Round Two World Baseball Classic action continues…
Korea vs. Mexico
In Sunday’s very late (10:00 pm Central) game, Korea defeated Mexico using a surprising weapon: the long ball. The three solo shots were surprising both because the game took place in the pitcher-friendly spacious confines of Petco Park in San Diego and because Korea is not know for their power.
Korea also used small ball, with two sacrifices and three stolen bases. Mexico seemed unable to get their offense going against the fine Korea pitching. Korea won 8-2.
In this World Baseball Classic, there are men playing for jobs. Reportedly, Ivan Rodriguez is headed to Houston. All are playing for pride and country. The Koreans are playing for something more.
In Korea, the government requires mandatory military service from all men that must be completed by the age of 30. However, military exemption has sometimes been granted to Olympians. The Korean government has not promised military exemption to the members of the 2009 Korean roster, but if Korea brings home the championship, such an exemption is likely.
Shin-Soo Choo, a 27-year-old prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, has not yet completed his military service. Without the exemption, he will be forced to go back to Korea and spend a couple years in the military, and then try to resume his baseball career. The Cleveland Indians, with a significant investment in Choo, were probably the only major league club that said to a player, “Yes, please, go play in the WBC” in the hopes an exemption would be granted.
Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico
Monday night, these two Caribbean rivals met in Miami. The crowd was large, loud and rowdy. Forget “thundersticks”, these fans bring everything from drums and tambourines to pots and pans. One even had a stainless steel dog bowl that she was beating on with a spoon. While the American public seems rather blasé about the WBC, there is no doubt that other countries are taking this very seriously.
I so wishing I was at this game. I have a game bag I pack with all my essentials: camera, score sheet on a clipboard, pencils, sharpies, umbrella, tickets, cell phone, hot dog money, XM radio, and a jacket. I love the idea of slipping in my tambourine or even my spare dog bowl into my game bag.
Perhaps, there is something contagious about the crowd because I was riveted to the TV, feeling the weight of importance on every single pitch. And, pitching was the story of this game.
Puerto Rico’s Ian Snell was great, but a walk, a stolen base and a single got Venezuela on the board in the third inning. Amazingly, that would be all Venezuela would need, as their pitching staff, led by Felix Hernandez, shut down the Puerto Rican offensive machine.
Venezuela‘s Ramon Hernandez added a solo home run in the seventh inning that was debated for about ten minutes before being ruled a home run. That has to be the longest home run trot in history! At first, it ruled a triple. The umpires debated on the field, then disappeared into the tunnel to view the instant replay. The replays on TV clearly showed it to be a home run. Yet, we waited and waited. Finally, the umpires appeared and declared it a home run. As it turns out, the replay equipment was not working, so after a debate among themselves, they called it a home run.
Venezuela‘s win ensures them a spot in the finals, while Puerto Rico and USA will battle for the other spot. In the rematch between the USA and Puerto Rico, we will find out what Team USA is made of. Can they rebound from their drumming by Puerto Rico in the first round?
Cuba vs. Mexico
Another 10:00 pm game at Petco Park. These are killing me. Well, actually, this one killed Mexico, as it was an elimination game.
Cuba prevailed 7-4 in this match-up. Mexico‘s success or lack can largely be judged by how first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hits. In his home park, Gonzalez only got on with a walk. Not good for Mexico. Mexico’s Cantu and Presichi both contributed solo homers, but in the end Cuba put up seven runs on eleven hits.
With the embargo against Cuba, you may wonder how do the Cubans get to play on American soil? They agree to donate any winnings to charity. These are lowest paid players in this classic, and they are only allowed to play for national pride, not prize money. Am I the only one that thinks the foreign policy against Cuba is outdated? Can we please be the “bigger” country and kiss and make up with our neighbor?
Mexico goes home. Mexican left-handed reliever, Dennys Reyes, will head to Cardinals camp in Florida, where I hope Dave Duncan can whip him into game form. In an elimination game on the 18th, Cuba will go on to face the loser of the St. Patrick’s Day game between Japan and Korea