Results tagged ‘ Team USA ’
My dad often says “It’s an ill wind that blows no favors”. The wild springtime Oklahoma winds did me no favors last night as they rattled my windows, keeping me from sleep. The ill wind blowing in from left field at Dodgers Stadium did Mark DeRosa no favors as it pushed two potential home runs back into the park.
Brian Roberts, the Orioles second baseman, came to the World Baseball Classic late, but made an immediate impression in his first game. He made an immediate impression in the semi-final game against Japan by hitting a lead-off home run.
Jimmy Rollins had a great night at the plate with two singles, a triple, a walk a stolen base and a run. David Wright hit a nice double to bring Rollins in.
With a 2-1 lead, the game was rolling along nicely for Team USA, until the fourth inning when Japan came to bat and stayed. Before Roy Oswalt was finally replaced after giving up a double to the eighth batter in the inning, Japan had plated five runs. Although the wind was still blowing hard, Team USA had sailed into the doldrums. The sails luffed uselessly in the breeze. The colors were no longer flying high.
As Korea had the night before, Japan did everything right. Great pitching. Solid defense. Offensively, they will chip away and run you to death. One of the highlights of this classic has been watching Ichiro Suzuki. His presence at the plate is fierce and commanding. Kind of like a mini-Albert Pujols. He raises his sword, I mean, his bat as if going into battle. He is something special.
So, Team USA goes home, with their collective teams breathing a sigh of relief. It is this divided focus between team and country that undermined Team USA’s chances from the beginning. They were handcuffed both by the players that did not play, and the restrictions placed on the players that did. Last night, in the devastating fourth inning was Roy Oswalt “getting in his work” as promised to the Astros, just as Jake Peavy did for the Padres when they were blown out by Puerto Rico?
Or, maybe it was chilly and it took a while for Grabow to warm up. Team USA was also handcuffed by the injuries, which may have been limited if they had been game ready. One thing that became very clear in this tournament is that other teams were better prepared.
Many of the players for Puerto Rico were fresh off winter ball. Is there any doubt that Ivan Rodriguez was in top form? Is there any doubt that Puerto Rico had their best players on the field? Same goes for Venezuela, Cuba and the Netherlands. These teams played like, well, teams. That goes double for Japan and Korea.
The debate of where, when and how the Classic should continue will rage on. Should it be played earlier? Later? Mid-season? Regardless of the time and venue, if the United States wants to win this tournament, everyone from the general managers down to the bat boy have to take it seriously. Major league ballclubs have to see it as an honor to have their best players on Team USA. And, those players have to be in season form and have time to work together so they can play as a team.
Finally, does this mean that baseball is no longer “our game”? Yes and no. The game has become larger than us. We gave it wings and sent it out in to the world. It belongs to the world now. That is what this Classic proves. However, every boy in every nation that has ever slipped on a glove or swung a bat has dreamed of playing for teams with names like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals.
We are still the country where the best talent comes to play. Is that because baseball players are paid well here? It has a little something to do with it. But, imagine a WBC where all MLB players regardless of nationality were only allowed to play for the United States. There would still be four contending teams: USA, Cuba, Japan and Korea. Imagine now, that players from Cuba, Japan and Korea could easily opt to play in the United States. Tournament over. USA wins.
I am not proposing this at all. I love to see the best go play for their homelands. It is good competition. It is good baseball. I love seeing how the styles of play have evolved in each country, adapted to the particular peoples’ strengths. My point is this: it may appear they are beating us at our own game, but truly they are making our game better.
At every inclusion of race or nation, American baseball has become a better game. Just like the inclusion of every race and nation has made America a better country. Once again, baseball is the reflection of our state of the union. In recent times, both our country and our team have faltered on the international stage. We have lost some of the fundamentals that made us great. Still, we are the country and baseball league that many aspire to.
In tonight’s final game of the World Baseball Classic, Korea and Japan will face off for a fifth and final time. I have no doubt that Japan and Korea are the best two teams in this tournament. I have no favorite (although I have a soft spot for Ichiro Suzuki). Just bring on the world-class baseball!
The late baseball games are taking their toll. I woke up this morning too tired to think let alone write. After you read this, you may think I am still too tired to think. Or, write. But, here is the latest in the World Baseball Classic.
Puerto Rico vs. USA
When Puerto Rico lost to Venezuela, my hope of both USA and Puerto Rico making it to the finals was crushed. So, I knew that no matter what happened in the Puerto Rican-USA rematch, I was not going to be completely happy.
Team USA recovered from the rout handed to them by Puerto Rico earlier in the tournament and made this game very tough, very close. In the end the normally rock-solid Puerto Rican bullpen faltered and allowed the USA to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth. The last was driven in by a walk-off single by third baseman, David Wright. USA wins 5-4.
There were a couple of nice defensive plays:
· Mark DeRosa dove to rob Carlos Beltran of a single
· Brian Roberts dove to snag a sharply hit ball. The momentum of the slide brought him up to his knees, where he made a good throw to first for the out.
There was one spectacular defensive play:
· This will be a highlight reel staple for years to come. Carlos Beltran tracked a Brian McCann would-be home run ball to the wall, made a perfectly timed leap and grabbed it.
So, a revitalized USA team moves on (which I am happy about), and a very, very good Puerto Rico team goes home (which I am sad about). I suppose I should be more excited to have Yadier Molina and Jose Oquendo back in the Cardinals camp. And, I will be. Tomorrow.
Next up, the USA, assured a spot in the finals, will play Venezuela (again) in the pool finals in what may be a wet, drawn out game.
Japan vs. Korea
This was the third meeting of these two teams. The first two games were split. One a rout by Japan. One a 1-0 victory for Korea. In this game, Korea took advantage of an error to get on the board in the first and never looked back. The Japanese offense never really got going against the excellent Korean pitching.
When Japan‘s boxscore shows the following for Ichiro Suzuki, you know they did not have a good day:
AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
4 0 0 1 0 0 3 .000
This 4-1 win guaranteed Korea a spot in the final round. Japan will face Cuba again in an elimination game. They met previously in the first game of Round Two, when Japan shutout Cuba 6-0. I will hate to see either of these great teams go home.
Round two action in the World Baseball Classic action continued today. One of the things I love about baseball is that it is not a short, tall, big, small, strong or fast man’s game. It is a game where any body type can find their place. That fact was highlighted in today’s WBC action. Great big Adam Dunn, jacking a huge home run. Wiry Ichiro Suzuki getting on base again and again. A pitching match-up between Dice-K and a long, tall Cuban. The World Baseball Classic is a reflection of all the ways that baseball is played.
Here are recaps for the first two games. Game three between Korea and Mexico did not start until 10:00 pm my time. That recap will have to wait until tomorrow.
Cuba vs. Japan
This game was a rematch of the 2006 Championship game. The outcome was the same.
Japanese pitching was led by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who dominated the normally strong Cuban hitters. Japan did what they do best: manufactured runs with a bunch of singles and one double.
I do not know who said it first, but the statement of “if you watch a baseball game, you will always see something you have never seen before” was true today.
Cuban pitcher, Aroldis Chapman, walked batter number one, then picked him off at first. He walked batter number two, threw over to first and caught him stealing in a run down. Finally. the third batter was caught looking for a three up, three down inning.
During one at bat, two foul pop-ups were mishandled. One by Ichiro Suzuki in right field, and one by the catcher, Kenji Johjima (the sun was tough). Both were charged with an error, again IN THE SAME AT BAT. The Cuban batter finally struck out looking.
Cuba never got anything going in this game, while Japan looked great winning 6-0. Even so, I want to recruit some of those Cuban players. When will we ever make up with our next door neighbor? I know most Americans would like to export our goods to the island, while importing Cuban cigars. I just want Cuban to once again be the getaway it was in the days of Hemingway, and I want to import their baseball players.
USA vs. Kingdom of the Netherlands
Perhaps, Team USA bonded through adversity. In the game against Puerto Rico, Team USA seemed flat and disjointed, while Puerto Rico played with fire and unity. Tonight, Team USA looked like a team.
Brian Roberts came in to replace injured Dustin Pedroia and had a big game with a single, double and triple. Injured, Chipper Jones, who has gone 0 for 10, also exited with a sore oblique. This opened up the potential to get both Jeter and Rollins in the lineup at the same time.
There were two fabulous defensive plays by the Netherlands. Catcher, Kenley Jansen threw out Brian Roberts trying to steal 2nd, and he did it FROM HIS KNEES. Somebody forgot to warn Roberts about Jansen’s arm. I did not double check, but I do not think he has missed a stealer, yet. The Dodgers have talked about converting Jansen to a pitcher because he is having trouble hitting, but I hope he finds his bat because I love watching him behind the plate.
Also, the Netherlands, first baseman Randall Simon, made a diving stop and threw FROM HIS BACK to get the force at the plate.
Jimmy Rollins for Team USA also had a fabulous diving stop that he shuttled FROM HIS BELLY to second base, where Roberts turned it for a double play.
Team USA was wining 8-1 in the seventh, when somebody set off a few fireworks. Netherlands left-fielder, Bryan Engelhardt, hit a solo home run–the team’s first for the WBC. Team USA pitcher, Matt Lindstrom, seemed to think that Engelhardt admired the shot a little too long, because threw at hip level behind the next batter. The Netherlands team took offense to this and yelled at Lindstrom from the top dugout step. Both teams were warned.
Engelhardt might have watched the shot a second too long, but throwing at the next batter, when you are winning 8-2, is ridiculous. But, what goes around, comes around. Lindstrom gave up another run and left the game with an injury.
Under the category of something no one has seen before, catcher Brian McCann came in to pinch hit in the ninth for Ryan Braun and remained in the game in the OUTFIELD. Amazingly, no ball found him. Ryan Braun exited the game with what sounds like another oblique injury.
This ends the Netherlands Cinderella run, but they have much to be proud of. They made it to the second round. They have never been mercy ruled. Even, the USA can not say that.
The USA team had much to be proud of tonight, as well. They seemed to come together in the way they need to in order to contend in this tournament. USA now waits to face the loser of tomorrow’s game between Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
The World Baseball Classic continued today in Miami with Round 2 action. Can you believe they are playing the WBC in a football stadium? Dolphins Stadium is no place for a baseball classic. What is wrong with Minute Maid Park? I would so be there, if it were in Houston.
Venezuela vs. Kingdom of the Netherlands
In this game, both teams did what they do best. The Netherlands pitched well and played good defense. Offensively, the put the ball in play, took advantage of errors and managed to eke out a run. Worth noting: they are starting to hit the ball better. Their grounders found gaps and holes today. They had six hits, but only one run.
Venezuela also pitched well, but they also had two errors. They did not hit often, but they hit big. The difference in this game was three BIG hits: Two home runs and a triple. When the Netherlands put runners on in the eighth to rally, Venezuela brought in K-Rod to shut the door. He did, and Venezuela won 3-1.
However, how amazing is it that the Netherlands has kept all of their games close? Everybody thought it was a fluke when they beat the Dominicans for the first time, but nobody is thinking that now. This is a very good “team”, with “team” being the key word. They play well together. I do not see them making it to the next round, because they need a little more offense, but they are a force to be reckoned with.
USA vs. Puerto Rico
I expected this game to be high and tight. Instead, it was low and away. From the beginning until the abrupt end, Puerto Rico dominated this game. They did everything right. They had five innings of dominant starting pitching from Javier Vasquez, giving up the lone USA run. In his last inning, he threw a hook to Mark DeRosa for a called strike three that looked the ball had been suddenly sucked out of orbit and sent crashing to the earth. If it had been in a movie, it would have looked phony. DeRosa appeared upset that he did not swing, but it did not matter. That pitch was virtually un-hittable.
Puerto Rico hit USA‘s starting pitcher, Jake Peavy, and they hit him hard. By the end of the second inning, Puerto Rico was up 6-0 on six hits (including a double and home run), two walks and a sac fly. Puerto Rico was aggressive on the bases, taking an extra one any time they could.
Defensively, Puerto Rico was solid. After watching, second baseman, Felipe Lopez take more than his fair share of grounders (there were five 4-3 putouts), I may have under estimated Lopez last year when he was with the Cardinals. He looked good on the field, and he got a dinger and a double at the plate.
Carlos Beltran. Wow. I was reminded of why I was so upset when the Royals traded him. He had two singles, a walk, a home run, a stolen base and two RBI’s. Ivan “give-this-guy-a-job” Rodriguez had another good game going three for four with two doubles. Actually, every Puerto Rican hitter had at least a run or an RBI.
I am looking at my scoresheet, trying to think of something positive to say about Team USA‘s performance. I can only come up with Brian McCann who got a single and a RBI double off of Vasquez, the pitcher he usually catches. Seems he can find Vasquez’s pitches with both his glove and his bat.
Puerto Rico scored four in the seventh off Matt Thornton to invoke the mercy rule, winning 11-1. I did not see that one coming. I knew Puerto Rico had lots of great players and really seemed to gel as a team. I thought they could possibly beat Team USA, but not dominate them.
It will be interesting to see if Team USA can bounce back from this devastating loss. They will get their shot at the Netherlands tomorrow. Puerto Rico is emerging as the team to beat, if only because no one has done it yet. On Monday, Puerto Rico will meet a Caribbean rival, Venezuela. In San Diego, Round 2 action will also kick off tomorrow with Japan vs. Cuba and Mexico vs. Korea.
Two Caribbean teams cruised past their opponents to ensure themselves top seating in the next round of the WBC. Next port of call: Miami.
One Caribbean team guaranteed themselves a spot in the next round, but they have one more stop before sailing on to San Diego.
Kingdom of the Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico
This final game of the Pool D should have been between the Dominicans and Puerto Rico, but it was not. Although the story of David (the Netherlands) defeating Goliath (the Dominicans) is compelling, I was a little disappointed the Dominicans never faced Puerto Rico in this tournament. Or, maybe I was just afraid the hot Netherlands would come up with another upset.
I need not to have worried. The Netherlands seemed to fizzle as Puerto Rico handed them a 5-0 shutout. The Puerto Rican win was very much a team effort. Starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez pitched 4 fine innings, giving up two hits, one walk and striking out four. Not bad from a pitcher that might only be considered the Giants fourth or fifth starter, but when your rotation has three Cy Young winners, it’s hard to break into the top three.
The fine bullpen finished the job. Manager Jose Oquendo used the 4-0 and 5-0 lead to give several relief pitchers some work.
One RBI a piece goes to Beltran, Rios, Rodriguez, Soto and Cora. Only one extra base hit: a triple by Rios. The Netherlands did have a different catcher behind the plate tonight, Sidney de Jong. The Puerto Ricans took advantage of two pitches that got away from de Jong and a missed popped fly. The regular Netherlands catcher, Kenley Jansen, has been stellar behind the plate.
Venezuela vs. USA
In earlier tournament action, Team USA handed Venezuela a decisive loss. In the final game of Pool C, Venezuela got their revenge fueled by a couple of Blancos.
Centerfielder, Gregor Blanco had a three for five day at the plate, including a double, a triple and one RBI. Catcher, Henry Blanco, went three for four with a solo home run that initially put Venezuela on the board. However, Henry Blanco’s biggest play of the day came in the 9th inning.
Down two runs, Team USA‘s Jimmy Rollins gets on with a walk. Dustin Pedroia files out (could it have been that pitch the Playstation claims he can’t hit?). Derek Jeter reaches on an error. So, the tying run is on with one out. With Kevin Youkillis batting, Jeter and Rollins attempt a double steal. Blanco guns down Jeter at second. The wind in Team USA‘s sails just died. The next pitch caught Youkillis swinging at strike three, and it was all over with. Venezuela wins 5-3.
Mexico vs. Australia
Earlier in the tournament Australia handed Mexico a huge loss. Tonight, Mexico returned the favor, very efficiently, in only six innings, winning 16-1.
From Mexico, the Hairston brothers, the Gonzalez brothers and two guys named Ojeda that are not brothers put together a big night. Oh yeah, Karim Garcia went 4 for 4 with 4 RBI’s, too. Two Jorge’s (Cantu and Vazquez) also contributed to the RBI totals.
The Australians seemed to throw every pitcher they had at Mexico, but could not contain their bats. Mexico only needed two pitchers: Jorge Campillo and Rodrigo Lopez
Australia is going back down under, while Mexico will be moving on. They will face a tough Cuban team tonight to determine who will face Japan or Korea in the next round.
Round 2, Pool 2: Miami
In Pool 2, the Venezuelans will face the Netherlands. No one is taking the Netherlands for granted any more, despite the face that Puerto Rico beat them twice, neither game was a rout. I am looking forward to seeing the match-up of both team’s fine pitching.
Also, in Pool 2, Puerto Rico and Team USA will meet. I was rather hoping they would not meet for a while, so I would not have to pick between my country and the team with my favorite Cardinal. With the way, Oquendo has the catchers paired with starting pitchers, it is likely that Yadier Molina will not see action against Team USA. That could help.
I know I am supposed to cheer for Team USA, but there is not a player on Team USA that I feel any type of attachment to. No one from my team or my backup team is playing for Team USA. From my backup backup team, there is Jeter, but the Yankees are my backup backup team because I like to watch Jose Molina behind the plate. Who, of course, is Puerto Rican. I swear, all roads lead to San Juan.
The best I can do is hope for a really close, well played game, where I will neither be completely satisfied by the win nor completely devastated by the loss. Fortunately, this is not an elimination game. Do not judge me too harshly, Puerto Ricans are Americans, too.
Korea vs. China
Korea eliminated China handily 14-0 in 7 1/2 innings. I did not make it up at 5:00 am today to watch it. Score one for my sanity.
Cuba vs. Republic of South Africa
Cuba, hitting a WBC record six home runs, topped the Republic of South Africa . The Cuban looked like the Cubans should. In a moral victory, the South Africans avoided a shut out when Jonathan Phillips hit a 2-0ut RBI single in the ninth inning to put them on the board. Final score 8-1.
Dominican Republic vs. Panama
The Dominicans looked like the Dominicans should. Bouncing back from their surprise loss to the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic shut out Panama 9-0, thereby handing them their second loss and eliminating them from the Classic. The Dominican Republic had a beautiful strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out play in the first. Pitcher Johnny Cueto, and catcher Miguel Olivo erased a runner and a batter in a matter of seconds. Olivo also had a big day at the plate, stroking two home-runs.
The other Dominican with a big night was not one of the names the most people know…yet. I know it because last year Nelson Cruz played for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks, before a Rangers call up late in the season. Last July, in a game against the Memphis Redbirds, I saw Nelson Cruz hit 3 home runs. One was a monster, leaving the park altogether and bouncing off the parking garage beyond left field. This year he is hitting home runs on a much larger stage.
Then the surprises begin:
USA vs. Venezuela
For the first five innings, this game went as I expected. I expected Venezuela to be a formidable opponent for Team USA. I expected their pitching to keep USA‘s All-Star bats somewhat under control. They did, until the sixth, when Team USA broke the game open, putting up eight runs in an inning that went on forever. The Venezuelans could not recover. Final score 15-6.
Mexico vs Australia
I honestly did not make it to the end of this game (very late), but I wish I had. I did see the favored Mexicans jump out to an early lead, but from the fifth inning on, the game belonged to the Aussies. They shut down the Mexican offense and starting putting up three and four runs an inning. The game was called at the end of the eighth at a score of 17-7.
And, down in Florida?
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Florida Marlins
When I said yesterday that 99% of the news coming out of the Cardinals camp had been positive, I must have jinxed them. I will not elaborate because I do not really want to talk about it. I will just leave you with today’s ugly box score:
R H E
FLA 9 9 0
STL 8 8 6
Because my remote has a hard time navigating to any channel besides the MLB Network, I have seen the following commerical dozens and dozens of time. Yet, I still smile every time I see Tim Lincecum training his video game replica. I wonder how much Tim Lincecum’s clone could make on the free agent market? I dare say that it would be significantly more than the 650K that real Timmy is getting this year.
Wow! With a full day of Spring Training and World Baseball Classic action, it was like March Madness, my way. Just think I get to do it all again tomorrow. Life is sweet! Or, la vita dolce! Or, la vida es dulce!
There were so many surprises:
Surprise #1: All on my own, with no mechanical intervention, I inexplicably woke up at 5:00 am. Bizarre. When I checked the time, I realized that the game between Japan and Korea was underway. So, I flipped on the TV and watched. Feel free to question my sanity. I know I do.
Surprise #2: Japan dominated Korea. Game called in the seventh on account of the “please, have some mercy and don’t make me blow my whole bullpen in the first round” rule. I thought this would be a tight game, but it got away from Korea in the first, and they continued to fall behind.
Surprise #3: The Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic. Or, as the jerseys say, “The Nederlands beat Dominicana”. Did anyone predict this? I do not think so. The Netherlands jumped out to an early lead taking advantage of Domincan errors, and they managed to hold on. The Netherlands were considered a non-issue in this tournament, but they made themselves an issue today.
Surprise #4: The USA vs. Canada game did not go into extra innings. This was great game. I really thought Canada was going to come back and tie it in the ninth, but the Americans held on.
Surprise #5: Pudge Rodriquez stole a base in the matchup between Panama and Puerto Rico. It’s just not something you see catchers do very often. The pick-off throw came over to first, he took off for second and made it. This is a man looking for a job, and today he made a strong case that he deserves one. (See more later)
Surprise #6: Bobby Abreu is doubled off at third. He made it there in plenty of time. Did the turn-and-look toward home. Thought the play was over and walked back to the base. In a heads up play by the Italians, the shortstop, Nick Punto, cuts off the throw from right fielder, Mario Chiarini. Then, he throws to the pitcher, Mark DiFelice who is covering 3rd and tags Abreu out. Abreu was very angry with himself, but made up for with a two RBI single in the next inning.
What I loved:
From the Toyoko games: SPEED. So, much speed. The runners are always running. On a ground ball, it looks like someone hit the fast forward button for the infielders. I thought the slowed down instant replay even looked fast.
Netherlands vs. Dominican Republic: In the ninth, the Netherlands are clinging to a one run lead and need two outs. Dangerous Dominican hitters are capable of stealing the win with just a couple swings of the bat. Then, if I were keeping a scorecard, the sweetest letters in baseball would have appeared. Fine, they are only sweet if you love great catching as I do. The letters are “CS”. In this case “CS” would be followed by “2-5″. Or, as MLB At-Bat said:
“With Hanley Ramirez batting, Willy Traveras caught stealing 3rd base, catcher Kenley Jansen to third baseman Yurendell de Caster”
I do not know this Kenley Jansen. The WBC website says he is part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. I do know this: It was a sweet throw, working around a right-handed batter, and I suspect we might all know him someday.
USA vs. Canada: This was just a great, hard fought game. So many great plays. There was a great “CS” play in this game, where Russell Martin caught Jimmy Rollins trying to take second. I cheered, and then I remembered that Martin was playing for Canada, and I was supposed to be cheering for USA. Oops. So, to make up for it, I will mention that USA’s catcher Brian McCann had a great day at the plate with a homer and sac fly, adding up to a three RBI day.
Puerto Rico vs. Panama: Even if I was not someone who always notices the catcher, Puerto Rico‘s catcher would have been impossible to miss. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez had an amazing day at the plate. Two home runs, one double, one single, one walk, one stolen base and a grand total of four RBI’s. In addition, he caught a shutout. His agent’s phone should be hot tonight.
Venezuela vs. Italy: Italia seemed to have it in for Bobby Abreu. They hit him with a pitch, doubled him off third (see above) and robbed him of an extra base hit. The rob was spectacular. Abreu smacked a ball to the gap in right-center. At least it was a gap. There was no Italian outfielder on my TV screen. Suddenly, right-fielder, Mario Chiarini enters the screen, flying through the air, making the grab and breaking his belt in two when he comes in for a landing on the turf.
Also, to continue the theme of great catching moments, Venezuelan catcher, Ramon Hernandez sent a textbook, on the money, perfect throw down to second base to “CS” Frank Cataianotto. It was a beautiful throw…low, just barely to the 1st base side of 2nd, where the momentum of the throw hitting the second baseman’s glove seems to push the glove right into the runner, catching him just before he touches the bag. So sweet.
St. Louis Cardinals
And, oh yeah, the Cardinals won their spring training game against the Houston Astros today. After being so hard on Joel Pineiro last week, I should make a point to say that he had a fabulous outing today. He pitched four scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. In the best way possible, he did not look like a fifth starter at all.
Actually, 99% of the news coming out of the Cardinals camp has been very positive. 25-man roster spots will be hard to come by in April, and a number of young players are making a strong case for why they should get a spot.
I listened to Mike Shannon and John Rooney’s broadcast for the first time this spring. So, nice to hear those familiar voices.
Time to get some rest. Tomorrow is another big day!
Sorry, I have been offline for a week or so. I hate it when work gets in the way of blogging, but unfortunately “work” is how I pay for baseball tickets, MLB Network, XM Radio, Gameday Audio, MLB.TV, high speed internet, Cardinals gear and baseball road trips. Otherwise, why would a job matter?
Due to various technical difficulties, I have been unable to either hear or watch a Cardinals Spring Training game live. I did see two in replay. Two radio broadcast have been scratched. It’s been frustrating.
I made a roadtrip to Kansas City this weekend to see family. Unfortunately, no Cardinals game was on my XM Radio during my six-hour drives. So, I actually listened to “another” team play (while I checked the Cardinals play-by-play on my phone). This led me to wonder, “Do other fans have a backup team?”
Yes, a backup team. If you do not have one, then this will sound like sacrilege. A backup team is a team you watch or casually follow when you need a baseball fix, and your actual team is not playing.
Some might see this as being unfaithful. Rather like having a regular girlfriend and a backup girl that you call when your girlfriend is out of town. That seems a little shady, but this arrangement can work as long as you are honest about it and both girls know the deal. It also helps if the girls have a backup boy. Always good to have a backup boy. Not that I would know. Have to find a main boy first.
However, I see the backup team as being more like a backup catcher. It is the only position with a true backup. Sure, you have backup infielders and backup outfielders, but they are never listed as “centerfielder” or “first base”. They typically can play in at least two positions. You have a long reliever, but he is never listed as a backup starter. But, every team has a backup catcher because there is no way your number one catcher can play 162 games.
The backup team is the same as a backup catcher. If you are truly a psycho crazy baseball freak of a fan, there is no way any one team can completely satisfy you.
What makes for a good backup team? First, they have to compliment your main team. Maybe, you live in Texas and love the Rangers. A good backup team might be the Braves. Your team is in the AL, your backup is in the NL (no conflict of interest there). They typically play in different time zones, which is very important. Your backup team should not be playing when your first team is playing. It defeats the purpose.
Or, maybe your favorite player left for another team, and you just have to check on him once in a while. For example, I cannot imagine, Kaybee not sneaking a peek at Trevor Hoffman at least a few times this season. However, I will only be seeing Aaron Miles being a Cub when they are playing the Cardinals.
Possibly, you are a displaced fan. Say, you love your hometown Royals, but you are living in L.A. and you cannot escape the Dodgers.
Or, suppose you are a Cardinals fan (as you well should be), what makes for a good backup team? Ideally, it should either be an east coast or west coast team. Any division rival should not be a backup team. Although an enemy of an enemy can be your friend, if you are in the same division, eventually an enemy is simply an enemy.
Maybe, I have said this. Maybe, I have not. But, my favorite Cardinal is catcher,Yadier Molina. I love great catching, and Yadier is a joy to watch behind the plate. His hitting is not always flashy, but it is often clutch, which is even better. He is my kind of player and much of the reason I love the Cardinals.
So, if Yadier Molina is your favorite player and you love great catching, it is only natural that you would be curious about his two brothers who are also Major League catchers. Conveniently, one plays on the east coast (Jose for the Yankees) and one plays on the west coast (Bengie for the Giants). So, rather innocently I stumbled on my backup team and my backup backup team.
In the regular season, a Yankees game often starts before the Cardinals game. Sometimes, I take a peek to see if Jose Molina is catching. If so, I watch until the Cardinals game starts. Other than maybe his family, I am probably the only person that watches the Yankees because the backup catcher is starting. Nothing against Posado, but he is not a Molina.
The Giants are even better. Typically, their game is just getting started when the Cardinals game is over. Last season, I often crawled in bed, put on the Giants game and watched until I fell asleep. The games are late, and I must get up early to go to work. Usually, the first pitching change does me in, but I get to see Bengie who is fabulous behind the plate and has the power I would love to see Yadier grow into.
It is fun to compare the brothers. Defensively, they are all solid. Great game calling. Great plate blocking. Guns for arms. Right now, Bengie is the best hitter. He has both average and some power. Jose does not have the average, but when he gets a hold of one, it goes. I love, love, love the fact that he has the last home run in Yankee Stadium. Such a great moment in the sun for a guy who has given his life to the game. At the plate, Yadier gets better each year. He hit over .300 last year. Looking at his brothers, I expect a little more power is coming.
So, my backup team is the San Francisco Giants and my backup backup team is the New York Yankees. Just in case, the “girlfriend vs. backup girlfriend” analogy applies I am coming clean and being honest to make it right. I say, “St. Louis Cardinals, you are the love of my life, but when you are not playing, I will watch the Giants and sometimes the Yankees. It does not mean I love you any less. Sometimes, it even makes me love you more.”
I posted an article a while back about choosing between team and country for the World Baseball Classic. The comments I received told me emphatically that despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory and would possibly have more Cardinals than any other participant in the Classic, I should root for my country, Team USA.
Now, Puerto Rico has the only 40-man roster Cardinal (Yadier Molina). Not just any Cardinal, but my favorite. Plus, Cardinal coach, Jose Oquendo is managing the team.
On top of that, after watching the Caribbean Series in February, I will not lie: There is something very, very compelling about Caribbean ball. The passion with which they play is incredible and gripping.
Despite an obvious facination with Puerto Rican baseball, I will be a patriot. I will cheer for Team USA. But, just know….I will be keeping an eye on Puerto Rico. They are definitely my backup team.
Is anyone else excited about the World Baseball Classic?
Homer left a comment on my “I hate the Offseason” entry saying that he would looking forward to this ”dose of relief” from the offseason. I’m with him.
I know Japan, the reigning WBC champs, must be excited to for the opportunity to repeat, especially after just missing a medal at the 2008 Olympics. The Cubans, who finished 2nd in both the 2006 WBC and the Olympics, must be looking forward to proving they are the best. And, there are the South Koreans, who were beat out in the semi-finals of the last WBC, but won the gold last summer. You know, they are pumped.
What about the USA? Were we embarrassed by our middle-of-the-pack finish in the 2006 WBC? Are we really better than our bronze medal finish at the Olympics? Looking at how we’ve performed on the international field, one might night argue that baseball is no longer our game.
The WBC seems like a great opportunity to put together the best Team USA ever and prove to the world that baseball is really America‘s game. But alas, it’s not that simple.
I am bothered by reports of front offices asking/telling players not to play in the Classic. I know they are concerned their valuable players could be injured, but I don’t see any greater risk for injury in the WBC than I do in Spring Training or working out (or just hanging out) in the offseason. Stuff happens. Didn’t Sosa hurt himself sneezing? Boggs strained his back putting on cowboy boots. Kerry Wood fell out of a hot tub. There is no safe place for a ball player.
However, I do sympathize with one argument that I’m hearing from players that are opting out of the honor of playing in the WBC: My Team. Spring Training is a time where individual players come together to form a team. Having to miss a big chunk of that time, could compromise or at least retard the growth of that synergy. The argument is particularly valid for catchers, pitchers and new players. So, for many players, the question will come down to: Team or Country?
I checked out the provisional rosters for the Classic that were announced this week, looking to see which of my Cardinals got an invite. For Team USA, only Ryan Ludwick is on the list, and he has indicated that while honored, he will most likely not play. The only team that will potentially have two Cardinals is Puerto Rico. These two guys:
So, for all that I was set to root for good ol’ Team USA, I find that I’m asking myself the same question as the players: Team or Country?” Do I root for Team USA, which is comprised of players that I hope to see lose any time they play the Cardinals? Or, do I pull for Yadier and Joel, the guys that I cheer for all year?
Would it be un-patriotic? Would I be a traitor? Puerto Rico is a US Territory, so it would be more like rooting for a cousin rather than an enemy, right? The two teams must make it to the second round to even face each other. So, I have until the middle of March to decide: Team or Country?