Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Conundrum of the WBC

The WBC is no good. The competition is terrific. The energy is playoffesque. The level of play is phenomenal, given that a lot of guys are still effectively only halfway through spring training. The problem I have with the World Baseball Classic is that it makes my brain hurt.

First off, I didn't want Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia to play too much or too hard, because I was afraid they'd get hurt. Well, I guess that ship has sailed. Secondly, I found myself badly conflicted during the opening round when the Netherlands beat the powerhouse Dominican Republic team not once but twice. On one hand, the story of the Dutch beating a team full of legitimate all-stars with a couple potential Hall of Fame inductees sprinkled in is the thing of Damon Runyon fantasies. A scriptwriter would be laughed out of the room for suggesting in a manuscript what actually took place. On the other hand, I loved the assemblage of talent on the Dominican team, and especially wanted to see Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz shine. So that felt weird.

But it's nothing compared to watching Team USA. I HAVE to root for the Stars and Stripes, but Jake Peavy flat out sucked, and I thought some of the behavior of the players bordered on boorish and bush league. And then there's Derek Jeter. I found myself rooting for Derek Jeter. This isn't right. But wait, it gets worse. Tonight, Team USA is playing Team Japan (also called The Samurai). Of course I should root for the Americans, right? Well yes, except that Daisuke Matsuzaka is starting for Japan. I cannot and will not root against Dice K. I also love how the Japanese play the game. Their fundamentals are unrivaled as the best in the tournament. They do all the little things right, and watching them is observing a clinic. Besides, how do you root against Ichiro and Fukudome? And with Pedroia and Youk off the team due to injuries (that thank God aren't serious), the rooting interest in Team USA is lessened a teensy weensy bit.

So until Daisuke's appearance ends, I'm just watching this game and hoping both teams play great, and Daisuke has another superb appearance like he did against Cuba, where he was lights out for 5 innings. Then again, Roy Oswalt is getting lit up in the 4th inning, so this might be academic real soon now. (6-2 Samurai right now, and Oswalt's night is done)

I know there are risks of injuries, and I know the timing disrupts the delicate flow of MLB's spring training....yes, that's heavy sarcasm you detect there. I am not the least bit ashamed to admit I love the WBC. It's great for the game, and the more you watch, the more you admire it. It's baseball's Olympics, now that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport in the Summer Games.

That said, I'll be even happier in a couple weeks when Opening Day rolls around, and life starts anew.