It's been a day chock full o' baseball--first Jonathan Papelbon's start for the Red Sox, and then the USA / Japan WBC game, which was a travesty. I'm not sure how, after their crushing at the hands of Canada, the USA even advanced to Round 2--my dad's explanation was, "Some kinda new math they got there about who they played, or somethin'."
There was some kind of new math going on with that call that the Japanese baserunner left early, too, I'll tell you that. New math that says, there's no way the USA is going to be eliminated so early from this tournament.
Tonight, though, it's time for some good, clean fun--the Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico. I'm rooting for the DR, probably, after today's travesty, and because of Papi, more than I'm rooting for the US. You have to love the Carribbean, Central and South American teams and their fans. They showed a lead-in segment showing Albert Pujols talking about growing up in the Dominican and playing stickball.
"See, that's the difference between these guys and the US guys now," my dad said. "Nobody here plays stickball anymore. American kids don't get the hand-eye coordination these guys do."
And with the exception of a Red Sox - Yankees tilt late in the postseason, their fans are putting us to shame tonight, too. The energy level as Bartolo Colon faces Adrian Beltre with one out in the first feels like it's going to blow out the TV screen.
Ivan Rodriguez hit what should've been a flyout to right, but the fielder dropped it as my dad hollered, "E-9!" and Rodriguez pulled up at second gasping for breath, looking for all the world like Jorge Posada in Game 7 of 2003, roaring triumph. Even Beltre's flyout was tagged--"He got a hold a that one!" was my dad's exclamation.
I am such a fan of this Dominican team. Look at that lineup: Soriano, Beltre, Taveras, Pujols, Papi...even without Manny and Vladdy Guerrerro, the roster reads like an all-star team. My dad says "you gotta root for the home entry" but tonight my heart's with those boys from Santo Domingo all the way.
Maybe if American kids still played stickball, I'd be rooting for the USA. Maybe I should be rooting for the USA anyway. But right now, watching these games, you can see the balance of baseball power shifting away from the country that invented it. I can most certainly envision a day, watching Beltre make an absolutely monstrous putout at first from deep in the hole at third, when I'm like Iain, tuning in during the wee hours to watch tiny figures from a foreign country on MLB.tv play the game I love. And maybe that's just the way it goes.
Update: Alex Cora earned effusive praise from one commentator for keeping his knee outside the second base bag on a brilliant throw to second that was part of a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play. Albert Pujols just had to double-clutch on a pitch and still fouled it off. This game is...this game seems like something higher than the major leagues. This game is like baseball distilled-every little moment exquisite, every detail expertly finished.
It makes me feel like I don't even know what baseball is.
They've let the cat out of the bag now. They can't un-open that door--us comitted baseball junkies are going to want to see this more often than one a year. We're going to want to start seeing Latino baseball broadcast year-round. We're going to want to see our American teams playing these Carribbean clubs. We're going to want a real World Series.
This game is a work of art. I can't get over it.