Tuesday, January 24, 2006

'06 World Baseball Classic – Status update

Some random thoughts about the upcoming 16 team/country tournament

The US has reversed its decision and will now allow Cuba to play in the tournament. This is a good thing. I had written before, here and here, about the enormous stupidity we had demonstrated in threatening to not allow the Cuban team to play on US soil. What’s the problem, we don’t want any more defectors?

Alex Rodriguez has decided to play for Team America. Gee, I’m so happy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player. But in my book, he’s starting to wear a bit thin. Alex first decided he wasn’t going to play in the WBC at all, then decided he was going to play for the Dominican Republic and now he’s decided he’s going to play for the USA. Yes, he was the American League’s MVP this year, but his abysmal performance in the playoffs (one measly hit) certainly contributed to the Yankee’s getting bounced out in the first round. Then there was that stupid stunt he pulled when he tried to slap the baseball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand during last year’s ALCS – that’s little league crap. And, I guess I’m just jealous of his $252 Million dollar contract – I don’t think ANYONE is worth that kind of money, not even Babe Ruth in his prime. So, welcome to the team, Alex. I just hope that your bat shows up during the series.

Barry Bonds has decided not to play for Team USA. The guy’s had so many injuries in the last year or so, I can understand it. But the timing is very unfortunate. Sluggers like Bonds (and Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmero, etc.) had a bad year in 2005. Is it just coincidence that this was the year that baseball decided to get tough on steroids? And the WBC has even tougher drug testing – I believe it’s modeled after the testing they do in the Olympics. I have no proof, of course, that Bonds (or Sosa or Palmero) have ever done steroids. But the timing is, as I said, unfortunate, and will lead to further suspicion about them. On the plus side for Bonds, when he was able to return in late 2005, he was pounding out home runs as he normally does and, presumably, he was being tested at the time. I hope his home run totals are honest. If he stays healthy, he should catch Babe Ruth this year and Hank Aaron late this year or the next.

Lance Berkman is now also off of Team USA – this due to upcoming knee surgery. This guy is a clutch hitter and will be missed.

Final rosters are not due to be set until March 2nd. As of now, Team USA has three starting pitchers that I would consider “A list”; Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite and Dontrelle Willis. They also have Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Roy Halladay, and C. C. Sabathia – all quality starters. This, plus their bullpen of Chad Cordero, Todd Jones, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, Scot Shields, Huston Street and Billy Wagner, gives them a pretty solid staff. With the pitch count rules in place, all of these pitchers may be needed. And this is not like the USA Basketball Dream team in the Olympics – such an enormous step up from their competition that the games were not competitive. Other teams, especially the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, have many players that have faced these pitchers and have had success against them. Nevertheless, if the rosters stay as they are now, I like Team USA’s chances in this tournament.

I’d love to see some of these games live, but my upcoming surgery may not allow that. I don’t want to buy tickets unless I know that I can actually sit during the whole game and enjoy it, and by the time I know that, the tickets may be all sold out. Their website doesn’t discuss TV arrangements, but I’m hopeful that all of the games will be televised.

Go USA!!!

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