalam Post magazine back in June of last year. Its sudden resurfacing amid a surge of outdated and misleading Israel baseball postings across the Internet that have given the impression that the league is alive and well-- along with the Post’s lack of attention on its major hometown story-- led us to ask if Sam was planning a book.

That answer is "no." It turns out Sam Ser is a friend of Our Man Elli (who’s carried the water for every well-paid “mainstream” sports reporter in the business when it came to covering the rise and fall of the Israel Baseball League, painting an evolving and sobering picture of the shattered dreams and unpaid bills left behind by the carpetbagging American businessmen who made a “quick hit” before stealing home and leaving Israel without professional baseball this year or possibly years to come).

Elli got in touch with Sam, who’s packing for a US lecture tour. Sam emails Our Man Elli to say he’s not planning a book, there were no ulterior motives in posting that and other stories on what's essentially an archival site for his extensive writings on many Israel-related subjects (he'd uploaded dozens of stories yesterday).

And he says that we, in our sarcasm, were off base. We will not argue the call.

Monday, April 28, 2008

¡Viva Eladio! IBL star & his visa make the NY Times

As we've said and keep saying, the Israel Baseball League is suddenly in play all of a sudden. Moments ago, the broken dream got a mention in tomorrow's edition of the stately New York Times, thanks to its breakout star and our new IBL poster boy Eladio Rodriguez, who wandered into a New York Yankees minor league locker room weeks after he was expected from his home in the Dominican Republic:

"CLEVELAND — Jorge Posada left the Yankees on Monday to visit Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Ala., and it could be a long time before he rejoins the active roster. "

"...(Manager Joe) Girardi said José Molina would catch roughly four out of five games in Posada’s absence, and another backup, Chris Stewart, joined the Yankees on Monday...

"To take Stewart’s place in Scranton, the Yankees added Eladio Rodríguez, who was the co-most valuable player of the Israel Baseball League last season. Rodríguez, from the Dominican Republic, missed spring training because of visa problems."

To think: This morning he was missing, tonight he's in the NY Times! What's next? Reclusive IBL founder Larry Baras surfacing in a feature story on kosher hot dogs? Oh.

Why are so many bloggers & sports reporters suddenly writing about the Israel Baseball League as if it's brand new or just getting into full swing?

Something wacky’s going on with the sportsbloggers and news mavens of Israel. Close to a year after the debut of the Israel Baseball League, and more than eight months after the first harbingers of its imminent collapse, every major news organization in the world has basically ignored or given short shrift to a scandalous sports story of international proportions that has unspooled under their noses— yet suddenly, amateur and professional bloggers alike are writing lyrically about the failed Israel Baseball League as if it’s just thrown out its first pitch or is launching into a new phase of nostalgic wonderfulness.

What gives?

The latest is shows up on the Sam Ser blogsite, an archive of feature stories written by a guy who introduces himself as “a news editor and features writer for The Jerusalem Post, where I have worked since 2000.

“My articles have explored issues of Israeli security and strategy, from the effectiveness of targeted killings against Hamas to the Iranian threat and the Second Lebanon War; cultural exposes on the Israeli mafia; the growth of Israel’s economy; anti-Semitism and interfaith relations; environmental policy vis-à-vis water, alternative energy and greenhouse gas emissions; editorials on current events, and much more."

Today, Sam reprints his piece called “Take Me Out to Ballgame,” which, if you read the small print, was originally published (in the Jerusalem Post magazine) on June 28, 2007:

“They came in carpools from Ra’anana. They came in
 convertibles from Beersheba. They took public buses 
from Jerusalem and got off on the highway at rush 
hour, walking a mile in a heat wave without a word of

"How long had they been waiting for this?

"Standing patiently in a single line at the gate, but
 hopping up and down with excitement, they turned to
the people around them and beamed in unison. Everyone
 knew how momentous this was. Once inside, they rushed
 to stands that offered memorabilia of teams which had 
never played a single game - and practically cleaned
 them out.

"Some jogged off to a clear patch of grass, a safe 
distance away from the crowd, and started playing
 catch. As if they were preparing to take the field
 themselves, they pounded their fists into leather 
mitts that had last seen action in another time. In
another country. In another life.

"Officially, they came to see the Petah Tikva Pioneers
 ‘host’ the Modi’in Miracle in the first game of the 
first season of the first professional baseball league
in Israel. Declaredly, they had come to support and 
celebrate the arrival of the sport they never forgot
 to the country they always loved.

"But really, deep down, they had all come for one
 simple pleasure: To feel like a kid again.

"The Israel Baseball League, the creation of American
 Jewish businessmen and Jews connected to Major League
 Baseball, is different... from 
the American original... The games go seven innings instead of
 nine, with ties decided by a home run derby instead of
 extra innings. There are no multimillion dollar prima
donnas here - the players will make $2,000 for a
 45-game season, plus modest expenses - and most of the
120 players are North American Jews. Only a dozen are 
Israeli (immigrants or children of immigrants,
 actually), while several have come from the Dominican
 Republic, and a few hail from other countries.

"One thing pleasantly lacking from Sunday’s ceremonies
 was any sense of pretense, from the players and the 
fans alike…"

And so it goes. Read the entire Jerusalem Post story and a layer of the IBL comes to life. But then click here and read Our Man Elli in Israel’s exposé of that first season that was first published here exactly two months later.

And then go to our Baseball in Israel archive site and dig into the epilogue, in which the people running the league hightailed it out of town leaving behind a million and half dollars of debts, and a lot of angry vendors and players and ordinary Israelis, left holding the bag while hiding behind a wall of silence that no mainstream journalist-- especially not the hometown kahunas at the Jerusalem Post-- has bothered to scale.

Reprinted ten months after the fact, Sam Ser’s lengthy post is a nice book proposal. But with its somewhat prescient apologies for Larry Baras and his organization, we wonder exactly why it’s appeared now, amid rumors of the baseball clinics or exhibition games that Baras and his cronies are planning as an offering to the Israeli people, like John Gotti’s Fourth of July fireworks displays or Thanksgiving turkeys thrown from the back of Nicky Barnes’ truck in Harlem.

Nice writing, Sam Ser. But why didn't you follow up? Now, if you’re really an editor, assign someone at the hometown paper to cover the biggest international sports story of 2008. There’s your book. Our book.

(Sam Ser's site says he'll be speaking May 4th at the Temple Shir Shalom and May 5th at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan; May 7th at the Ezra Bessaroth synagogue in Seattle and May 9th in Phoenix.)


Baseball magic is alive!

And so is
Eladio Rodriguez!

Earlier this afternoon, we'd asked about the whereabouts of the venerable 29-year-old catcher from the Dominican Republic who made a hit-- (lots of hits, batting .461) with the Modi'in Miracle of the Israel Baseball League and won a contract with the New York Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania minor league team-- but never showed up for Spring Training.

Our exact words: "Where's Eladio?"

And then... hours ago... amid talk of "visa problems" and multiple aliases... forgotten by fans... unexpectedly... ELADIO SHOWED UP !

Chad Jennings of the Scranton Times-Tribune Yankees blog has the exclusive:

"Hard to see this move coming.

"Needing a second catcher after Chris Stewart was called to New York, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Monday added Eladio Rodriguez, the 29-year-old former Israel Baseball League co-MVP.

"Rodriguez was one of two players signed by the Yankees out of the IBL this winter. The other, Jason Rees, was released during spring training. Rodriguez, meanwhile, never made it to spring training because of visa problems. When Mark Newman told me this spring this spring that Rodriguez wasn't in spring training, I took him to mean that Rodriguez was out of the Yankees fold completely.

"Instead, Rodriguez said this afternoon that visa problems kept him out of the United States until April 4, at which point he reported to extended spring training. He's been there ever since and said he feels ready to play.

"His history is a strange one. Originally signed by Boston as a non-drafted free agent, Rodriguez was an outfielder and catcher in the Red Sox system, but this fan site and his stats in the Yankees media guide say he spent all of 2004 as a pitcher (that link has the same stats listed in the media guide). When I asked Rodriguez about pitching, though, he said he had only pitched one or two times in his career and refered to himself as having always been a catcher.

"Maybe there was some miscommunication because of the language barrier, but I didn't feel like we were misunderstanding one another. Either way, last year's stats in Israel were amazing: 34 games, 16 home runs, .461 batting average and 44 RBIs. He's not in the lineup tonight, but he could be interesting to watch once he gets in a game. Amazing that in less than a month this team has gone from Chad Moeller and Chris Stewart to Jason Brown and Eladio Rodriguez."

The story continues to unfold...

IBL's Jake Ayers trades bagels for Saltdogs

The Lincoln Saltdogs of Lincoln, Nebraska and the independent American Association baseball league have a refugee from the Israel Baseball League on the roster as they take to the field tonight for the first time in 2008 as they head to Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota for a pair of exhibition games against their longtime rivals, the Saints.

Our Sports Central reports that The Saltdogs head into the pre-season with 27 players on their spring roster, including one non-roster invitee, catcher Jake Ayers. The 6’ 1’’ native of Peoria, Illinois native played in 21 IBL games with the league champion Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. According to American Association rules, The Saltdogs can carry as many as 28 players on their roster until three days before the regular season begins on May 8th, when they have to cut back to 22 active players.

And as we salute Jake on his good fortune, we ask that somebody set straight the folks behind the Selfish Teams blogsite, who report today that in a “new development” in Israel, “a new league was formed this past year that’s called The Israel Baseball League — with stadiums in places near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Among the feats accomplished during the season, catcher Eladio Rodriguez of the Modi’in Miracle (and, contractually, the New York Yankees) hit .461 with 102 at-bats…

“Interestingly, in case you wonder about the citizenry of Eladio Rodriguez, the IBL does not presently have any rules on citizenship; however, it’s their stated goal to ‘to raise the level of play throughout the country so that at least 25% of the players in the league are Israeli by Year 5’ (of the League)…”

A new development? Year 5???

Eladio, as our readers know, never showed up for Spring Training with the Yankees farm team to which he’d been assigned. And since he’s been known to travel from his native Dominican Republic to other nations to play ball under a variety of assumed names, we also ask, “Where’s Eladio?”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Israel baseball's stat king is back at the plate

“I was glad someone took the IBL seriously enough
to report the true stories behind the league.
The road from there to the IBL's ultimate collapse
was not inevitable, but was rather the product
of decisions made by key individuals along the way,
some of whose motives remain unclear.”

bIBLemetrics, the website that deconstructed the first season of the Israel Baseball League through statistical analysis, has lain dormant since a “Fat Lady has sung” posting in January, but thanks to our recent salute to the man behind it, there’s new life to the site and more fascinating data and statistics to come.

At the urging of Our Man Elli in Israel, we pointed out the anonymous, self-described “Iblemetrician” as one of the Good Guys in the Israel baseball saga.

“He alone gave credit to Tabloid Baby for every bit of information that he shared with his readers,” Elli said. “And this guy devoted all this effort, in effect, to the players themselves. And they’re the real beneficiaries of all that work. Indeed, those inside-baseball numbers he produced just might REALLY be all that the IBL players walk away with from the summer of 2007.”

In his usual self-effacing, low key fashion, the Israel-based Iblemetrician fired up his site once again-- to say “Aw, shucks!”:

“What can I say? I'm honored - the Brits would say chuffed - and more than a little stunned that the one-and-only IBL journalist Elli Wohlgelernter has singled me out (anonymous little old me!) for praise due to my writings about the IBL.

“Wow. Thanks. I thought all I was doing was enjoying baseball (and statistics) a bit too much for my own good...

“But I've learned a lot about baseball this past year, and I only stopped posting to the blog because I was too busy with the rest of my life. I hope to get back to it when I can find the time again. Maybe I'll finally get to those pitcher comparisons.

“By sheer coincidence, this blog got going just as Elli's original feature story was released. I didn't enjoy what I read, but I was glad someone took the IBL seriously enough to report the true stories behind the league. The road from there to the IBL's ultimate collapse was not inevitable, but was rather the product of decisions made by key individuals along the way, some of whose motives remain unclear.

“All along, I've tried to be honest and fair, neither a cheerleader nor a fearmongerer. I still think most of the leading figures in the league had their hearts in the right places, though not always their heads. If that makes me a Good Guy, I'm proud to be one…”

Hey, we’re not going to steal site views from the Iblemetrician. Click here to read his entire post, and then surf around one of the most fascinating obsessions in sports.

And click here for our authoritative and comprehensive Baseball in Israel archive site.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Israel Baseball: It's over, but not over til it's over

Picture this: players under the banner of the Israel Baseball League and recruits wearing Israeli Professional Baseball League jerseys playing dueling exhibition games in the Holy Land— because neither league could get it together to get off the ground, but the machers behind each want to keep their name brand alive.

Welcome to the wacky world of professional baseball in Israel!

Here’s what we’re hearing:

There won’t be a season of professional baseball in Israel this summer, and for that we truly mourn. We weep. We rend our garments. We sit shiva. We take no pleasure in the news. But we do manage to giggle inappropriately when we hear what the machers behind the IBL and its wannabe successor, the IPBL, are doing to keep their claws in the Israel soil.

Where to begin?

The Israel Professional Baseball League, a rebel band born of the controversy and conflagration surrounding the IBL’s financial scandal, still hasn’t gotten the certification from the Israel Association of Baseball that would allow it to do business. One reason is that the IPBL has not agreed to pick up the million dollars in debt left by Larry Baras and his IBL. We hear that Miami Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen (the guy who can’t get Our Man Elli in Israel’s name right) has offered a payoff of $50,000 for the rights—for 2009!

“Fifty grand— and that wasn’t to pay off the debts,” says our source under the olive tree. “That's for next year-- and fifty geezels is mighty cheap to lock up rights for 2009, when the bidding could go higher.

“Nobody else was willing to operate a league in 2008, and that was where the IPBL always had the advantage. But if that is no longer the case, there will probably be real competition for 2009, and license rights will have a significantly higher value. Think about it. 2009? They’d have a year to plan and do it for once the right way. To option future rights for $50,000—even seventy-five— acch! Such a deal!”

Meanwhile, a source at our favorite falefel stand tells us that the IPBL had been negotiating for playing fields— to little avail. The city of Bat Yam got cold feet, perhaps because the IPBL hadn’t gotten that IAB approval, and Rana'ana backed out because the city didn’t want to give up the field for an entire season. Why not?

They wanted to let the grass grow before soccer season in the fall!

In Israel, soccer is always king. Don't step on the grass.

As a result, Rosen was forced to go back to try to work out a deal with Gezer and Baptist Village, which initially he did not want to do. Ultimately, with no venue to market—and no revenue-- the IPBL couldn't launch a marketing plan.

End of season. Dream deferred.

But how to stay alive in the minds of the sabras?

As Our Man Elli told us earlier this month, the IPBL floated a plan to play exhibition games in Israel this summer, with teams comprised of players born in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, and possibly, Europe.

And now we hear (as a helpful commenter pointed out yesterday) that the IBL is pushing a similar plan. Word is that IBL President Martin Berger has been phoning former players and inviting them to come to Israel this summer to help conduct baseball clinics. And if enough players show up, why not put on some exhibition games of their own?

The only catch: The players must pay their own way!

“It’s to laugh!” says our spy at a Via Dolorosa souvenir stall. “Who would come to see their games? Feh! It’s a PR stunt to show that the IBL has its feet in the ground still. But how funny would that be? The IBL and IPBL both! Showing off!”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Israel baseball blogger catches up quickly

The Mets fan who runs the 213 Miles from Shea site and recently expanded to the world scene with The Great International Pastime site has quickly brought himself up to date on the state of baseball in Israel.

The new site that explores American imperialism through the exportation of baseball to countries across the globe went up earlier his month. Earlier this week, blogger Elliott earlier this week treated the Israel Baseball League as a continuing enterprise, instead of the monumental failure it turned into. After we pointed out the error in a post titled "Israel baseball blogger arrives late to the game," Elliott got in touch and we continued in a very pleasant email exchange that led him to add our Baseball in Israel archive site to his link list and, last night, a new posting that reads in part:

The past few days have been a whirlwind of information about Israeli Baseball for me and I am just starting to get a grip on the story. When I posted… before, the information I had on the IBL came from their website. I thought it was a little strange that their last update was on February 20th, but I really didn’t think anything of it.
 My full intention… was to tell a story about conversation I had with my Israeli cousins over the weekend… they told me that they have never heard of professional baseball in Israel. I was astonished…

One of my cousins was also talking about how Americans always think that Israeli’s need some sort of distraction in their world. She went on to say that in her view, the attacks and everything around that are just events of her daily life, and she got used to them. That led me to start thinking about who’s interest are we trying to serve here.

Luckily, Sam Peters of Tabloidbaby opened my eyes to the entire issue. To literally quote part of our email correspondence:

 “A major flaw in the Israel Baseball League blueprint was its lack of
promotion among native Israelis. They were
playing to a US-based big money audience and not the punters who fill the
stands-- which is why your cousins never
heard of the league. How could that be possible?

 It is.”

This pretty much answers the question that the needs and “dreams” of the United States were really being granted in this expedition. This is a theme I hope to touch on later with the recent promotion of baseball in China.

…The IBL, albeit not officially announced on their website, will not be playing ball next year.
 This is an example of exporting of baseball that did not work.

Check out The Great International Pastime site. It promises to grow into quite an authoritative destination. As for Elliott, he’s definitely one of the good guys

UPDATE: Oy! See how factoids and disinformation spread? Now somebody set this guy straight...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Our Israel Baseball Good Guy Award goes to the anonymous Iblemetrician for his love of the game

“At some point, in some post, we should point out that not everyone who has written about the Israel Baseball League in the past ten months is misinformed or behind the curve,” says Our Man Elli in Israel from a table at the Café 1868 kosher restaurant on Beth Lechem Road in Baka, Jerusalem’s last real neighborhood. “One guy in particular has been honest in his writing, pure in his study of the sport, and straightforward about giving credit where it’s due.

“I salute the man behind bIBLmetrics. He’s a software engineer who took the game and the promise of the league so seriously that he applied sabermetrics (analysis of baseball through statistics) to try and make some baseball sense out of stats from a league that was defunct the day the season ended.

“He calls himself ‘iblemetrician,’ and he spent an unbelieveable amount of time doing this for the love of the game.

“The Iblemetrician, though, he alone gave credit to Tabloid Baby for every bit of information that he shared with his readers. I don’t think there's a website editor alive who can boast that— except maybe Luke Ford, but he did it in passing. And this guy devoted all this effort, in effect, to the players themselves. And they’re the real beneficiaries of all that work. Indeed, those inside-baseball numbers he produced just might REALLY be all that the IBL players walk away with from the summer of 2007 . Those stats and the memories of having played with some really great guys.

“Look, it’s your site, I realize you’re protecting the brand and the exclusives we’ve gathered, but there’s been a real negativity recently with all the anonymous sniping. And the apologists are clever, claiming we’re actually happy that the crooks and schnooks fouled out for 2008.”

Thanks, Elli. And in fact, we we did indeed salute the Iblemetrician back in October 2007, declaring that his work, combined with Elli’s landmark expose of the IBL’s 2007 season, creates a full picture of the experience. In response, he sent us this comment:

“Glad you like the site. Thanks for the link.

 (To make sure it's clear: I don't do this for a living! I'm a software engineer with a newly-rediscovered baseball addiction.)

 In case you're curious, I enjoyed the IBL and hope it survives and thrives, but that doesn't change the fact that Elli's article was an excellent piece of journalism. It was outrageous that no local journalist cared to cover the league seriously during the season. (Reprinting league press releases doesn't count.)

“The IBL has some work to do if it wants to make this last. Avoiding and ignoring media criticism doesn't solve anything.”

Sadly, bIBLemetrics last posted in January, writing,

“The fat lady has sung. Or at least, the IAB has. Looks like the IBL won't be back in '08. 

Let's hope the IPBL folks can get their act together in time for this summer.

 Baseball is still about dreams.”

We hope professional baseball comes back to Israel in some form soon, if only so bIBLEmetrics can work its magic. Hope, as always, springs eternal, and is, of course, the thing with feathers.

Do you have a Good Guy Award nominee? Send it
here and we'll give a shoutout!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tell Tel Aviv: Mighty baseball has struck out!

Another day... another supposedly cutting edge blogger a year behind the times and spewing a mishmash of factoids when it comes to the major international saga of baseball in Israel. What are we missing here? What are folks in Israel missing? Why is the "mainstream" media allowing so many people to avoid the fact that there will be no professional baseball in Israel in 2008? Months after we'd predicted it, weeks after it was confirmed, promotional websites with misleading information, league websites with information well past its sell date, and uninformed well-intentioned sports fans are leading millions of sports fan to miss the entire cycle of news broken by Our Man Elli in Israel.

The latest is on the Real Tel Aviv blogsite ("the real deal on Tel Aviv," "the best blog about Tel Aviv!!"), which this morning offers a "guest post by Chick Chick" entitled "Top 5 Tel Aviv Spectator Sports."

"Israelis are HUGE sport fans - We’ll give our heart and soul for our local teams, and we love and cheer our national teams like crazy. Tel Aviv sports the country’s hottest teams and best stadiums, and also hosts most of the national sporting events. This makes it the perfect place to get a taste of the Israeli sports scene!!"

Chick Chick offers four top sporting events of the future:

Maccabi Tel Aviv Euroleague Basketball at Nokia Arena

The Tel Aviv Football Derby at Bloomfield Stadium

World Cup 2010 Qualifying Round at Ramat Gan Stadium

International Tennis in the Ramat Hashron

Fair enough. But then he/she had to go and add a "Bonus” :

Bonus: Israeli Baseball League If you talk to a typical Israeli about baseball, he will laugh and wonder why you are interested in that stupid game with the sticks and chubby players. But since Israelis come from all over the world, some American born citizens have been able to slip this long time tradition into the holy land. In November 2007, a few Jewish-American investors announced the Israeli Baseball League, a professional league with 6 teams with names that automatically bring a smile to your face, like the Raanana Express, the Petach Tikva Pioneers, and the 2007 champions - the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. The league has a eight week, 45 game season that takes place during July and August. If you want to catch this up and coming league in Tel Aviv, your best bet is to see the Tel Aviv Lightning or the Netanya Tigers, who both play in the Sportek Baseball Field, in the Western end of Park Hayarkon, a short walk from most of Tel Aviv’s seaside hotels. You might catch some of Major League Baseball’s future stars - in 2008, eight ILB players were signed to minor league contracts in the United States. So play ball!!!

Play ball!!!??? Chickie, baby, not this year...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Israel baseball blogger arrives late to the game

“Think about the goals of Baseball in Israel…
Are we going over to offer a distraction?
Do they need a distraction?
Is this another example of America trying to act as a hero?”

A new baseball website has us wondering, as we’ve stopped to do more than once over the past nine months, why the mainstream sports, business and political media have overlooked, and actively ignored— the story of the Israel Baseball League and efforts to bring professional baseball to Israel-- a story that’s of such interest and importance to so many people around the world. With league founder Larry Baras a colorful, controversial and lawsuit-laden bagel baron based in Boston, with a would-be rival league headed by a controversial lawsuit-laden toymaker taking cash from auditioning athletes in Miami, and minor and semipro leagues around the world picking up IBL refugees, there would seem to be enough local angles, mysteries, sports fans and Jewish readers out there for some award-hunting reporter or editor to feel the thrill of the hunt as they follow the money.

For now, Our Man Elli In Israel has the field to himself. But the latest visiting player is "Elliott," AKA “OMmetsfan07,” the blogging Mets fan behind the 213 Miles from Shea site. His new site, The Great International Pastime (Exporting America’s Game), started up a few weeks ago with a post about baseball in Ghana (anybody seen Eladio Rodriguez?) and today lands in Israel.

Despite a year of raucous infighting, accusations and outrageousness that was enough to fill an entire website called Baseball in Israel, this new internationalist site picks up the story of the Israel Baseball League in a much simpler time, before the drama of the past year, when the spin was only starting to pick up speed, and doesn't seem to realize that greed and bad business killed off baseball in Israel in 2008:

"Baseball in Israel was one of the first topics I thought of when I decided to talk about world baseball because I feel that its known in America more than in Israel and I have often questioned the motives for it (but I do love it, don't mistake that). I root for the Modim Miracle only because of their Manager, Art Shamsky, who was a '69 Met, so I am a little biased when it comes to their teams.

"I found this video on YouTube not too long ago (about two weeks ago). The video was added online a little over a year ago, but makes a lot of insightful points subliminally. When you watch it, think about the goals of Baseball in Israel? Are we going over to offer a distraction? Do they need a distraction? Is this another example of America trying to act as a hero? 
I have been thinking about this clip now for over two weeks, and I still have not finalized my opinion about it.

These of course are questions first posed by Our Man Elli almost a year ago, so we don’t know whether to be frustrated that the author didn’t do a Google search of “Israel Baseball” or gratified that someone’s at least sniffing out the story. We sent Elliott a link to our site. Once again, we’ll see if the bloggers pick up where the mainstream journos dropped the ball.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Da Baras Code: Israel baseball profits vs. prophets

"No baseball in '08 really? Who's your source?" "It ain't over 'til it's over." When it comes to baseball in Israel, the pioneer spirit of the nation and American businessmen's undying thirst for profit will guarantee that blips and blasts about the possibility of a 2008 season will continue through New Year's Eve. And thought we're sticking with the news we broke back in January (and which the so-called "mainstream" sports media has yet to catch on to) that 2008 is a wash, Our Man Elli in Israel and our staffers in the home office keep in touch with our sources and keep an eye on the usual websites, including that of the Israel Baseball League, which still offers directions to the ballparks (at least one of which doesn't exist) and promises a season that's not be be:

Opening Day has been set for Sunday, June 22nd, with two exciting games taking place. At Gezer Field, the IBL Champion Bet Shemesh Blue Sox will be playing host to its arch rival, the Modi’in Miracle. And at the Baptist Village, a future rivalry will be born when the Tel Aviv Lightning takes on the new Jerusalem Lions. Both games are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

But there's more fodder on the IBL site that seems even more outrageous in light of the debts and outrage Larry Baras and his team left behind after 2007: A claim, written by Baras' father, that the IBL was the logical culmination of Biblical prophesy.

Compiled by Hyman S. Baras

While baseball is generally considered a “modern” sport, there are references in the Bible that could lead one to deduce that, in fact, baseball dates back thousands of years. Along the same line of thinking as The Da Vinci Code, note the pattern of the following passages, which clearly illustrate that there were Giants in those days as well.

* And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men…arise and play before us” -- Samuel II 2:14

*…and all the people rose up… -- Exodus 33:8

* And Juhoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; and Sheva was the scribe…” -- Samuel II 20:24
* And they said unto Jephtha, “Come and be our Captain” -- Judges 11:6

* ...and he measured two lines… -- Samuel II 8:2
* ...and he set the bases… -- Kings I 7:39

* And they stood every man in his place round about the camp -- Judges 7:21
* Behold, Rebecca came forth with her pitcher… -- Genesis 24:45

* Ehud, the Benjamite, a man left-handed… -- Judges 3:15

* The children of Israel asked,…”Who shall go up for us first against the Canaanites? -- Judges 3:15

* ...Seek out a man who is a skillful player… -- Samuel I 16:16

* ...Judah shall go up first… -- Judges 20:18

* And Judah took… -- Judges 1:18

* Three times… -- Exodus 23:14

* ...and it was good… -- Genesis 1:4

* And Abram went down… -- Genesis 12:10

* ...out at the base… -- Leviticus 4:18
* And Moses …smote… -- Exodus 7:20

* ...and (it)…was foul… -- Exodus 7:21

* And Moses went out… -- Numbers 11:24

* ...and none came in… -- Joshua 6:1

* ...and there was not a man left… -- Joshua 8:17

* And Miriam was shut out… -- Numbers 12:15

* And the children of Benjamin went out… -- Judges 20:31

* ...and went into the field… -- Numbers 22:23

* ...and Aaron waved… -- Leviticus 9:21

* And he looked this way and that way… -- Exodus 2:12

* ...and he delivered up… -- Numbers 21:3

* ...and they ran as soon as he had stretched his hand…And they fell on their faces to the ground… -- Judges 13:20

* Get thee up; wherefore liest thou upon thy face? -- Judges 7:10

* ...for it was an error… -- Numbers 15:25

* ...second and third… -- Genesis 6:16

* And Joseph spoke… -- Genesis 45:3

* ...concerning the error which he had committed… -- Leviticus 5:18

* ...make an atonement for thyself… -- Leviticus 9:17

* Thou shalt fan them… -- Isaiah 41:16

* Then Joseph commanded to fill…the…sacks… -- Genesis 42:25

* ...and all the people saw this and they shouted… -- Leviticus 9:24

* Who can stand before the Giants? -- Deuteronomy 9:2

* ...and Aaron waved… -- Leviticus 9:21

* ...and pitched on the other side… -- Numbers 21:13
* And suffered not a man to pass… -- Judges 3:28
* ...but…the seventh… -- Exodus 31:15
* Gideon… smote… -- Judges 8:21

* ...Israel…at first… -- Joshua 8:33

* And Noah went in… -- Genesis 7:7

* And the young man ran… -- Numbers 11:27

* ...he turned and went back… -- Judges 18:26

* ...unto the base… -- Numbers 8:4

* Noah walked… -- Genesis 6:9

* Let us go and sacrifice… -- Exodus 5:8

* And Moses lifted up his hand and with his rod he smote… --Numbers 20:11

* ...the hide… -- Leviticus 9:11

* ...a long blast… -- Joshua 6:5

* ...outside the camp… -- Judges 7:17

* ...for an ‘omer… -- Exodus 16:36

* And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted… -- Samuel I 17:52

You Israel baseball fans know the Bible better than we do. Can you think of any Biblical passages the Barases may have left out?

(UPDATE FROM OUR MAN ELLI IN ISRAEL: "I might add: the New York Times had a few of those Bible quotes on its Op-Ed page about 25 years ago. I'd clipped and saved the article, and gave it to Baras, who said he hadn't seen those. I never got it back from him.")

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Update: Our Man Elli in Israel. Elli Wohlgelernter. You will remember his name, Mr. Rosen.

"... The IPBL’s organizer, Jeff Rosen... someone so rich he thought he could just dial up a new league, someone trying to show up Baras on how it can be done-- and somebody who can’t-- or won't-- get somebody’s name right. He’s learned that money can buy a lot of things, but not necessarily a baseball league in Israel. He has a lot to learn if he wants to attempt it again next summer. It's my name. It's all I've got. Elli. Wohlgelernter. And when I have to correct someone three times, I don’t care who he is...I expect to be respected on that issue. Like I said, If I was a million dollar investor in the IPBL, I guaran-eefin-tee he’d know how my name is spelled..."

This matter of respect regarding the coverage of baseball in Israel has historic precedent in sports...

Holyland Hardwood outlives Holyland Hardball

There will be no professional baseball in Israel this year. The missteps, secrecy, debts and monumental task of starting from scratch has turned the great sports dream into a dream once again. And as thousands of sports fan kick at the dirt, sports goes on.

The world-traveling blogger Ms. Babble (“U.S. Army veteran, writer, musician, jack of all trades…”) posts this morning on the American Babble site about one imported sport that's thriving in Israel— Basketball, man.

Some highlights:
Macabbi Elite: Israeli Basketball

In Israel, basketball is king.

It isn’t the only sport here. They have baseball but the Israel Baseball League didn’t form until last year and doesn’t seem to be all that popular yet.

…Soccer is actually considered the number one sport in Israel in front of basketball but I wouldn’t know the difference.

They don’t have a professional American football team at all. (gasp!)

But what they do have is basketball.

Right now it’s an exciting time for Maccabi Elite which is the national basketball team based out of Tel Aviv. They’ve found a spot in the Euroleagues Final Four and are close to a championship. It’s kinda like getting to the NBA Finals only the competition is between countries instead of cities.

E’s cousin S just returned to Israel from traveling the United States for the last six months. He made it back just in time to see Maccabi play Barcelona last week. Being the sports fan I am, I jumped at the opportunity to watch it with him.

We went to the store prior to the game to pick up some beer. I was ecstatic to find Miller Genuine Draft sitting in the cooler for me! These small American finds are what make my day. Little reminders of home to make me smile. I made a mental note of the Miller and then grabbed the local beer instead which is also called “Maccabee”.

…With beer in hand, S advised me that they usually eat pistachio nuts during the game. It’s just like how we eat sun flower seeds at a baseball game. This time, though, we bought a couple bags of pastries called burekas. They’re filled with everything from cheese to mushroom to pizza sauce to potatoes.

After half time, he heated up the pastries and we ate them with coffee. Needless to say, it was a little different from watching American sports at home. Especially American football, which usually consists of far too much beer, junk food, a river of bad mouthing, and the occasional breaking of something (body parts or otherwise)… It was much more civilized.

…To be quite honest, half of the Israeli players looked and played acutely American. The style. The attitude. Their movements on the court. Was I watching Maccabi or the L.A. Lakers?

I pointed this out to S who advised me that just like in the NBA, they could recruit players from different cities and states. But here it’s on an international scale! There is no rule saying that every player on a national team has to be from that nation. It just so happens that all the best basketball players are from the United States.

A lot of Israelis find this recruitment of non-Israelis to be insulting to their national pride… But just like in America, we have to throw away national pride in order to win. And in a sporting competition, that’s the ultimate goal.

So when we saw the black American point guard fly over a Barcelona forward for a “Jordan-esque” slam dunk we joked by saying, “Macabbi sure does have some fantastic Ethiopian Jews on their team this year!”

Israel Macabbi is playing in the Euroleague Final Four in Madrid beginning May 2nd.

Read Ms. Babble’s complete post here.

And click here for our Baseball in Israel archive site.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We talk to Our Man Elli about the woeful news that there won't be pro baseball in Israel this summer

Our Man Elli in Israel kept in touch from the road during his recent lecture tour (and ballpark tour) of America and broke a few stories along the way, but he waited til he was back home in Jerusalem to drop the bombshell— his exclusive report yesterday that the Israel Baseball League nor the upstart Israel Professional Baseball League will be rolling out a season in 2008. Time for a talk.

Tabloid Baby: So, that’s it, huh?

Our Man Elli: That’s it. No baseball this year. And I gotta hand it to you. You called it back in January.

A regular Carnac. But we thought the IPBL had the pedal to the metal.

Too little, too late, too bad. Even before their tryouts, they knew. And then they had the tryouts. The quantity of the players was promising. The quality? Not so. The last I’d heard, the IPBL was talking about setting up exhibition games in Israel among teams comprised of players born in different countries like the US, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and possibly, Europe.

And then Larry Baras surfaces, talking bout the joy of kosher hot dogs. What’s up with the “Lah-di-dah” attitude?

The questions for Larry Baras remain the same as they’ve been since last summer: How much money was raised for the IBL? And how much money was spent. That's it. His problems with his bagel company, and whether bagel money was used to help the IBL, will be determined in that lawsuit brought against him by Natalie Blacher. Whether he used IBL money to help his bagel business is another matter.

More than a year ago, Baras told me that he was budgeting $3 million for the inaugural season, and he said he'd be able to raise it "very easily." “Very easily.” Those were his words. We do know that the American Jewish community went hog wild, you should pardon the expression, over the idea of baseball in Israel, and people everywhere were eager to help in any way they could. And they did. How many investors were there? And how much money was raised? If $3 million could be had "very easily," how about $4 million?

We have no idea, because until today there’s been no accounting of any of it.

Hmmm… You’d think maybe Baras might be hiding something.


You know, we have some interesting anonymous commenters on this site. There’s Scooper 0007 from Haifa—

Yes, a tip of the hat to him. He’s obviously close to an insider, because he does deliver good bits and pieces—

There’s Pooper Scooper—

I thought that was the same guy--


A fine cub reporter—

And then there are people like this guy “Allen” who posted this morning, accusing you of being angry about the idea of baseball in Israel. What’s up with that?

I love and respect your readers. But that kind of talk is beyond stupid. It’s like the schmucks who deliberately spell my name wrong. If I were a million dollar investor, they’d spell it right. But this? I don’t have to prove my bona fides to anyone. What reason would I have for not wanting baseball in Israel? Shooting the messenger is an old tactic. Accusing me of wanting a job is getting old, too.

Hey, you turned down the commissioner job.

Yeah, right.

Hey, we had the campaign going, but you said you wouldn’t accept it.

Like I need those kind of distractions.

We had the hats—

Anyway, again I have to repeat myself: So far, no one has been able to prove or even claim that anything I ever wrote about the league wasn't true. All they can do is spin why it happened. But the facts are still the facts.

And the facts are?

The facts are that the 2007 season was a poorly run effort led by an organizer who lied to everyone with whom he made a deal. And the fact is that 2008 was a non-starter from the beginning, because of poor planning and organization, and an attempt by one rich man to bully his way into creating a new league. The facts? No more baseball because of poor planning, organization and, sorry, greed.

So what point are they missing?

This story has divided everyone into two camps since the season ended. One side swallowed the Kool-Aid, and they still believe that Larry Baras is an honest businessman who may have been in over his head, but was only trying to do the best he could and wasn’t prepared for all the things that came up. Ask them how much money was raised and where the money went, and they change the subject.

And a lot of the people in that camp were some of the marginal players who were just happy to be playing professional ball. They didn’t even care that he even owed them money.

Baras's charm and awe-shucks persona was able to convince that half of his sincerity— and convince them that I was to blame for all his troubles-- that if only I hadn't written those nasty little stories about what happened in the summer of 2007, he would have been able to raise the money from more investors and paid off the 2007 debt and start up the 2008 season.

Me. I'm to blame.

Of course, that doesn't explain why the commissioner and nine others from the advisory board of the IBL quit.


The second camp was more forthright and critical. They didn't shy away from asking the basic questions, including how much money was raised and where it went. And it was that exact question that moved the commissioner and the advisory board members to quit.

If I may borrow a political analogy, it's like the liberals in Israel. No matter how many times you showed them the actions of Arafat, they still believed he had good intentions in him.

Whoa. Mr. International Affairs in La-la Land.

I had another political analogy. With Barack Obama and accusing the working class of being bitter. Are you bitter?

What? Me worry? No way. We’re talking baseball. Not Gaza. This entire experience is the definition of “pastime.” I only wish I had a season to follow this summer.

We posted a story about the South Coast League in the States that went belly up the same way as the IBL. What was the difference?

I’d say honesty. They seemed to be very upfront about their problems and missteps, so when they announced they’d suspended the 2008 season, there was real disappointment—but not anger.

Look, starting up a league is difficult. But nothing can fly without transparency. And there hasn't been any transparency with the IBL.

Now what about the IPBL? These guys are really tight-lipped as well. Why the secrecy? And why do they keep their webpage on some finance company’s website?

It's on the business site of the IPBL’s organizer, Jeff Rosen, and he didn't bother to create a separate Web site for the league. Greed is not part of this equation, because everyone knows it will take years to turn a profit. Arrogance? Maybe arrogance, from someone so rich he thought he could just dial up a new league, someone trying to show up Baras on how it can be done—and somebody who can’t—or won't-- get somebody’s name right. He’s learned that money can buy a lot of things, but not necessarily a baseball league in Israel. He has a lot to learn if he wants to attempt it again next summer.

I know he doesn’t like to answer questions. But it sounds like he got your goat.

It's my name. It's all I've got. Elli. Wohlgelernter. And when I have to correct someone three times, I don’t care who he is, he can go take a flying—

We get it.

Hey, I expect to be respected on that issue. Like I said, If I was a million dollar investor in the IPBL, I guaran-eefin-tee he’d know how my name is spelled.

And how was your trip to the States?

Wonderful. And successful. It was great to drive around America, listening to Sirius radio—

We won’t pay for radio.

I know, but it came with the rental car. It’s great. And I got to explain Israel to the American Jewish community, especially the kids on campus who are woefully ignorant of the situation here. And I got to go to see a lot of baseball games.

So is this story over?

Baseball in Israel? It’s only beginning.

I told you it was a book.

Now I'm starting to believe you. Talk to you later.


Israel baseball fan Murray Chass takes a buyout

Murray Chass, the venerable, folksy old New York Times baseball writer who ran a distant second to Our Man Elli in Israel in reporting the goings of the Israel Baseball League (but managed to stay far ahead of That Putz Greenberg and every news agency in Israel), is on the verge of taking a buyout at the New York Times, according to a report from Radar Online.

Should the Hall of Fame sportswriter accept the retirement package, Israel baseball backers will need another prominent mouthpiece to float their plans and spin their activities. And we'll be left with one fewer major news copying our reportage without attribution. Mazel Tov! And le'chayim, Murray, you Mensch!