Monday, March 9, 2009
If you're a baseball fan not watching the the 2009 World Baseball Classic right now, you're missing out.
I didn't care either when it launched in 2006. I assumed it was a gimmick as lame as Olympic baseball. As in, the best wouldn't suit up, so it would mean even less than the meaningless MLB All Star game.
Well forget Olympic baseball, turns out the WBC is better than the Olympics.
Turns out, it's a full league of all stars slugging it out like they care, playing for something not welcome at the Olympics anymore -- love of country.
The US squad has been vocal about it: pride of wearing the uniform, a drive to show the world this was our game first, and a special mission to avenge the embarrassment of 2006, when the Americans -- described by returning player Derek Jeter as a group of overconfident egos out for individual glory -- got spanked by Canada, Japan and Mexico.
Nothing like shame to light a fire under a man, right?
This year, the team is tight. And if the sight of Yankees, Red Sox and Mets on the same bench with fire in their eyes against a common enemy isn't enough to wake the flag-waving fervor in you, dear reader, nothing is.
And remember, these guys are missing out on spring training by choice. No time to work the rust off easy-like. This is full-speed playoff mode right out of hibernation. Risking injury all the while.
"These are the guys who really want to be here," one commentator said during Saturday's game.
The other teams are the same way, many chuck-full of pros rich on American cash but now showing their true colors. Hint: they ain't red, white and blue. (Actually...I guess they are in some cases...but not configured into the glory that is Old Glory, brother.)
All the long way of saying, these games have been good.
As Adam Dunn said in the multi-homer, back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire win against Canada in round one, this is better than the playoffs. (Class clown Dunn was seen checking his pulse during the nail-biter of a ninth inning in that game.)
Then there's the underdog appeal of the whole thing.
Big leaguers are scattered throughout most teams, but a few aren't so lucky. How the Netherlands, South Africa and Italy have enough guys to stock one team, let alone three, is a mystery to me.
Yet the Netherlands pulled out a huge 3-2 win Saturday over the likes of David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez and the powerhouse Dominican Republic. The Netherlands.
How can you not love Cinderella action of that magnitude? The Dutch -- mainly islander bats and European pitchers (who knew?) -- celebrated for all the world like they'd just won the World Series.
As well they should. As you should. For that, my fellow Americans, is good baseball.
Posted by Splash at 8:00 AM