Was the world really watching at 1:30 a.m. this morning (PDT) when China and Japan launched the 16-country World Baseball Classic (Wikipedia info here) from the Tokyo Dome?
The game will be replayed today on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. in case you somehow missed it. It’s almost right after Prime Ticket carries the live Manny Ramirez Is Back! press conference from Arizona at 9:30 a.m.
More people, at least on this continent, will probably be more aware that the event has started when they see Derek Jeter, David Wright, Ryan Braun, Jimmy Rollins, Chipper Jones, Curtis Granderson, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Roy Oswalt and Adam Dunn show up tonight (11:35 p.m.) on “Late Show with David Letterman,” presenting the list of the Top 10 Reasons to Watch the World Baseball Classic.
No A-Rod? Not that it matters. Seems he’s got this surgery now and a family member — not his cousin — says he’ll probably be out of action until May (story linked here).
We do find that a list of reasons to pay attention to the WBC has some value. We’ll attempt to come up with 10 excuses of our own to make sure we’re on board with this thing after we weren’t so sure about it three years ago:
10. There’ll probably be an Alyssa Milano sighting (see previous blog entry), wearing a Dominican Republic jersey tied up around her midsection in some kind of provocative fashion. Pedro Martinez will notice it.
9. Valentino Pascucci (linked here)? He’s No. 71, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound outfielder/first baseman, in camp with the Dodgers this spring. Probably wearing Frank Howard’s old jersey. Last played in the bigs for some team called Montreal back in ’04. According to the stats, he’s hitting .700 so far this month. And he’s supposed to be playing for Team Italy. He’s probably Tommy Lasorda’s favorite guy now. Keep him around at least for the team pizza parties after the Saturday afternoon victories.
8. This scenario: Jonathan Broxton, trying to save a game for Team USA, going inside on Canada’s Russell Martin in a key 9th inning at-bat. Team USA faces Canada in Toronto on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN). And team Canada didn’t ask Eric Gagne to join ’em? Wait, is that Ferguson Jenkins warming up in the Maple Leaf pen?
7. Ichiro has hinted loudly that he wants to pitch in a game for defending champion Team Japan. That’ll go over well in Seattle. Or, it could launch a second career for him when he retires from American baseball and goes back to Japan as the new Babe Ruth.
6. After Team Cuba lost to South Korea in the recent Olympics in Beijing, Fidel Castro proclaimed that big changes would happen in all of his country’s sports teams. “We will review every discipline, every human and material resource that we dedicate to sport … We will be profound in our analysis, apply new ideas, concepts and knowledge.” He’s still living, right? Why wouldn’t that edict elicit a call to arms from Jose Canseco?
And what recourse does Kim Jong-Il have if South Korea fails to make a good showing? Strip down to his Chan Ho Park and really expose himself?
5. Terry Collins, the former Angels’ skipper, is managing Team China. Davey Johnson, the former Dodgers’ skipper, is managing Team USA. Bert Blyleven isn’t managing Team Netherlands?
4. Because the ads that ESPN has been using to promote it are pretty cool (especially the guy with the Aussie accent):
3. You gotta see Yu Darvish. He’s the 22-year-old Next Great Japanese Pitcher, who went 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA last season for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He started this morning’s game against China.
2. If baseball is ever going to be return to the Olympic movement, movement on the MLB’s part to participate in this thing becomes more important. Next step is allowing its top U.S. players to take a two week break from the season to fly to (somewhere around the world) and compete … unless the 2016 games were in Chicago, then …
Says Joe Magrane, the former big-league pitcher working for the MLB Network on the tournament: “After doing the last three Olympics and having seen a lot of these players, some of the complaints about Olympic baseball were that players were not representative of best players. This time there is a more perfect set up. Derek Jeter, once he got in engaged embraced how special this is for the best players in the game. Look for this to continue to grow and be a model event. It puts baseball back in Olympic play.”
1. The finals (and semifinals) are at Dodger Stadium at the end of the month. See these games in person to appreciate their value (read this New York Newsday blog linked here). And people need the jobs. Remember that job fair that the team had last weekend, to fill about 500 spots as ushers, concession stands, etc. Almost 7,000 applied (linked here).
Now, go catch the replay of the game you slept through. We promise we won’t tell you who won: