Tagged: International Baseball

Final thoughts on the first WBC

The players really liked the WBC, which is the most important thing. And the fans generally supported it. It certainly produced some great games. (And some stinkers like USA v. South Africa). But I would like to see some changes before the next one.

Purpose: Given that this tournament showed that there is a high level of baseball being played around the world, the WBC should turn, fairly quickly, into a true world’s championship, rather than an Olympic style exhibition.

Timing: Right now, the plan is for having the next WBC in three years (2009) and then once every four years thereafter. To turn it into a World’s Championship, it should be played every year. That may be hard to arrange at first, so it should start with the idea put forth by the Cuban manager Higinio Velez to have it every two years.

Timing II: The March play is still problematic. As good as some of the games were, there were still issues with players, especially pitchers, not having their timing down. And some pitchers, such as Miguel Batista of the Diamondbacks and the Dominican Republic, didn’t get as much work as expected during the tournament. (Though the D’Backs think Batista is on pace to be ready for the beginning of the regular season). Pitcher Mike Timlin of the Boston Red Sox, has the right idea: Play the WBC after the World Series. If it is turned into an annual event, then the US season can be shortened a month, by ditching interleague play. This would help keep the US team, which has a very long season, reasonably fresh, and should allow the WBC to be played without interfering with the Caribbean winter ball schedule.

This change in timing might be a problem for Cuba, as it would move the tournament from the middle of their season to the beginning, but I have a feeling the Cubans, experienced at playing tournaments, can figure out how to field a competitive team at that time of the year. Since Cuba is a tropical island, it should not be difficult for their tournament team to get an early start on preparation. Even if there is a hurricane—note that the Cubans have their season when it is offseason for hurricanes–a country in the area that has normal relations with them should be willing to host the team so that they can prepare early.

Format: The semis and the finals should be series. This should be achievable without extending the length of the tournament inordinately by limiting participation to the most elite teams. The WBC could have started with the Round 2 teams, and had the semis be two out of three and the finals 3 out of 5. Perhaps regional tournaments could be used to get other countries into the top tier of play as they improve their game (and to drop usually top teams that are having poor seasons). World Soccer might have examples that baseball can emulate.

Pitch counts: As I said before, let’s leave that up to the managers. A uniform pitch limit and mandatory rest rule is not as fair as it appears on the surface.

Umpiring: The umpiring must be more global and include the best umpires from each country, i.e. "major league" umpires. While the umpiring at the first WBC was generally quite good, if the tournament is truly a "world" tournament, one country should not dominate the umpiring squad.

Other notes: The Diamondbacks were finally on TV last night but I didn’t get to see a single pitch. I was at work, and there was some kind of computer problem, so I couldn’t bring MLB.tv up on my workstation as I usually can. But I found my way to a box score this morning. The Snakes lost to the Mariners 4-2 (Ichiro going 3-3 in his first game since Japan won the WBC). Eric Byrnes went 1-3 with an RBI and now has a spring batting average of .325, which is about where I figure he can be at the end of the regular season. (Of course, if he can do even better than that, I certainly won’t mind!)

NCAA Tournament: As I was walking home from the bus stop last night, someone walked by me and said "You’re not going to believe me but John Wooden was on the bench; the ghost of John Wooden was on the bench." Has the Wizard of Westwood died? I saw a picture of him celebrating No. 95 a few months ago.

Anyway, the message told me that UCLA had defeated Gonzaga. Turns out that it was quite a game; the Bruins didn’t pull it out until the end. With my Indiana Hoosiers out of the tourney, I might as well root for UCLA. Eric Byrnes went there.

It’s gray and threatening rain again in Oakland as the Brew Crew is thumping the Byrnes-less D’Backs, 4-0. The Brewers have the bags full at the moment. <grumble>

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

Congratulations to Japan

for winning the first WBC. The final score was 10-6. Congratulations to Cuba for their valiant effort. Few, if any, expected them to make the finals.

The WBC reinforced what we know about baseball in the USA: offense puts fannies in the seats; pitching and defense win championships.

More later.

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

From the “Timing is Everything” Department…

Congratulations to Japan for making it to the finals of the WBC. But I can’t help but notice that the finalists, Japan and Cuba, are playing for the championship after going 1-2 against the teams they beat for the finalists’ berths. What mattered was that they won the last game. Had they won the first meeting or the second, the exact same 1-2 record would have gotten them a seat by a nice TV to watch the finals. There is something unbaseball to me about the way this is ending up. I’m used to championships decided by series, not by single elimination. That’s college basketball. Speaking of which…

Gonzaga defeated Indiana 90-80 in the second round of the NCAA Men’s tourney. Pretty much as I expected. By the time the second round was over, nary a Big Ten team was left standing. And the computers had ranked the Big Ten as the toughest conference. Goes to show you that computers know diddly about college basketball. The team that’s local to me, California, didn’t make it out of the first round. At least Indiana did that. So I suppose I can root for Gonzaga next round because they beat Indiana, and if Bradley can beat Memphis, a Bradley-Gonzaga tilt for the  Oakland Regional Final ought to be interesting to say the least. Or I can root for the Zags next opponent, UCLA, because Eric Byrnes was a Bruin. And speaking of my favorite baseball player…

While I was watching Japan and Korea last night, I kept my eye on the ESPN "bottom line", where they gave the scores from the spring training games and included a mention of a pitching or hitting highlight from each game. When they finally got around to doing that for the D’Backs-Rangers game, they displayed Wilkerson of TX going 2-3 with a homer. No mention of Byrnes going 3-5 (including a HR) with 3 RBI for the team that actually won the game! GRRR!

Sunny in Oakland today, But it’s going to get rainy again next week. Double GRRR!

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

YESSS!!! YESSS!!! YESSS!!!

At last, the multi-hit day from Eric Byrnes I’d been waiting for! Byrnesie went 3-5, with 3 RBIs, (2 on a homer) today as the Diamondbacks beat the Texas Rangers 6-5 in Surprise, Arizona. AND there was radio coverage, so I got to hear it happen! The hot day bounced Byrnesie’s spring batting average to .313, which is about where I’d like to see it at the end of the 2006 regular season.

Two flies in the ointment: Although Byrnes reached twice on singles that sandwiched the homer, taking second on the second single when the left fielder misplayed it, he was not driven in either time. Also, on that fifth time up, he struck out with the bases loaded. (All breaking stuff).

The multi-hit day breaks the ice. Byrnesie needs more such days to be a good leadoff or 2 hitter.  He also got to play the whole game today. A sign that Opening Day is near. <grin>

3-5 with a homer! <big, toothy grin> That makes my day. Now, the only thing missing for me this spring training is a chance to see Byrnesie on TV.

Other notes: RIght-fielder Carlos Quentin, the only other D’Backs player besides Byrnes who played the whole game, had the game-winning hit. Congrats to Brandon and Alicia Webb, who welcomed their first child, a daughter named Reagan Lucille, into the world at 12:02 this morning. Brandon then went out and pitched a solid start for the D’Backs today.

I started listening to the game from the viewpoint of Texas, the home team, because that is what came up on MLB audio. Every other Texas commercial break (literally every other) was full of medical stuff. Diabetes, Lung Cancer, Cervical Cancer, know your pharmacist’s name because medicines are dangerous, be an organ donor. You’re sick! You’re gonna to be sick! Someone else who’s sick can live if you die an organ donor! No PSA’s about how so many Texans can’t afford the excellent medical care available in Texas. There wasn’t anything wrong with any one of these public service announcements per se but together they were just too much, especially when one was listening to an athletic contest. (There was one bit of "medical" news during the game: The Diamondbacks were without their regular third base coach because he was recovering from a broken foot. His foot caught an Eric Byrnes line drive foul).

The Texas announcers also thought that Arizona was crazy for wanting Byrnes after the year he had last year and even went so far as to suggest that perhaps AZ D’Backs GM Josh Byrnes wanted a guy named Byrnes on the field. GRRR!  He wasn’t the only one to have a bad year. Guys bounce back. I looked for a way to email the announcers, but couldn’t find one. Let’s just say that I was glad to find the D’Backs broadcast. 

OK, Byrnesie, let’s have more multi-hit days, and RBI’s when the bases are loaded when the games count!

The weather in Oakland is sunny today in more ways than one.

As I end this post, Cuba has beaten the DR 3-1. Congratulations, Cuba, for a young team with no major leaguers, you know how to play the game. Your team made three errors and stranded 7 runners, but you still won. Good pitching DOES stop good hitting!

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

Random Thoughts about Round 2 of the WBC

Teams that do not hit in the clutch do not move on.

From Jim Street’s March 17th article on Clemens: "If Team USA had been the home team and lost by the same score, it would have advanced to the semifinals. But because the Americans were the visitors and Mexico didn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, Japan got the semifinal berth based on the tiebreaker system." Something’s gotta be done about these arcane tiebreaker rules!

Timlin wore his camo t-shirt under his uniform. Good for him. What you wear under your uniform (and whether or not you have facial hair), should be irrelevant, especially in this era of alternate jerseys, and some players wearing high socks while others aren’t.

My stated preference of a final between Korea and the DR is going to be hard to achieve because it means that in the semifinals both teams will have to defeat their opponents for the third time in a row in this short tournament.

Korean fans are about as wonderfully noisy as Latin American fans are.

It’s a shame that the semis and the finals are single elimination because that doesn’t seem appropriate to a baseball championship. The semis should be 2 out of 3, and the finals 3 out of 5.

I’m tired of Roger Clemens. I think it is great that a guy can have such a low ERA when he’s over 40. But if you can do that and still not have a passion for continuing to play the game, then quit, for Pete’s sake and stop giving us the "we’ll see how I feel in June or July" stuff. If your body can’t take a whole season at 43, then it’s time to quit! Stop being a prima donna!

I can’t believe that the media waited two hours for Clemens to show up at a post-game press conference. (He didn’t show). For goodness sakes, it’s not like he broke Cy Young’s career wins record, or Nolan Ryan’s career strikeout record. He pitched well, but the US was still eliminated. So he wasn’t even the winning pitcher in the game! C’mon sports media, don’t you have anything better to do than to monitor Clemens’ mood swings on when or if he’ll come back?

I am a U.S. citizen by birth; my ethnic background includes Venezuela and Cuba. But I would like to see a Korea-DR final. As Round 2 progressed, I figured this would be the best baseball matchup.

Several times through the tournament, the announcers noted that Adrian Beltre has changed his stance, and that it’s working for him. (Eric Byrnes, are you paying attention?)

Glad to see that Carlos Delgado got a chance to hit and came up with a single. He really wanted to get in there.

NCAA Note: Indiana got out of the first round, beating San Diego State 87-83.

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

Third Time’s the Charm?

In my previous post, I said I preferred a WBC final of Korea vs. the Dominican Republic. For that to happen, Korea must defeat Japan and the Dominican must defeat Cuba for the third time in the tournament. That will be tough. You can bet that the Japanese will be looking for double revenge, and while the Cubans are young and inconsistent, they are also resilient; they adjust well, as Puerto Rico can tell you.

Other Notes: Eric Byrnes went 1-3 in today’s 5-4 loss to KC. The single did not drive in any runs and he did not score. The good news is that he’s not running any long o’fer strings as in abymsal, aberrant 2005. The not-so-good news is that he also hasn’t had any multi-hit days…yet. The 1-3 effort brings his spring average up to .259. Jeff DaVanon, who can switch-hit and can play all three outfield positions, took over in CF for the last two AB’s. He went 1-2 and is now at .455. (A Cuban league BA). DaVanon, formerly of the geographically-challenged Angels is scheduled to be the D’Backs fourth outfielder.

One of my favorite Eric Byrnes moments, and yes, there were some good ones in abysmal, aberrant 2005, was his throwing DaVanon out at home in a late-season game in which DaVanon was trying to score the 11th run in an Angels’ pounding of the Orioles. DaVanon was sent in to pinch-run, got a good jump off second base, but Byrnesie threw a bullet home and Javy Lopez nailed Jeff at the plate.

The best Byrnes moment of the year for me was Aug. 31st, when he hit a two-run homer off Miguel Batista in Toronto. Batista, DaVanon and Byrnes are now teammates on the Diamondbacks. I know some folks root for the shirts, no matter who is wearing them. But I find, especially in this age of free agency, trading and the Internet, I prefer to follow the player, no matter what colors he’s wearing. (Now if we can only get some spring TV coverage of the D’Backs for rainy, rainy, Oakland! If you don’t hear from me in a while, it COULD be that the city has floated away!)

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA