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World Baseball Classic

Unread postby consigliere » Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:24 pm

I don't know about anyone else, but the MLB teams in general are really risking a lot with this whole WBC thing. Just about every team is sending about 10 players to the tourney, and a significant injury could be crippling to that team's season.

The Indians have 10 players in it:

- Ronnie Belliard DOM
- Rafael Betancourt VEN
- Fernando Cabrera PUR
- Einar Diaz PAN
- Franklin Gutierrez VEN
- Victor Martinez VEN
- Guillermo Mota DOM
- Jhonny Peralta DOM
- Eduardo Perez PUR
- C.C. Sabathia USA

Some concerns besides injuries, is that some key position battles will not play out because players will be in the WBC. At backup catcher, Diaz is in the mix for the backup catcher spot, in the OF Gutierrez is in the mix for the 4th OF spot.....and not to mention Mota, who had arm issues last season, is pitching in it.

Some of the rosters are a joke as well. I actually agree with Ozzie Guillen in calling out A-Rod and Nomar. Both these guys were born in the US, and probably never have lived a day in the Dominican Republic or Mexico.

The Italian team is a total joke:

http://www.worldbaseballclassic.com/200 ... p?sid=t841

Everyone was pretty much born in the US.....I mean, Mike Piazza is on the team? If we are going to have people play for their countries based on heritage/nationality, then the US might as well not have a team since are roots are all from some other country.

With all that said, the Dominican Republic team is loaded. Wow.
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Unread postby Lebowski » Sat Feb 18, 2006 5:22 pm

I'm actually excited about the WBC. This is HUGE outside the states, and I think the idea is pretty cool. Since they are modeling it after the World Cup, am I right in assuming that it will be held once every 4 years?

My biggest gripe is that it interrupts spring training and there is the risk of injury. The pitchers are at the biggest risk, and the Mota situation scares me. Isn't there an innings limit though?
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Unread postby consigliere » Sat Feb 18, 2006 7:04 pm

Yeah, I am not sure how to react to this WBC thing. To us, it doesn't reall mean much. We hold the World Series to a much higher esteem. Meanwhile, other countries I have a feeling will go bananas with this. And, even the MLB players who play for those other countries will be excited as hell.

I think a lot of this stems from us lacking any emotional attachment to a World Cup so to speak.....meanwhile, these other countries partake and embrace in "World Cup" tourneys all the time, in soccer and other sports.....the US doesn't embrace these tourneys.
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Unread postby Lebowski » Sun Feb 19, 2006 12:02 pm

Setting the injury concerns to the side for a second...do you think the WBC can actually help the players involved?

For instance, will it cause CC to work on getting in game shape?

Will it help a young player like Cabrera get ready to play against MLB level talent, going into his first full season in the bigs?

Just thinking out loud.
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Unread postby consigliere » Mon Feb 20, 2006 9:33 am

Good points....I think it hurts the vets. I mean, most pitchers won't be in game shape, and they won't be getting in regular work like they would in Spring Training. Aside from injuries, what i am most concerned about is how missing 2 weeks of ST messes up the pitchers.

The WBC does help the young kids as far as facing top talent goes.
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Unread postby furls » Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:38 pm

Am I a bad person because I just dont care about this?





Or am I bad person for some other reason?
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:47 pm

I don't think you are alone Furls. I would think most of America could care less.

The funny thing is, I expect this to be THE big thing in all the other countries. Maybe it will catch on here, i don't know....but Americans in general are pretty much localized in just paying attention to the Big Four: The Stanley Cup Finals, World Series, Super Bowl and NBA Finals. Most Americans can care less about world-wide tourneys like the World Cup or now the WBC. Other countries LIVE for those tourneys, yet we do not.
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Unread postby yargs7 » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:00 pm

I just think this tournament will prove that America's true pastime is football. We will get run up by third world countries and get embarrassed much like our USA basketball team. yawn
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Unread postby pup » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:08 pm

This mat seem silly, but are the games only televised on ESPNDeportes? Do that many people get this channel? Will the games be broadcast in Spanish? If any of this is true, it does not seem like a very good way to help its popularity.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Feb 21, 2006 11:20 pm

I haven't looked at all into who is broadcasting this....I would assume ESPN and ESPN 2 would show a lot of the games.....no?
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Unread postby swerb » Tue Feb 21, 2006 11:34 pm

Consigliere wrote:I haven't looked at all into who is broadcasting this....I would assume ESPN and ESPN 2 would show a lot of the games.....no?

I keep hearing ads on ESPN Radio that "ESPN Deportes is carrying all 39 games, call your local cable provider to order now!"

Realistically, this is likely just a scare tactic, and Deportes will only be the sole carrier of a couple games. I can't see ESPN and ESPN2 not carrying close to all of these games, especially given the March dead spot for sports, especially with them dumping hockey.

And FWIW, I'm really looking forward to this event.
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Unread postby consigliere » Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:20 am

You know, I looked at the bracket setup. There is NO WAY the US should not get to the finals. The way it sets up, they take the two best teams of their pool (US, Mexico, South America, and Canada).....then in the second round the two best from their pool play the two best from the A pool of Korea, China, Japan and Chinese Tapei.

The US TOTALLY misses the Latin countries like Puerto Rico, Venzuela, Dominican Republic, Cuba, etc. They will all beat up on each other.

So, if the US does not make the final round of 4, then it should be considered an embarassment.

And Swerb, I'm actually starting to get excited to see this....I really think it will be better AND a bigger deal once it gets started.
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Unread postby swerb » Mon Feb 27, 2006 10:48 pm

FYI ... we will be running a front page preview on the WBC Friday morning.
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Unread postby Jumbo » Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:59 am

I can't quite figure out the TV Listings, but it seems like the games will be live on ESPN Deportes, with tape delay on ESPN or ESPN2. However, those tape delays are at weird times, so set your VCR/Tivo. The odd thing is that the Japan games are all being simultaneously broadcast live at 4:30AM. The time is unsurprising, considering that will be primetime in Japan, but considering Japan is the best (and most recognizable) team out of that pool, ESPN wouldn't find a way to even tape delay those games on one of the two networks the following day.

MLB.tv appears to have all the games too (and if it works like normal games, you can watch them at any time you want), but I can't tell whether you need a separate subscription...I'll probably watch quite a few of the games that way, if I can through last year's subscription, but not the $10 they're charging for an "offseason subscription."

As you can tell, I like the concept. It's really the only time this kind of tournament can be run, unless they wanted to take 2 weeks around the ASG. And, given the rhythm of baseball, that's more disruptive than taking two weeks out of the hockey season for the Olympics. The strange thing is that it seems awfully rushed, considering how MLB has been discussing the concept for years. (Sounds a bit similar to the Tribe's new network...)

If somebody gets hurt: it depends on the reason. A freak ACL tear in the outfield, well, that could just as well have happened in a regular spring game. A pitcher? Depends on pitch count, how hard he was throwing, etc. Pedro got hurt overthrowing in the ASG some years back, and I guess it's possible something similar could happen.
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Unread postby dmiles » Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:39 am

San diego seems to be holding the semi's and the finals but tickets are a bit pricey on craigslist. I think I'll just watch it on TV.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Feb 28, 2006 5:53 pm

Yeah, I believe the important matchups will be shown live, or the ones ESPN probably thinks Americans will be interested in. There really are only 4-5 teams in this thing worth watching....the rest should get rolled easily.
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Unread postby pup » Wed Mar 01, 2006 4:11 pm

CC Sabathia has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic to concentrate on getting ready for the regular season. Cool for the Tribe. Bad for the guy who just submitted his WBC preview article :( :(
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Unread postby consigliere » Wed Mar 01, 2006 4:57 pm

I am happy to hear CC is out. Pitching concerns me....the position players don't worry me nearly as much as having our pitchers throwing right now. I don't think we have any other pitchers throwing in it. Did Betancourt ,Mota and Cabrera make the final rosters for their countries?
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Unread postby pup » Wed Mar 01, 2006 5:09 pm

30 man rosters do not have to be submitted until 5 days before your first game, which is March 7 for the "non-asian" brackets. It appears USA just submitted their 30 man early.
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Unread postby pup » Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:31 am

just announced....XM Satellite Radio will be broadcasting all games from the WBC live. They will be on the MLB channels. Something like 168-174.
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Unread postby consigliere » Thu Mar 02, 2006 11:47 pm

I figured 'what the hell' and put on ESPN Deportes....watching the Korea vs. Tapei game. This pool is clearly the weakest of the four I believe, but I have to say I am starting to get intrigued with this whole idea.

Woo hoo! Korea takes the lead 1-0 in the 4th on a 2-out double by ?????..... :D
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Unread postby pup » Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:23 am

Japan kills China 18-2 and Korea shuts out Taipei 2-0.

This is by far the weakest of the pools. Japan will roll it, and the winner of the Korea/Taipei game will be the other team to advance.

Japan, Taipei, US, Mexico, Venezuela, D.R., Puerto Rico and Cuba should be the second round teams.
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Unread postby Steve Buffum » Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:42 am

Pup wrote:Japan kills China 18-2 and Korea shuts out Taipei 2-0.

This is by far the weakest of the pools. Japan will roll it, and the winner of the Korea/Taipei game will be the other team to advance.

Japan, Taipei, US, Mexico, Venezuela, D.R., Puerto Rico and Cuba should be the second round teams.

Dude, you can't say:
the winner of the Korea/Taipei game will be the other team to advance.

then
Korea shuts out Taipei 2-0.

then
Japan, Taipei, US, Mexico, Venezuela, D.R., Puerto Rico and Cuba should be the second round teams.

8)
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Unread postby pup » Fri Mar 03, 2006 12:25 pm

I could, and I did, but I agree it makes me look pretty stupid. I just like writing Taipei I guess. Taipei. Taipei. :oops: :oops: :oops:
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Unread postby consigliere » Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:32 pm

A US/Japan matchup in the second round would be interesting. Still think the US should roll to the finals since they don't play any of the latin teams. They luck out there only having to play one, and that being in the finals.

Only about 5000 people in the stands for the Korea/Tapei game, and 16,000 for the Japan game. I expect the crowds to increase when Pools B, C, and D open play Tuesday....especially for the Latin teams.
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Unread postby Jumbo » Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:16 pm

A US/Japan matchup in the second round would be interesting.

Yes. I caught a little bit of the Japan/China game this morning (when the score was being run up from like 12-2 to 17-2) and Japan can play. Also, China committed a few bad errors to allow Japan to run the score up so high.

Actually, what will also be interesting will be Japan against whoever of Group B makes it between Canada and Mexico. There's a fair number of major leaguers on both those rosters. (Japan is my sentimental rooting interest.)

Putting Venezeula and the DR in the same pool was a smart move. It guarantees a strong early matchup, and the round robin format means that (unless there's an upset in another game) they will both still make it to the second round.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Mar 07, 2006 4:20 pm

Ok, I think I am hooked. This VEN vs. DR game is great. The players are really into it, and the fans are going nuts. Can't say I am surprised, as I expect the latin fans to gravitate easily to this WBC thingy....as for the Americans, I am curious to see how much the Mexicans outnumber us in the 4pm game at Arizona.
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Unread postby Lebowski » Tue Mar 07, 2006 4:35 pm

Totally agree Consig. The atmosphere for the DR-Ven game is playoff-like. The fans are going crazy...I loved how the DR fans chanted "Papi, Papi" before he came up, and then after he struck out the Ven fans chanted the same in a mocking fashion.

Looking forward to seeing the USA-Mex game.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Mar 07, 2006 5:12 pm

Ok, Miguel Cabrera is a stud. That *double* was a HR....should have tied the game 6-6....but now in the 9th the DR is pouring it on.

Wow, the DR team may be better than most AL/NL all-star games.

Which begs the question.....how about scraping the whole AL vs. NL format and if the WBC fails go with a US/Canada vs. The World type format. They do it in the All-Star game for the minor leagues in the Futures Game.
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Unread postby swerb » Tue Mar 07, 2006 5:33 pm

Alright, you guys officially have me fired up.

Time to skip outta work, pick up my son and some Chipotle, and saddle up.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Mar 07, 2006 5:36 pm

Just an FYI, the energy in the USA/MEX game pales in comparison to the VEN vs. DR game. Almost all the people in the stadium are Mexico fans....USA looks sluggish.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Mar 07, 2006 6:38 pm

1-0 USA in the 7th....I smell a Mexico upset brewing. Todd freaking Jones is in, and this guy sucks.....
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Unread postby swerb » Tue Mar 07, 2006 9:48 pm

Nice day for the USA bullpen.
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Unread postby mswerb » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:12 pm

I don't care for this either. The MLB season is too long as it is, why drag it on with more meaningless games!?!
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:22 pm

Some awesome games today. The "Latin" games had more energy and were probably more a joy to watch than most regular season games and some playoff games. The Latin players are going all out, and taking this seriously.

Anyway, I caught something interesting tonight.

I tune into the game tonight in the 9th inning just as it starts, and who does Puerto Rico call on to save the game and keep the 2-1 lead?

Cabrera.

And, wow, he was pretty impressive. He has a violent fall off the mound, and was a little off with location....but that slider is wicked and he blew away two hitters on Ks.
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Unread postby Lebowski » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:32 pm

damn...didnt know Puerto Rico played tonight.

Good news about Cabrera. Nice to hear.

I really liked what I saw in the DR-Ven game. Good energy. I really got the feeling of what it is for the World Cup of soccer (yes, I watch that). Maybe i'm in the minority, but I think this can get big in the US. It is already huge in Latin America, but I just think that the energy of these games could draw viewers.
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Unread postby consigliere » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:39 pm

Unfortunately, I don't see it catching on here. For whatever reason, people here just don't gravitate to World Tournaments. Being Stanley Cup champs means more to people here than gold medal winners in the olympics in hockey.....or winning the NBA FInals than winning a gold medal in the Olympics or other national tourneys.

Same with baseball. The people here just don't care if we win or lose to the DR or Panama. But, they damn well care if their team lose to the White Sox in the playoffs. On the flipside, the DR fans DO CARE about beating other teams, and probably would LOVE to knock off the USA.

I think, in the end, this will prove to be a success for the Latin teams, but in the USA, Canada, and some other countries pretty much ignored.
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Unread postby Lebowski » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:45 pm

Maybe it will take a US loss to the Dominicans to get people fired up for the next go around?

You are probably right tho Consig...kind of a shame. I can't get the excited faces in the crowd during today's DR-Ven game out of my head. It was a joy to see how important it was to these countries.
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Unread postby pup » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:17 am

If the DR runs through until the finals of this tournament by smacking everyone they play like they did in game and matches up against Team USA with Clemens on the mound...that should get America's attention.
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Unread postby consigliere » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:24 am

The WBC needs a USA vs. DR final. That would be awesome.
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Unread postby consigliere » Wed Mar 08, 2006 2:42 pm

WBC gets a nice write-up after Day 1 play with the other three pools:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/worldclas ... id=2358805

Pride and passion on full displayBy Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com
Archive

PHOENIX -- So this is what baseball commissioner Bud Selig meant by "internationalization."

National flags hanging from stadium facades. Fans going back and forth, yelling, "U-S-A" and "Mex-I-co" to one another. And the world's greatest baseball players confessing that an opening-round victory in Tuesday's World Baseball Classic was the single greatest accomplishment of their athletic careers.



AP Photo/Matt York
Chipper is jacked up to be representing the United States in the Classic."I had more butterflies today than any playoff game or other game I've ever been in," said Team USA third baseman Chipper Jones. "And I wasn't even starting. I was just hoping those guys could get a cushy lead before they let me in there to mess it up."

Jones did little to mess anything up, teaming up with first baseman Derrek Lee on a pair of solo home runs en route to a 2-0 United States victory over Mexico in front of 32,727 fans at Arizona's Chase Stadium.

It was seemingly just what the sport needed. On a day when the baseball world was dealt another low blow in the ongoing steroids saga, with a new book excerpted by Sports Illustrated set to reveal even more evidence against Barry Bonds, Team USA did its best to put on a happy face in what Selig hopes can become a marquee event.

"We can only hope this gives people a good feeling about our game," said reliever Brad Lidge, who earned the save. "We need it."

Good feelings were seemingly all around on Tuesday. Anxious fans -- many of whom supported Team Mexico -- began filling the promenade outside Chase Stadium some three hours before the first pitch. They blew horns, rattled noisemakers, waved flags; did anything they could to express their excitement.

Some wore Mexican T-shirts, others draped themselves in American flags. Yet others covered their bodies in paint. It felt more like an international soccer match than a baseball game. Walking into one entrance an hour-and-a half-before the first pitch: a guy wearing a Derek Jeter Yankee jersey next to a guy wearing a Mike Timlin Boston Red Sox jersey. They gave each other five.

Two other fans with split affections, Chris Eleiott (Yankees) and Paul Adams (Red Sox), expressed themselves by covering their bodies in Wal-Mart house paint. The two college students from Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois were in Phoenix for spring break.

"I'm not quite sure everybody is as pumped up as we are," said Eleiott, a mini American flag painted across his face. "But we've been jacked about this for a while. It's sick. Have you seen the U.S. lineup? It's so sick. Ten to 20 years from now, this is going to be huge. And I'll be able to say I was at the first one."

Inside the stadium, fans gobbled up souvenirs as if they carried the value of gold. From about an hour before the first pitch until the third inning, the line at every World Baseball Classic souvenir stand stretched across the width of the stadium concourse, an estimated wait of 30 minutes.

"Everybody wants to get their hands on a jersey, a T-shirt, something," said Mesa's Bob Owen, who weathered the wait for a Johnny Damon Team USA T-shirt. "This is the first event of its kind. Who knows if this will ever happen again. This will be a collector's item."

Passions ran just as high in the seats. Mexican flags were seemingly everywhere. And each time someone started a chant of "U-S-A," it was quickly drowned out by "Mex-I-co." Both fan bases electrified the stadium during team introductions and the national anthem. And the fervor continued throughout the game, with each group feeding off of the other before joining forces in the eighth inning for an extended stadium wave.

"It was awesome," Jones said. "The Mexican fans brought the electricity. You could sense the passion they have for baseball."

All this for an event in which nobody quite knew what to expect. When the WBC was first introduced last summer, there were those who thought it was a great idea. Just as many thought it was miserable. There were concerns over injuries, criticisms about pitch counts and ties and then, most recently, the defections of several big-name stars. But Selig never worried, insisting that a couple weeks out of spring training in exchange for the global growth of the sport was a worthwhile cause.

And for at least one afternoon in Phoenix, he looked right. Just ask the Team USA players, many of whom were reduced to mush after Tuesday's victory.

“ This was bigger than any World Series win I've ever had. This is my All-Star game, my Olympics, it's just awesome. ... You just don't understand what it's like when you put that uniform on. I've never had a better feeling in my life. It's the coolest thing I've ever done as a baseball player. ”
— Mike Timlin

"This was bigger than any World Series win I've ever had," said reliever Mike Timlin, who picked up the win. "This is my All-Star game, my Olympics, it's just awesome. I was watching Jake [Peavy] those first few innings, and my hands were sweating like I had dipped them in a bucket of water."

Timlin wasn't alone.

"I wanted to win this game with every single thing I had in me," Peavy said. "You don't understand -- you just don't understand what it's like when you put that uniform on. I've never had a better feeling in my life. It's the coolest thing I've ever done as a baseball player."

For all the things that felt different on Tuesday, plenty stayed the same. Alex Rodriguez was still public enemy No. 1, drawing a rousing round of boos from Mexican fans each time he stepped to the plate.

"[The guys] were teasing me -- did you decline to play for the Mexican team too?" Rodriguez joked afterward, in reference to his decision to play for the United States instead of the Dominican Republic.

He hadn't. And on this day, it was something to laugh about. Several players pointed out how well Team USA is jelling and how players are leaving their egos at the clubhouse door. As Timlin noted, "the last letter on our shirts is an 'A,' so you better show up with your 'A' game." On Tuesday, with a batting order in which Lee, last season's National League batting champion, was pushed down to No. 6, the U.S. team did just that.

When it was over, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, who took the loss for Mexico, was asked to describe what went wrong in the home run at-bat to Lee.

Said Lopez, who had spent the entire press conference answering questions in Spanish: "A long ball. A long, long ball."
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Unread postby consigliere » Wed Mar 08, 2006 2:44 pm

Stark with a nice article as well:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/worldclas ... id=2358876

Ortiz reinforces his reputation as El GrandeBy Jayson Stark
ESPN.com
Archive

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- This wasn't just a baseball game. Not to these men.

Not to David Ortiz, a man who has never met a big moment he couldn't conquer.

Not to Miguel Tejada, a man who kept looking around this baseball field, wondering if he was dreaming.

The Dominican Republic added muscle to its passion against Venezuela.

Not even to the men on the losing team, men like Johan Santana and Miguel Cabrera and Ramon Hernandez. Men who knew exactly what this game meant to their country and their sport.

We know there are people in America who don't care that the Dominican Republic beat Venezuela, 11-5, in its World Baseball Classic opener Tuesday.

We know there are people out there who look at this event and don't get it -- and don't want to get it. But that's their problem. It's their loss.

All we know is that there has never been a baseball game quite like the one that unfolded Tuesday afternoon at Mickey Mouse's favorite baseball field, The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

It was a game started by two Cy Young Award winners (Johan Santana and Bartolo Colon). It was a game in which 14 of the 18 starting position players were men who had made at least one All-Star team.

It was a game in which a five-run Dominican lead almost disappeared, a game that nearly featured an international umpiring incident and a game in which Ortiz again reinforced his reputation as this sport's big-game player -- El Grande.

But that wasn't even the best part.

The best part of this game was that it wasn't just a game. Not to these men.

"We've dreamed about this for a long time," said Tejada, who played shortstop for this Dominican Dream team. "And I think every player has been doing the same thing -- not just the Dominican players but the players for each country. ... When we won, we all said in the clubhouse, 'What we did [in this game], we just did for our country.' Our country is so excited to have all our major league players playing.

"So this was their gift -- what happened today."

Well, if this was their gift, we'd like to report that, from the look of things, it was better than Christmas.

We have no idea how many of the 10,645 people in attendance were from the Dominican. But it sounded as if it was somewhere in the neighborhood of, oh, 700,000.

They didn't just cheer. They danced. Literally. They were the wildest, loudest, singing-est, flag-waving-est crowd ever to watch a March baseball game in Florida. That's for sure.

But then it wasn't just a baseball game. Not for them, either.

"The atmosphere out there," said Ortiz, "is something that pretty much every Latin person has going on in their blood. Everybody has a lot of passion for the baseball game. That's something that we live day by day."

But not every day could ever be like this day. The Dominicans had waited for this day for a month, waited since the moment the Venezuelans mugged them in the bottom of the ninth to win the Caribbean Series.

The players were different. The stakes were different. The site was different. But these two teams, these two countries, have been talking trash for a month, waiting for this rematch.

So even though the players and coaches tried to downplay the relentless talk about it from their fans and media hordes, the sights and the sounds told you all you needed to know.

You can go to many, many baseball games -- hundreds, thousands -- and not see what we saw Tuesday after it became clear the Dominican was going to win this game.

Out in the Dominican bullpen, major-league baseball players in uniform unfurled a giant flag, formed a circle and danced around their flag. While a game was still going on.

"You know, I saw that," Tejada said, rubbing his imaginary goosebumps. "They made me [have] chills."

And speaking of chills, have we mentioned David Ortiz lately?

How can one man have such a never-ending innate feel for the defining moments that present themselves in the course of a game, a season, a career? How can he keep finding ways to transcend those moments and turn these games into another scene from "The Natural"?

He put his stamp on two more of those moments Tuesday.

Second inning. Scoreless game. Ballpark vibrating. "PA-pi, PA-pi" chants ringing in 10,000 sets of ears. The incomparable Santana on the mound.

And then Ortiz unleashed that magic bat of his. A baseball splattered off the black hitter's background, way above the center-field fence. And the Dominican had struck first.

Now roll the tape forward seven more innings. A 6-1 Dominican lead had shrunk to 6-5 -- and easily could have been gone altogether, if not for a hotly disputed call that a seventh-inning Miguel Cabrera rocket off the top of the center-field fence had stayed in play for a double instead of cleared that fence for a game-tying homer. (Just for fun, get out your Spanish-English dictionary and look up "sucio" -- which is what the Venezuelan faithful were calling second-base umpire Dusty Dellinger.)

With Tejada on first and one out, up stomped Ortiz again. Out sprinted Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo, waving for Astros left-hander Carlos Hernandez, managing "by instinct," he said.

Ortiz worked the count to 3 and 2. People began rising in their seats all around the park, almost as if they knew what they were about to witness.

Hernandez tried to sneak a curveball past Big Papi. But here it came, hanging like a Picasso. An instant later, this baseball was finishing its long journey, soaring over the right-field fence, the Venezuelan bullpen and a chunk of parking lot -- then finally putting a dent in a TV production truck out there in satellite land.

Grown men sprinted up and down the aisles. Flags waved everywhere. "PA-pi" chants rattled eardrums. And more people were waiting for Ortiz at home plate than once waited for Lindbergh's airplane to land.

It was the end of the drama, the biggest blow of a five-run ninth inning and just the latest, greatest chapter in Ortiz's now-voluminous collection of outrageously heroic flashes of the bat.

"I never stop being amazed," said Tejada, one of Ortiz's closest amigos. "Every time he goes to home plate, I just have a feeling he can hit a home run. Just right now, I can enjoy it more because he's on my side. Now I don't have to wait till he hits a home run and get mad. Now I can enjoy everything he does."

Well, he can enjoy it for two more weeks -- and possibly seven more games -- anyway. This is one scary team these Dominicans can roll out there. And there are indications they will bring Vladimir Guerrero in to join the fun in the next round.

The Venezuelans, meanwhile, thought they'd assembled a pitching Dream Team designed almost specifically to shut the Dominican down. They ran two of the best starters alive -- Santana and Carlos Zambrano -- back-to-back Tuesday (because both had specifically asked to pitch against the Dominican). They thought they had those Dominicans right where they wanted them.

Oops. Instead, five Venezuelan pitchers combined to give up 13 hits, eight walks and 11 runs. So now, Sojo admitted, "obviously, it puts more pressure on us."

But if they can handle Italy on Wednesday and Australia on Thursday, it will get them what they want most -- a trip to the second round.

“ I just looked around and said, 'Wow, look where we are.' We waited for this moment. And now we've had this moment. And now I hope we can go all the way through to the end. ”
— Miguel Tejada

Where they will get yet one more shot at their rivals for Latin American baseball supremacy, the Dominicans.

And maybe not even for the last time. These two can even meet a third time, if they both get to the finals.

"I want to face them again," said Hernandez, "because I know that will be a big game. They beat us today. But hopefully, we can play them again -- all the way down the road."

Should that happen -- should they actually meet for the WBC championship, in a stadium (Petco Park) with more than 40,000 seats -- it will make that raucous scene Tuesday look like a trip to the library.

But for now -- for a Round One duel in the Florida sun, for men who have thought about what this day would feel like for years -- this was no mere baseball game. It was more. Much more.

"I just looked around," said Miguel Tejada, "and said, 'Wow, look where we are.' We waited for this moment. And now we've had this moment. And now I hope we can go all the way through to the end."
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Unread postby consigliere » Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:09 pm

US getting a HUGE break with Mexico just crushing Canada. It is the 6th inning at it is 9-0 Mexico. Even if Canada comes back, all the US has to do tomorrow is win, regardless of the outcome of this game now.
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Unread postby consigliere » Fri Mar 10, 2006 5:44 pm

US killing South Africa. 17-0 in the 4th. Griffey is going nuts....4-4 with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs. Although, we SHOULD bomb SA.

The next round is set:

Pool 1: Japan, Korea, USA, Mexico
Pool 2: Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Dominican Republic

No surprise....probably the 8 best teams in the tourney. USA and Japan play SUnday in the first game, and the Pool 2 games should all be great.
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Unread postby swerb » Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:01 pm

Good god we got an amazing draw ...
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Unread postby pup » Fri Mar 10, 2006 6:09 pm

Draw is a funny choice of words. More like we got a great set up.
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Unread postby consigliere » Fri Mar 10, 2006 7:03 pm

You aren't kidding. This is obviously setup to have a final of USA vs [insert Latin team here].

If the US doesn't make it, the Final will be a joke.

I am intrigued with that USA/Japan game though. Also, I am stoked for ALL the matchups in the other pool.....gonna be some wild games on the field and in the stands.
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Unread postby Jumbo » Sun Mar 12, 2006 8:32 pm

US-Japan just ended...4-3 US.

What an excellent game, including some great defensive plays by Japan (the play the SS made with his back to the infield was Web Gem quality), some fine clutch pitching by both sides...and the Japanese guy who "left early" made for some serious controversy. BTW, I don't know what happened: the first replay they showed made it look like he left early, but the later video (synced up differently?) made it look like Japan got screwed.

The US doesn't have all its best players, but the best other teams (those in the second round) look to have talent levels about the same as this US team. With Cuba beating Venezuela, and the US-Japan game so close, the rest of the tournament is wide open. Great stuff.

DR v. PR tonight: B. Colon v. J. Vazquez.
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Unread postby consigliere » Sun Mar 12, 2006 8:52 pm

Awesome game. Saw the whole thing. Japan played their ass off....and the US finally came through with a hit with RISP.
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Unread postby pup » Sun Mar 12, 2006 9:48 pm

Not very impressed. There is no way Team USA wins this thing. They have been handed every possible break up to this point and now they are even getting games handed to them, and they still barely win. Outside of the South Africa game, I don't think they have scored a run without a bunch of walks or on home runs. They can't/won't advance baserunners and are poor situational hitters. That Japanese team is maybe the 7th best team in the tourney and they should have gone at least extra innings.
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