WBC

March 25, 2009

  There were excuses galore when our guys returned to their teams in order to resume their regular day jobs. Gwen Knapp talked about it in the SF Chronicle, “The excuses piled up after the Americans’ loss Sunday. This was just one game. The Americans are still in spring training form, whereas players from the Far East play a lot of winter ball. The U.S. roster had a lot of injuries. Some of the best American players sat out to protect their bodies for the major-league season, rather than risk them in this charming, though utterly meaningless, exhibition series. The home run got way too much credit for reviving the sport, without much consideration for other critical factors: an influx of Asian and Latin American stars who surely expanded the audience pool, the renaissance of the Yankees and a slew of pretty new parks. At its best, the sport is elegant and cerebral, like a moving chess match. Two of the greatest moments over the last decade were Derek Jeter’s backward toss to the plate against Oakland’s Jeremy Giambi and Dave Roberts’ history-altering stolen base in the ninth inning of the 2004 ALCS’s Game 4. Defense, head games, speed. Sublime.

Then Bruce Jenkins finished it off by giving the real reasons for our semi-final exit. Every moment had a World Series feel. The Dodger Stadium crowd was announced at 54,846, and it sounded like more. The play on the field was exceptional, especially considering the excruciating pressure felt by every participant in this fierce rivalry. Bud Selig keeps saying that the WBC will be part of his legacy, and he’s absolutely right. We may not fully realize it in this country, nor can we ever expect to field our best teams, but the tournament’s impact will be immeasurable. In the coming years, we’re going to see big leaguers arriving from all corners of the world, just as the NBA’s Dream Team excursions gave rise to so many wondrous international stars. It’s so evident now that the WBC isn’t about the United States at all. It’s important, though, that the finals be kept here. For millions of viewers around the globe, part of the excitement is seeing their countrymen playing vitally important games in America, home of the big leagues, the final stop for any player who seeks an unassailable reputation. Keep the early rounds in international sites, no question, but let it finish here, and forget about any setting beyond Dodger Stadium. Last night validated the wisdom of that decision. There were times during the game when I wondered: If I’d grown up in Tokyo or Seoul, would I be one of those frantic, Thunderstix-waving fans? I’ve always cherished the game’s measured pace, the chance to really study a player’s mechanics and mannerisms, talk about it at length with friends between pitches. It’s the reason I always gravitated toward baseball writing; the game gives you time to think, ponder and analyze before the next flurry of action. From what I can tell, the Japanese and Korean fans simply go berserk for four straight hours. Every time they flashed a scene from Jamsil Stadium in Seoul — jammed with fans watching the game on a huge screen — people were standing, yelling and pounding those annoying contraptions. It was wonderful, though. That’s how they enjoy the game over there. The passion that surrounded this tournament, most everywhere beyond the U.S. team, was unforgettable.

Perhaps we should establish our roster a full year ahead of time, clearly identify who’s going to play and make sure the players understand how to prepare (just as our basketball team in this past Olympics). It would be nice to get a serious, high-energy manager, as well, not some retread like Johnson or Buck Martinez. Get somebody who lives and dies with the WBC, whose very reputation depends on the U.S. performance. Offer players a bit of cash to participate, if you must; that always gets their attention.

In any case, hats off to an event that held a connoisseur’s attention for a full three weeks. “This will someday be huge,” said Selig, only partially correct. Around the world, in places about to give rise to a generation of future stars, it already is.

 

 

 

WBC

 

There were excuses galore when our guys returned to their teams in order to resume their regular day jobs. Gwen Knapp talked about it in the SF Chronicle, “The excuses piled up after the Americans’ loss Sunday. This was just one game. The Americans are still in spring training form, whereas players from the Far East play a lot of winter ball. The U.S. roster had a lot of injuries. Some of the best American players sat out to protect their bodies for the major-league season, rather than risk them in this charming, though utterly meaningless, exhibition series. The home run got way too much credit for reviving the sport, without much consideration for other critical factors: an influx of Asian and Latin American stars who surely expanded the audience pool, the renaissance of the Yankees and a slew of pretty new parks. At its best, the sport is elegant and cerebral, like a moving chess match. Two of the greatest moments over the last decade were Derek Jeter’s backward toss to the plate against Oakland’s Jeremy Giambi and Dave Roberts’ history-altering stolen base in the ninth inning of the 2004 ALCS’s Game 4. Defense, head games, speed. Sublime.

Then Bruce Jenkins finished it off by giving the real reasons for our semi-final exit. Every moment had a World Series feel. The Dodger Stadium crowd was announced at 54,846, and it sounded like more. The play on the field was exceptional, especially considering the excruciating pressure felt by every participant in this fierce rivalry. Bud Selig keeps saying that the WBC will be part of his legacy, and he’s absolutely right. We may not fully realize it in this country, nor can we ever expect to field our best teams, but the tournament’s impact will be immeasurable. In the coming years, we’re going to see big leaguers arriving from all corners of the world, just as the NBA’s Dream Team excursions gave rise to so many wondrous international stars. It’s so evident now that the WBC isn’t about the United States at all. It’s important, though, that the finals be kept here. For millions of viewers around the globe, part of the excitement is seeing their countrymen playing vitally important games in America, home of the big leagues, the final stop for any player who seeks an unassailable reputation. Keep the early rounds in international sites, no question, but let it finish here, and forget about any setting beyond Dodger Stadium. Last night validated the wisdom of that decision. There were times during the game when I wondered: If I’d grown up in Tokyo or Seoul, would I be one of those frantic, Thunderstix-waving fans? I’ve always cherished the game’s measured pace, the chance to really study a player’s mechanics and mannerisms, talk about it at length with friends between pitches. It’s the reason I always gravitated toward baseball writing; the game gives you time to think, ponder and analyze before the next flurry of action. From what I can tell, the Japanese and Korean fans simply go berserk for four straight hours. Every time they flashed a scene from Jamsil Stadium in Seoul — jammed with fans watching the game on a huge screen — people were standing, yelling and pounding those annoying contraptions. It was wonderful, though. That’s how they enjoy the game over there. The passion that surrounded this tournament, most everywhere beyond the U.S. team, was unforgettable.

Perhaps we should establish our roster a full year ahead of time, clearly identify who’s going to play and make sure the players understand how to prepare (just as our basketball team in this past Olympics). It would be nice to get a serious, high-energy manager, as well, not some retread like Johnson or Buck Martinez. Get somebody who lives and dies with the WBC, whose very reputation depends on the U.S. performance. Offer players a bit of cash to participate, if you must; that always gets their attention.

In any case, hats off to an event that held a connoisseur’s attention for a full three weeks. “This will someday be huge,” said Selig, only partially correct. Around the world, in places about to give rise to a generation of future stars, it already is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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