Been sadly neglecting this blog, but even though the WBC finals were two months ago, better late than never.
The three games in San Francisco were wonderful.
There was the first semi-final between Japan and Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico’s massive upset win over the two-time defending champions. The Japanese supporters were very vocal, and massively conspicous in their absence during the final (even though the tickets sold were three-packs).
The Japanese apparently had special try-outs for the team, and really prepared for the tournament, but perhaps were hurt by not including any MLB players, like Ichiro.
There was the second game between the Dominican Republic and upstart underdogs the Netherlands, who beat the Domincans twice in the 2009 tournament. This time the Dominicans were better prepared (and didn’t lose a single game). The Netherlands started a bit like the Puerto Ricans, but in the end were just outplayed.
But their performance, reaching the semi-finals, was an amazing testimony to European baseball.
In the final, the Domincans just outplayed the Puerto Ricans.
It was fun to see Angel Pagan playing for Puerto Rico in his own part. One wanted to think this gave him an edge, but he did misjudge one ball hit to centerfield badly.
Strange to be at AT&T without the Giants. Renel, the Giants’ PA announcer, was there, although she had to share the mike with Japanese and (especially in the final) Spanish-speakers. The mascot Lou Seal was also on-hand.
And the stands were filled with Giants fans in Giants gear. When Dodger Hanley Ramirez came up to bat for the Domincan, the stands echoed with boos and chants of “Beat LA”.
Just about the only negative thing was the weather, it got very chilly, and the final night it rained a bit. Fortunately we had seats on the Club Level that were under a roof, but we till took refugee from the cold behind the glass on the Club Level. That in itself was an amazing experience, with all the food and concession stands one could wish. We spent a lot of time inside, watching the game on the TV screens.
Originally I didn’t want seats at the Club Level, I like to sit closer to the field and the plate, behind the first base dugout, for example. But we have the most amazing views of McCovey Cove and the Bay Bridge.
I’m only at AT&T every now and then, but I’ve never seen the Giants Dugout Store there so crowded. It most mostly filled with Giants stuff, of course, with the WBC merchandise sort of shoved into the corners. But that was where the crowds were, looking for gear from not just the four teams in the final three games, but for all the teams in the final rounds of the tournament.
The opening ceremonies all three days were impressive. One little thing that irked was that among the flags of the competing nations were Britain, France, and Germany, all of whom were in the qualifiers for the WBC. Germany belonged there, but it continues to bother me that Britain and France were picked to take part, rather than Sweden, which has a better national team.
As far as I know, Britain and France were included solely for commercial reasons, being bigger countries Major League Baseball felt that their inclusion would be more profitable. But, even if it had gone out at the very first stage, Sweden deserved to be given that chance.
Saturday’s amazing upset by the Netherlands over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic showed the world European baseball is not to be laughed at.
Even though they won by the narrowest of margins, 3-2, beating one of the very best nations in baseball was a remarkable achievement, especially considering that except for veteran pitcher Sidney Ponson, the Dutch team consisted of players from the American minor leagues (mostly A level) and the Dutch league. The team they defeated had major league players, some All-Stars and MVPs, at every position.
The Dutch may have scored all their runs in the first inning through a series of flukes and bloopers, but they held on to beat the mighty Dominicans. It was certainly no disgrace to be shut-out for three innings by Pedro Martinez.
Three years ago the Dutch upset Panama in the first World Baseball Classic. That was a surprise, but Panama is no where near the powerhouse that is the Dominican Republic. No matter what the Netherlands does in its game against Puerto Rico, its national team has established the quality of European baseball.
Here on the last day of Spring Training we can look back at the coverage those of us living in Europe have been able to enjoy from NASN, the North American Sports Network. It’s wonderful that we can watch baseball at all, but one has to wonder why every single game this Spring has been from Florida?
What happened to the Cactus League in Arizona? Not a single game.
Possibly more upsetting, NASN didn’t bother to let us watch either of the two games between the Dodgers and the Padres from Beijing. You can get a glimpse of them for free from MLB.com, a video feed from China with play-by-play from a TV studio in San Diego. It looks fascinating, and how wonderful if might have been to see those history-making games on our TV sets.
Today NASN is actually leaving Florida to show us yesterday’s Civil Rights game in Memphis, but that’s probably because there are no games left in Florida. It’s bad enough that major sports news sites have a habit of ignoring games in the West, which tend to finish after East Coast writers want to go to bed. But what has prevented NASN from showing a little Arizona baseball?
All this will be forgotten, of course, as soon as the season starts in the US (NASN did give us the two opening of the season games in Japan). But one hopes the same error isn’t made next year. Of course, then we’ll have the World Baseball Classic to enjoy, and that most certainly will not be restricted to Florida!