Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Quick Look Back

Hats off to the Japanese team, winners of the first World Baseball, er, um “Classic”. The apologists for this sham series are out in force headed by Jayson Stark, who lately has tripped all over himself trying to be the good centrist.

Were the Japanese represented by their best players like, say, Cuba? It’s anybody’s guess since we don’t know much about either of them. [We do know, as kuff6 points out below in his comment, that one of Japan's best players and a Yankee (NY variety), Matsui Hideki, did not play.] We assume Cuba sends its best players because, we believe, so much more than on-field supremacy is at stake for them. But Fidel has been known to hold back some players he fears might defect Were the Venezuelans and Dominicans fielding their best squads? Pretty much so with the exception of Pedro Martinez, a legitimate (?) scratch with a toe injury. [Editor's note: my point is incorrect regarding the Dominican team: again, see kuff6 comment below.] And Korea? Does anyone know? As for South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada, does anyone care?

What we do know with certainty is the Americans didn’t send their best squad. Everyone admits that, especially the players, who put on a good front. There is no point recapitulating all the reasons many star players stayed home.

Come to think of it, American “dream teams” no matter what the sport are assembled in highly suspect ways these days. Basketball in the 2004 Olympics? Hockey at Torino? Baseball in 2006!!

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If anyone’s reputation suffered more than that of the American squad it was umpire Bob Davidson’s. But, hey, those guys need spring training, too, so let’s not get too down on Mr. Davidson. Remember, as long-time AL umpire legend Nestor Chylak said, "They expect an umpire to be perfect on Opening Day and to improve as the season goes on."

And this wasn’t even the regular season. But it was more than practice.

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Robinson Tejeda was caught between the proverbial rock and hard place when he opted to play (very sporadically as it turned out) for his country in the WBC and gave up the chance to pitch regularly at training camp with the Phils. Now he is struggling to get in sufficient innings as he tries to earn the last roster spot among the pitchers. [Jason Weitzel points out the real story below in his comment.]

Before people jump all over him for what they consider his mistake in judgment, remember he is from a small country (total population just under 9 million) with an incredibly tight-knit baseball community.

What would you have done?

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Given the number of errors I made in this post I was tempted to just delete it, but in spite them I stand by my overall assessment of the WBC.


J. Weitzel said...

Tejeda and Brito handled the situation correctly. Their first priority was with the Phillies. The Dominican coach needed bodies and called the team. They gave Tejeda and Brito their blessing, promised them extended spring training, sent Ramon Henderson to coach and went about spring training as usual.

The problem is, Tejeda and Brito return to find a crowded field and no work under their belts. Has Franklin been lights out? No, but he's been decent, and he has innings under his belt. As a result, there is very little hope for Tejeda breaking camp. There's no hope for Brito and probably wasn't from the start.

The Phillies have three players in Ruiz, Tejeda and Brito that probably regret playing in the WBC.

Tom Goodman said...

I recall those details now. Thanks, Jason. Tejeda wanted to stay in camp and should have given the lack of playing time in the WBC.

I am in favor of keeping him on the 25-man roster but since he has options remaining you are no doubt correct he won't head north. He can make up for lost time by getting regular work at AAA. I hope the Phils hold onto him.

kuff6 said...

Dominicans were much more shorthanded than just Pedro. What about Vlad Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, and Aramis Ramirez? As for Japan, Hideki Matsui didn't play, and he's one of their top guys.

How soon before that Japanese pitcher (I will refrain from butchering the spelling of his name) gets a major league offer? His stuff looked exceedingly nasty. Finally, I wasn't that into the WBC, but is there any player in baseball more entertaining to watch than Ichiro? You really get the feeling that he can do anything he wants out there. A co-worker this morning made the good observation that he is the closest thing to Ty Cobb that any of us will ever have the good fortune to see.

Tom Goodman said...

kuff6 AND Jason: I stand corrected again. My errors are inexcusable. I certainly won't be invited to play again.

Seriously, thanks for the corrections.

Deanna said...

kuff6, dude, it isn't as simple as "gets a major league offer". Matsuzaka's been scouted by MLB teams for years -- but the way the NPB works currently, players are under team control for *nine years* after they are drafted. I've been saying for ages that he'll be posted by Seibu after the 2006 season, the year before he becomes a free agent. Japanese players can't come over here unless they're either posted, released, or become free agents, unless they go into the MLB draft instead of the NPB draft, which most don't do. (It's not an "and", it's an "or".)

(If you mean Uehara, he actually negotiated with the Angels when he came out of college in 1998, but they would have put him in the minors for a while, whereas Yomiuri pretty much made him their ace pitcher on the top team straight out of the draft.)

Japan fielded a pretty good team though; I *am* pretty familiar with the league, and aside from the lack of the Japanese MLB players in there (which was the issue; Johjima had a good excuse, but Matsui and Iguchi, and even Taguchi? C'mon.), they did have a lot of the top talent there, including 8 players from the Chiba Lotte Marines, who won the Japan Series last year. Their Series opponents, the Hanshin Tigers, weren't quite as free with letting players go to the WBC, though, and were only represented by Kyuji Fujikawa, who didn't pitch in the last few games anyway.

The Koreans also fielded a really good team full of their top guys, including 7 major-leaguers, and worked pretty hard together.

(I don't know much about the other teams, though, so I won't comment on that)

Sham series or not, it was much more entertaining than watching Spring Training games, I think, and I look forward to the next one. If nothing else, I have a drinking game to implement for it.