USA! USA!Cap'n Brendan
Guess who’s sitting at the bar watching the World Baseball Classic again this week? Did you guess someone else? Well that would technically be true because I’m not the only one this week! But if you guessed me that would also be true. Congratulations, have a point either way! The WBC was designed to promote and celebrate baseball around the world, and when the first tournament was held in 2006 there was widespread concern that a dominant U.S. team would steamroll the competition, defeating that purpose. Instead, baseball did what baseball does, and in the small sample size of tournament play Japan defeated Cuba to win the first title.
Now sure, neither Japan nor Cuba is a slouch when it comes to the sport. Japan’s NPB is probably the world’s second most competitive league, while Cuba has lost a number of wildly talented players via defection. The next tournament in 2009 saw Japan win again, this time over South Korea which in the KBO has perhaps the next-best league outside of MLB. The top 8 teams were largely who a baseball fan would expect, while The Netherlands twice defeated a juggernaut Dominican Republic squad to advance. Did you know The Netherlands was good at baseball? Now you do!
After Japan’s back-to-back titles, we saw a shakeup in 2013 as an all-star squad from the Dominican Republic knocked out a similarly stacked Puerto Rico team to claim the championship. While neither DR nor PR boasts a high level league the way Japan, Cuba, and South Korea do, these are countries (or territories) where the free flow of talent into MLB contributes many of its All Stars. An expanded qualification process in 2013 also allowed Brazil and Spain to win their way into the tournament for the first time, creating a wave of excitement for baseball in those countries.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that in three World Baseball Classics, the U.S. didn’t once make the finals, let alone win one. The fears that the game’s originator would squash its “lesser” competition and serve to counteract the tournament’s goal of growing baseball in those countries proved unfounded. Because baseball is a game that, no matter how good or bad you are, the odds of winning or losing any one given game are closer than they are in other sports. Eat your heart out NFL, baseball is the real sport of parity.
So as I sit here watching the USA team up 8-0 on Puerto Rico in this year’s finals (a year which saw the out of nowhere ascendency of the Israeli team), with one out left to seal it, I’m glad that it all played out the way it did. Like quiz, baseball is more fun when everyone starts out feeling like this could be their night. And the year America finally won, we’re doing it with a team that probably wasn’t better than either the Dominican team we beat to get to the semis, or the Puerto Rico team we just eliminated. This despite Jim Leyland’s archaic views on management embodied in Eric Hosmer starting over Paul Goldschmidt at 1B.
America has won, and really even if we “lost” we’d still have “won” in the sense that Puerto Rico is a territory and probably should be the 51st state. But in what’s hard to argue against as the best WBC yet, it’s even harder to argue that the real winners aren’t us fans of the game. Baseball is transcendent… And MLB is still in Spring Training. Bring on the 162.
Congratulations to tonight’s winners: Pants, The Uncle Boyfriends, and My Dumps. Have wonderful weeks, and I’ll see you all next Wednesday!
Help DJ future quizzes! Here’s a link to our collaborative playlist on Spotify. Subscribe, add music you want to hear next time, and delete things you don’t. It’s one big social experiment!
This is the bio that never ends
Yes it goes on and on my friends
Some people started reading it, not knowing who I was
And they'll just keep on reading it forever just because
This is the bio that never ends...