Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Monday, March 20, 2006

World Baseball Classic = Awesome....

I'm going to just come right out and say it, the World Baseball Classic was pretty cool.

This is an interesting statement, coming from myself, since when the tournament started I thought it was a complete waste of time. And how could you argue with me? There were 16 teams, representing the "world," Mike Piazza was on the Italian team, the USA was placed in what looked to be a push-over bracket, Cuba had been barred from entry but was finally allowed to play, and the players for Team USA obviously didn't care about the tournament at all. And then of course there was the whole thing about many countries not even being able to get their best players to play for them.

But even I will admit, the Classic ended up being pretty fun to watch. I was on the edge of my seat heading into the final inning tonight, with Japan nursing a small lead and Cuba obviously getting themselves into high gear.

Why was this tournament so good? Let's examine.

  • Baseball isn't only played in the USA. - The US players simply didn't want this as much as everyone else did. Even the Canadians wanted to win the WBC more than Team USA. This tournament hopefully will open more US players eyes, and motivate them to step their game up (though I will admit Griffey playing center is something of a handicap).
  • Evening the playing field - Cuba and Japan both have been considered approximately equal to AAA, or possibly just above that level, when being compared to MLB. Hopefully this series will change that misperception, especially with WBC MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka's performance tonight.
  • Bringing the baseball back to Japan - After Ichiro and Hideki Matsui left Japanese baseball, there was a lot of concern that people in Japan didn't care about their own teams anymore. Hopefully this tournament will reignite their passion for baseball, and produce even better players in the future.
  • Putting a fire under their butts - Team Korea rocked! I thought they'd have some good pitching, and they certainly did, but they did an outstanding job. I'm glad that Ichiro and Team Japan made it to the final, but you could easily make the argument that Korea should have been there instead.
  • Viva beisbol - This tournament should really go a long way toward legitimizing Cuban baseball. They've dominated on the international scene for years, but people have always made excuses for that. There's no more excuses now.
  • Momentum going into the MLB season - I am very interested to see how players' experiences in the WBC will affect their play when the season starts (in two weeks). I think players like Ichiro and some others will be able to carry the momentum of their performances in the WBC into the MLB season.
This year's World Baseball Classic was good enough that I am very eagerly anticipating the next Classic, in 2009.

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