Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No Surprise Here

Intrepid commenter George S., a truly international man if ever there were one, sent an email to several of the local phloggers in the immediate aftermath of the US team’s loss to Korea in the WBC:

Just finished reading Ken Rosenthal's eulogy over the death of American baseball prowess after the USA team lost to Korea. I like this quote: " If the World Baseball Classic has proven anything, it's that the United States no longer is the pre-eminent baseball power." Wow, that's a big leap Ken.

Well, first off, if the World Baseball Classic has proven anything, it's that many if not most MLB players are not ready to play in March. Most of the best are in training, where they should be. And this is assuming that you grant that the WBC has proven anything at all.

I assume that most top players in the world will now go to whichever country has taken over as the pre-eminent baseball power and go play in their leagues?

Is it embarrassing or surprising that the US has lost to Canada and Korea? Not to me. In baseball, any team can beat any team virtually any time they play. The nature of excellence in baseball is the long haul, not a single game.

On the other hand, maybe Ken is right after all. To which I would respond, "OK, so what?". I don't go to the ballpark to watch and root for the best American players. I go to watch and root for the best players on the field, no matter what country they come from (or what team they play for). Does it really matter to me that Bobby Abreu comes from Venezuela? If 75% of MLB players eventually come from other countries, it won't bother me very much. I've never had a problem enjoying the NHL because there weren't enough Amercan players.

So if the USA never ever wins the WBC, it won't matter. Does it matter to Ken? Apparently so.

The "failure" of the American baseball team was inevitable given the timing, lack of participation by many domestic stars and the internationalization of the game. By comparison, it is interesting to note how many Dominican, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Japanese stars to say nothing of the Cubans who presumably did not have much if any choice in the matter, were willing and eager to represent their nations. In the end, this aspect of the inaugural WBC tournament may be its most distinguishing feature.

The only thing more inevitable than the poor showing by the Americans was the string of eulogies, excuses and complaints that we can expect beginning with the Rosenthal piece cited above.

A month ago I wrote:

How’s this for impending irony?

Some American players, coaches and fans are already preparing the inevitable excuses and complaints should their team fails to capture the WBC. This despite not giving a damn about the event in the first place. Even some general managers and other executives have bemoaned the whole business...but fearing official censure from the Commissioner's office have said so only off the record.

The entire affair was conceived in a marketing firm’s conference room and was immediately greeted with something less than enthusiasm by the key element, the players themselves. Many opted out before even being asked to participate. Others who hinted they might play for God and country have been opting out ever since citing fears about injury, i.e., their contracts.What another great idea, Bud.

Nothing has changed my mind.


Tom Goodman said...

Further thoughts....

For many years now teams from the Far East have been dominant in the Little League World Series held annually in Williamsport, PA. A check of the record shows that Asian teams have won 14 of the last 25 LWS and have been in 19 of those finals.

It should come as no surprise, then, that those teams have played well thus far in the WBC.

Tom Goodman said...

Even further thoughts....

How far along are pitchers and hitters at this juncture of the year? Well, Endy Chavez hit a two-run home run the other night for Venezuela.

Enough said.

J. Weitzel said...

I saw that game with Chavez. He put a good sock on it. The only problem in your logic with that example was the game was against Cuba. The pitcher he hit it against, named Lazo, looked really good, but they kept him in too long.

Tom Goodman said...

Logic? We ain't talkin' no stinkin' logic. If your Li'l Endy even put wood (aluminum) on the ball to say nothing of a charge into it, it is news!!!

J. Weitzel said...

L'il Endy is definitely in that category of players I will always follow for odd reasons. I actually got an e-mail from Lou Collier's old high school coach yesterday because he happened upon my site searching for news about Lou. He said if I need to know anything about Lou to let him know. I certainly will.