It’s not over. Two more pools to play before heading to San Francisco where the top prize is yet to be won. The World Baseball Classic has taught us a few things over the past few weeks. One may astound you, but the others, well, maybe they won’t.
One aspect I’m sure we’ve all noticed is the difference in how fans act and react. If you’ve watched any of the games from Hiram Birthorn Stadium in Puerto Rico, you always saw fans from at least one of the teams doing a conga line, some others waving their nation’s flag, dancing and jumping around. The noise from air horns and whistles was more prevalent than that of the vuvuzelas during the last World Cup. A little more bearable as well.
Won’t normally see anything like that at a USA game regardless of location of the event. Sure, chalk it up to differences in cultures and I would hardly argue the point, but for some reason, I get the feeling these games don’t mean as much to Americans as all the others. To the fans, anyway…
And are US fans a little more apathetic? I’m pretty sure they are. You would think the USA-Canada game would draw a decent crowd. Chase Field seats around 49,000. For yesterday’s matchup: 22,425, or about half of the crowd that witnessed the USA-Mexico matchup (44,256). Yes, there was the $5 ticket deal involved that may have added to that number.
The players, on the other hand, do not take it that way. Here’s Brandon Phillips on what if would have been like had Team USA lost yesterday (via ESPN.com):
“It would have been embarrassing. I would have been embarrassed. USA this is where baseball started and we represent our country. I just feel that if we had lost we didn’t do our job. We have to go out there and try to be the first American team to win the WBC. That is our goal.”
At least those playing seem to have a different approach…and that’s a good thing, I suppose. To further get the feeling of this, check out this clip of David Wright and ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. Go to the 1:50 mark and you’ll see what I mean.
Another notice: Fox Sport’s Jon Paul Morosi is excessively schizophrenic on this WBC deal. One day, he tweets and writes that the US has no clue how to win in the WBC, and on another, he tweets that Team USA doesn’t “stink at baseball anymore”.
All within a 48 hour period, too.
Particularly in the earlier rounds, the bullpens are more important that the starters. Having mandatory pitch counts will do that. For the round just completed, there was a 65 pitch limit unless a pitcher hit that number while facing a batter. He can then complete that AB. Next round, that number increases to 80. Starters will undoubtedly become more important should they also become more economical.
And where are the best starters, especially the US? No Verlander. No Kershaw. No Price. No Strasburg. All have reasons. And from other countries that were in this round? No King Felix. Why no Yu? Reds fans (and I think everyone else) knows why no Cueto at this point.
And not to accentuate the “incident” between Canada and Mexico even more, but we all know about “run differential” and its application as a tie breaker. I’ll admit using this as a deciding factor doesn’t seem right and against baseball “etiquette”, but for those opposing the use of run differential as a tie breaker, I have a question: what other tie breaking method is plausible? I’m not a fan of using run differential either, but what else is there to use? Some variable of it was used in both 2006 and 2009. I’ll take any suggestion..and so may the WBC.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t enjoyed the baseball to this point. While it doesn’t mean anything as far as the MLB standings, it does have a meaning for those playing.
And maybe that is the most important thing learned from the WBC. Regardless of who is on the team, the players are more proud of the name on the front of the jersey.