Ah, baseball. I don’t write about it enough anymore. Last night’s World Baseball Classic face-off between the USA and Dominican Republic was one doozy of an event. The DR won in the 9th, busting open a 1-1 tie with scrappy hitting, ballsy base running, and incendiary pitching by their closer Fernando Rodney. The final score of this virtual all-star game between two titan teams was 3-1.
It was a game that all baseball fans — die-hard and casual — would have loved. What’s truly amazing is that it happened two weeks before the Major League season opens. Yes, there were less than pretty moments of fielding, and the US fizzled in the bottom of the 9th not even mustering a last ditch runner on base, but as a whole the game was as competitive as anything you will see in October this year. And the full-house in Miami’s sadly never-full Marlins’ Park was one of the most raucous I’ve ever heard (thank you baseball gods for making sure my family got me an HD TV with digital sound for Father’s Day 3 years ago).
I’m writing this because I was struck by two obvious issues that the game brought up for me last night.
1.) Except for us baseball nuts, few people know the WBC is underway. I’d venture to guess that most casual fans don’t even really know it exists. Something needs to be done about this. The games I’ve watched have been quite fun. Many are “win or go home;” most have been exciting with come-from-behind wins, under dog triumphs, and minor league stars of tomorrow showing that they already have the stuff to compete with the big boys.
2.) The level of competition last night was extraordinary. When all is said and done the US got their heads handed to them by a DR team totally motivated to crush them on the world stage. I love this game more than anything else in life (except my wife and my sons), but I’ve always wondered why we call the World Series what we call it. I don’t want to take anything away from our great fall classic, a set of games that is the hallmark of every season of baseball for all of us, but the World Baseball Classic is right up there…and last night’s game was as good as any Game 7 I’ve ever seen (not as good as the 2011 Game 6 between the Cardinals and Rangers, but still pretty damned good). Yes, “my team” lost, but what Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, Eric Aybar, and Jose Reyes did at the plate against Craig Kimbrel was extraordinary.
So, pay attention to this little exhibition of world teams. It’s not a whiffle ball game on a back lot. The US faces Puerto Rico tonight in the losers’ bracket. We still got a chance to edge our way to the Final Four dance!
Regardless, follow these games all the way through and you’ll thank me in a week or so. If this ends up being the Dominican Republic vs. Japan, then so be it. It will be a game to set the tone for the entire 2013 season. If it’s the US vs. Japan, well…won’t that be special. And any other combination (which includes “The Kingdom of the Netherlands” still, by the way) will be fun as well.
See you on the field.