You haven’t watched a second of the World Baseball Classic. Which is a shame, because you should. I admit, it’s weird – meaningful and competitive baseball in March is an odd concept for Americans to wrap their heads around.
I’ve been laid up for the last week, which has given me the option of watching Maury, 10 reruns of SportsCenter, or a rare weekday live sports option with the WBC. What the hell, I figured. I turned on Mexico-USA Friday night (a 5-2 win for the Jerb-Takers) and you know what? I haven’t seen a bad game since. All of USA’s games have been entertaining (the 9-4 score belies the tension of the win-or-go-home Pool D final game against Canada). Italy is entertaining. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have played some really fun games in their pool. All but three of the 12 games in the two Asian pools were competitive.
People seem to be starting to notice, at least everywhere but here. MLB announced Monday that first round attendance set an all-time high. Japan’s home games were played in front of bonkers sold-out crowds at the Tokyo Dome; Taiwan had the largest crowd to ever watch a baseball on the island when it hosted Second-Best Korea; and Puerto Rico set records at Hiram Bithorn. Hell, even USA vs. Mexico in Phoenix drew 44,256, although American-site attendances have been relatively poor otherwise. The biggest American media exposure was when ESPN decided to show a game in Spanish.
We’re now past the first round and into the double-elimination second round. The Japan pool is already over, with the defending champs and those honkbal-loving Dutch through to the finals in San Francisco. As I write this, USA is up 1-0 on our imperial bitches Puerto Rico down in Miami; Italy lost a thoroughly entertaining 5-4 game to the Dominican earlier today.
Let me reiterate – THIS IS MEANINGFUL BASEBALL IN MARCH. During the Dominican-Italy game today, you had a never-sit-down DR fan section screaming their heads off while the players in the dugout egged them on. You had Hanley Ramirez grinning like a little kid as they dropped a three-spot in the seventh to come back and win. You had a bunch of no-namers for Italy who had barely sniffed AA ball that you HAD to root for against the likes of Reyes, Cruz, and Encarnacion, and they did a pretty darn good job. And this was for a non-elimination game – the US-Canada game may as well have been an NLDS Game 5 for all the childlike exclamation of a mic’d-up Larry Bowa.
Watch it. You’re missing out.