Monday, March 9, 2009

Dispatches From the WBC

Some random observations from a weekend of watching the World Baseball Classic:

Adam Dunn is playing with a chip on his shoulder. Two big home runs and good defense in the field. Do you think the problem with Dunn is that he doesn't care about winning or did the surrounding crappiness of Cincinnati make him less than enthused to go to work every day? Like he was working with eight Dwights every day and there was no Jenna Fischer.

Pudge Rodriguez looked good for Puerto Rico, getting four hits and two homers on Saturday. So while teams should be intrigued with his performance, it's important to remember he was facing Bruce Chen (who is 30 and out of the major league system) and Paolo Espino (a 21 year old who had an 8.49 ERA last year in High-A ball). Don't start jumping up and down just yet, Pudge. With the Netherlands on deck tonight, Pudge probably won't face quality pitching until Round 2.

Dave O'Brien, broadcasting the U.S.'s nail-biter over Canada on Saturday, pointed out the American squad was in good hands with Jake Peavy on the mound because he had a 1.44 ERA during the day last year. Sadly, O'Brien forgot to note that the dome was closed in Toronto, meaning that SuperPeavy would not be getting help from this Earth's yellow sun while he toiled. He was fairly human, giving up two runs in three innings, mostly thanks to a home run and three walks. The Common Man tries to remember that these broadcasters have a lot of time to fill and, in the quest to minimize dead air, will often say something dumb even though they're pretty smart people in general. But Vin Scully's a smart guy too, smart enough to know that dead air can add to the drama and the atmosphere, and that speaking only when there is something important to say makes your words seem even more important.

Italy was a lot of fun to watch on Saturday, with its good looks, solid uniforms, and great names. Also, rightfielder Mario Chiarini's catch was as impressive a play as you'll see. They fought the good fight against Venezuela on Saturday, before Jason Grilli killed their dreams in the 5th. Italy is the sacrificial lamb for Canada tonight, but it was fun while it lasted.

You know, The Common Man half expected Julio Franco to show up on the Dominican bench to tell stories about barnstorming with Babe Ruth and Satchel Paige. Bummer.

The Common Man knows that certain bloggers have written off the WBC, but c'mon, this is much more fun than Spring Training games, isn't it? (By the way, The Common Man gets the best of both worlds this Thursday, when he plans to attend a tune-up game between the Chicago Cubs and an as-yet-unspecified WBC team at HoHoKam Stadium in Arizona. Anybody who wants to take in a ball game is invited to email The Common Man at the address on the right side of the screen, especially if you're paying.)

Australia might be better than The Common Man expected. They certainly clobbered Mexico yesterday (17-7, invoking the first use of the "mercy rule" in the 2009 WBC). They have a lot of AAA and AAAA-level talent (including the Minnesota Twins' potential 3B of the future, Luke Hughes, who looks like a solid hitter). And watching them against Cuba tomorrow should be a lot of fun.

Poor South Africa. Virtually all of their players are ameteurs who play on club teams in their home country. They are as out of place here as a steak dinner at a Hindu wedding reception. As Paris Hilton at a MENSA meeting. As George Bush at a G-8 summit meeting. They just couldn't hit the flurry of breaking pitches offered up by Cuban pitching on Sunday. The Common Man hopes their programs continue to progress, like Australia's and the Netherland's has, and that they are stronger next time out.

Venezuela seems to have the highest proportion of hot chicks in the stands with their faces (and chests!) painted up. If The Common Man were not happily married, he might head on down to Caracas. Or at least up to Canada (where Pool C is playing), where there seem to be attractive Venezuelan women in spades.

The Common Man didn't have room in his Tivo for all the Pool A games, which started between 4 and 5 in the morning here (and not even The Common Man loves baseball that much). He understands the championship game between Korea and Japan was a sight to behold. Here's hoping for another matchup stateside.

Finally, this post wouldn't be complete without congratulating the Netherlands for their upset over the mighty Dominican team. The Dutch scored three in the first thanks to some sloppy play by the Dominicans (two infield singles, two errors, and a wild pitch; in fact, nothing got out of the infield) and were able to hold off an injury-depleted lineup. The Common Man doesn't expect the Netherlands to survive their encounter tonight with Puerto Rico, but loves watching them celebrate like they just won the whole shebang.

(Also, congratulations on keeping Sidney Ponson relatively sober and out of trouble, which may have been an even more difficult feat.)


BillP said...

Dunn also took a lot of crap from Reds fans (and, just a wild stab in the dark here, their current manager) who didn't appreciate what he does nearly as much as they noticed what he doesn't do. When the Reds didn't win, it was because Dunn strikes out too much, not because the pitching is awful or Griffey has no legs or Corey Patterson.

So I guess you could say he was like Toby working with eight Dwights and no Pams...

Not that you'd expect Nationals fans to be any more understanding. I mean, if you're a Nats fan, you've invested, what, four years in this team now? Five? Seems like the smart thing to do is jump off that sinking ship and grab a Markakis or Wieters jersey...

The Common Man said...

"I mean, if you're a Nats fan, you've invested, what, four years in this team now? Five? Seems like the smart thing to do is jump off that sinking ship and grab a Markakis or Wieters jersey..."

This from a man who, like The Common Man, endured eight years of Minnesota Malaise from '93 to '00. Then again, The Common Man remembers a brief period where you were sporting a Yankees hat there, Johnny Frontrunner.

BillP said...

But, see, I'd already been a Twins fan since at least 1986, and seen them win two World Series. If the Twins had come into existence in 1993 and played as the Nats have or as the real-life Twins did back then, and there was another professional team in, say, Duluth or Madison that I'd been following from 1986-1992, I think I'd be totally justified in jumping back to said Madison or Duluth team come about 1998.

Hey now. I last wore the Yankee hat in late 1996. I wrote a research paper about the 1920s Yankees for like 9th grade English or something, and loved their history. As soon as the modern version became relevant again, the hat went in the closet. More or less.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

About Dunn, I have been equally as impressed. I was going to do a History in Pictures segment, but I can't find a picture of him in a USA uniform or of his diving catch. He looks like he's dropped a lot of weight and is in good shape. Too early to get too excited, but he looks great.

Ditto on Venezuela girls. We are on the same wavelength.

I figured I wouldn't watch much of the WBC, but I've already watched 3 games. I'm starting to get more sucked in, but I'm still not sure it's valuable in any significant way.

The Common Man said...

Value-shmalue. Are you having fun, man? That is the question, and frankly always should be the question. The Common Man follows baseball not because it's profound or teaches him lessons or is some kind of metaphor. He watches it because he loves watching the games. He plays it because he loves to play it. And he reads, writes, and learns about it because he finds it inherently interesting. Don't look for a redeeming quality, define the game's value as its potential to make you happy.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

I meant does it say anything. The point, other than revenue, is to prove who's the best in the world. Without all the best players playing and owners keeping them from doing so, I find that the WBC doesn't really tell me much about who the best in the world is and is, therefore, not much better than the Olympics, which doesn't really excite me. I guess, if we are going to go through this, I would like it to prove something.

The Common Man said...

Interesting point, Mark. But then, the World Series doesn't really determine who is the best team in baseball, just who is the champion. The Cardinals weren't better than the Tigers in '06. The Reds weren't better than the A's in '90. And (though it pains The Common Man to admit it), the Twins weren't better than the Cardinals in '87. So what's the point, then? Again, The Common Man comes back to the pure enjoyment of the game (and watching your favorite teams do well) and the impressive individual performances that are a joy to watch. South Africa's 2B had two consecutive triples tonight against random and awesome is that?

tHeMARksMiTh said...

That's a good point, but then again as a Braves fan, I've never really thought the possible 19-game crapshoot of the playoffs is any way to decide the "champion" of an otherwise 162 game schedule. The "World Series" is just our egocentrism.

BillP said...


There was value in that game.