On the World Baseball Classic
Unfortunately, my lack of cable and the lack of accessible online streaming of the games in this year’s WBC meant that I couldn’t watch any games live. I was, however, able to follow along on Twitter and via Gameday, so that was cool. As a naturalized American citizen I was disappointed that the USA couldn’t move on to the semifinals in San Francisco, but as a fan of baseball I enjoyed the replays of all the tense moments, the “clutch” plays, and the passion displayed by all the participants.
Part of what annoyed me most (and I’m too annoyed and lazy to link to every single tweet) was the fact that because the USA lost, all the national writers started freaking out about America losing its position as a baseball power, that the Americans were playing without passion or heart, or any number of other narratives. It was simultaneously hilarious and sad that a bunch of guys who were supposed to write about baseball for a living didn’t understand that in a baseball game, anything can and will happen, especially in a round-robin type of tournament. As Cubs fans we are all too clear on this concept, as the Cubs were swept out of five-game series in 2007 and 2008. The Atlanta Braves would probably be another good example, as they made the playoffs for something like 14 straight years but only won one championship. Even the Yankees of this decade were blasted because they dared to only win one World Series championship. Those were “real” baseball games, with no pitch limits on the pitchers depending on each round, and with best-of-five or best-of-seven.
Think about when Bud Selig forced the one-game wild card playoff through this past season, and how very good teams such as the Texas Rangers or the Atlanta Braves, with one very bad game, crapped out because everything went wrong at the absolute worst time. This is basically what happened with strong teams such as Venezuela and Team USA. They had their chances, but whether because of bad luck, Joe Torre, or divine doctrine, they couldn’t cash in during their round-robin and were eliminated. That doesn’t mean that they suck. Joe Mauer was awesome in the whole tournament. David Wright was a monster as well. But as they say, even Justin Verlander gets hit sometimes (ironically, Justin decided not to participate).
This tournament doesn’t really mean anything other than to generate interest in baseball for folks in other countries who otherwise wouldn’t have given a shit. Anthony Rizzo and Team Italy had a surprising run into the second round, and even though they couldn’t hold on, they made things tough for their pool partners and inspired an entire nation. That’s really what this tournament is about. There is no rational or objective way to gauge success or “power” in such a condensed slate of games. At the end of the day, most of the best baseball talent in the world comes from the USA and most of the elite players in the world want to play in the USA. It just happens that the guys wearing the USA jerseys had some bad games at the wrong times. Shit happens. Enjoy baseball.
And just because the Netherlands MIGHT end up in the championship round and MIGHT beat Japan, the Dominican or Puerto Rico, it probably doesn’t make them the ultimate baseball power in the universe. Just saying, it IS a single-elimination game after all.
On Jeff Samardzija‘s Would-Be Contract
When this Tweet showed up in your feed, if you were wondering, it was me that said it:
— WorldSeriesDreaming (@WSDreaming_Cubs) March 16, 2013
So you might ask, why does this make me both happy and sad? Well, let’s look at it from two different angles.
I am happy because it means that very smart people in charge of the Cubs think that Samardzija is worthy of such a contract. I’m also happy because they’re not blowing that much money on him just yet. That leads to the sads. You see, I’m still not sure (not that my opinion matters) that Samardzija is always going to be the pitcher we saw in 2012, or better. And it kind of bugs me that they’re so dead-sure that he WILL be that pitcher (or better) that they’re willing to drive the price up. So this will be interesting to keep an eye on as the season progresses. For our sake, I hope the Samardzija is awesome from Opening Day on and that he makes the Cubs throw an armored truck at him.
On the Legend of Javier Baez
So Javier Baez is very good at destroying baseballs. He smacked a couple against Japan, getting them back for their silly “104” joke from the pre-game, and then smacked a couple more today against the Royals. He’s the Cubs’ top prospect for a reason.
Now, let’s dial it back a notch. It’s spring training in a very hitter-friendly run environment (Arizona). It’s an extremely small sample size that reflects what Baez is probably going to be capable of, and that’s encouraging. But in addition to the offensive environment, Baez was facing Bruce Chen, who is not good at baseball. So looking at all the comments suggesting that he is a Hall of Famer (could be, maybe, we wish) or that he should be called up to start on Opening Day RIGHT NOW is disheartening because fans are focusing too much on what just happened and not enough on the big picture. We’ll probably have some blogs up later on to explore what Baez brings to the table, but I think the expectations should be tempered a bit.
That said, it would be pretty awesome if he panned out as expected. And it’s a fun problem to have when we have to keep wondering whether Starlin Castro has to move to third or center field, or if Baez does. Every organization would kill to have that problem.