I know it isn't just me this time.
The World Baseball Classic is rocking this year.
The Netherlands beat the Dominicans once. It could have just been seen as an outlier, it could have been seen as a fluke, it could have been seen as an aberration. Sports Illustrated Football writer (and Ohio University alumnus) Peter King even said that if those two teams played 20 times, the Dominicans would win 19. Well, they must have been destined to play 40 times because the Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic TWICE! And eliminated them on the second go-around.
This outcome is incredible for baseball. Not only does it give them a legitimate upset instead of just a fluke. It also brings them the possibility of a baseball powerhouse in Europe. The West and East part of the globe have really embraced baseball. The central part (mainland Europe and Africa) has not. Africa probably will continue to not care for economic reasons. But if we can get the Dutch to become legitimately excited about baseball, we might be able to get something going here.
Then there's the "home team" Not only have the Americans won twice, but they have won convincingly. The Canada game was cathartic to say the least and they absolutely thumped the team that I thought would be the best in the tournament. And the Venezuela win in Pool C keeps my dream of a Venezuelan World Baseball-Ruling class alive.
The Asian Pool could not have gone better either. Korea and Japan are huge rivals, and we are all lucky that they met in their Pool's final. 1-0 games are a thing of beauty....and very hard to come by in tournaments like this. I have to say, my biggest worry about the WBC is that Baseball itself wasn't conducive to an elimination tournament like this. I always thought that 162 games were the only way to crown a champion in baseball and I was worried the fact that so few games are played in the WBC would cheapen the competition...but it hasn't. This tournament is an absolute thing of beauty so far.
As far as my pre-tournament predictions go... I have to say, they aren't as bad as I thought they would be.
ROUND ONE PREDICTIONS
POOL A Winner: Japan
POOL A Runner-up: Korea
POOL B Winner: Cuba
POOL B Runner-up: Mexico
POOL C Winner: Venezuela
POOL C Runner-up: Canada
POOL D Winner: Dominican Republic
POOL D Runner-up: Panama
ROUND ONE RESULTS
Pool A Winner - Korea
Pool A Runner-Up - Japan
Pool B Winner - Cuba
Pool B Runner-Up - Mexico
Pool C Winner - Venezuela
Pool C Runner-Up - U.S.A
Pool D Winner - Puerto Rico
Pool D Runner-Up - The Netherlands
I got Pool B exactly right. I got Pool A sort-of right but I mixed up the winner and the runner-up. I guessed the Pool C winner correctly, but the U.S replaced Canada as the runner-up. I must say I am happy to see my home country go on to the next round, regardless of my predictions. But Pool D was an absolute failure on my part. Turns out the U.S wasn't the choke artist this year, it was the D.R. Oh man, the Dominicans blew it. I attribute this completely to the teams lack of Pujols. The best player in the world should be in the ultimate international baseball competition...just saying. I did correctly predict that the tournaments WTF? team would come from Pool D. But I thought it would be Panama instead of the Netherlands. As a matter of fact, I thought the Dutch would be the worst team in the tournament. I guess that's why they call them "upsets."
But enough about the Classic. I have some other business to attend to right now.
I have read a few pieces of sports Journalism that I enjoyed quite a bit this week. I really enjoyed Lee Jenkins piece on Jason Giambi for Sports Illustrated. I finished Moneybal just a couple of months ago and this Billy Beane/Jason Giambi reunion felt like everything was coming full circle for me. Then there was Bud Shaw's story about Omar Vizquel and his art. The Indians are my favorite thing in life and Omar Vizquel was always my favorite player...which I guess makes him my favrite person ever. Plus, some of his art contains nudity. Finally, there is this little bit of epic awesomeness. It is called The Power to Believe and is written by Joe Posnanski. Now, I am new to this whole Journalism thing, but I would like to nominate this for Best Baseball Story of 2009. I said my piece on Albert Pujols a little while back but this says everything I wanted to articulate and then some. Joe Posnanski, I raise my glass to you.
Finally, I would like to talk about my upcoming baseball preview. It is a three-part release spread out over three weeks and the first one is coming up next week. Next week's post will predict the outcomes of all division races in the National League in 2009, as well as include line-ups, rotations, and bullpens for all teams. The following week will be the same for the American League and the first week of April will be devoted the the MLB season as a whole and my predicted playoff bracket.
That's it for now. Come back next week for the event 18 years in the making!
*Saturday Night Update* Wow, it looks like I was wrong about Puerto Rico this year. 11-1 over the U.S. But I was right about Jake Peavy sucking in the WBC. Should the Padres ever make the playoffs (a highly unlikely occurrence) I think we can safely assume that Peavy will tank it Sabathia-style. I'm sorry, CC, you know I still love you. You just suck in the playoffs....and are a freaking Yankee.