While the beginning of spring training is always a time of new hope and optimism for every baseball fan, the World Baseball Classic offers an even better look at one of the world’s most popular sports. Just like in MLB we have favorites and underdogs. Some lineups are stacked like the Dominican Republic and the United States. However the format of the WBC doesn’t really allow teams to take their time and settle into a rhythm or routine. Each team plays three games in the first round of pool play. This means that teams cannot afford to be upset in the early rounds without putting their chances of advancing in severe jeopardy. This is much easier said than done in baseball since strange things seem to happen more often than not.
Image Courtesy of WorldBaseballClassic.com
For example in today’s game between the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands there were plenty of unexpected events that led to the games outcome. First, Sidney Ponson, Baltimore’s sweetheart, got the win in a game where his team recorded only three hits. He defeated a lineup full of MLB All-Stars, while Ponson himself isn’t even on a major league roster or in a team’s camp. Also, arguably the biggest play of the game was made by Netherlands catcher Kenley Jansen who threw out MLB base running machine Willy Tavares at third base in the bottom of the ninth. Now with one more loss the Dominican team will most likely miss out on the second round of this year’s tournament.
Another great storyline from the game was Pedro Martinez pitching like he was 28 instead of 37. Facing the minimum nine batters in three innings of work, Pedro single-handedly tried to will his team to a victory, not because he was getting paid millions of dollars, because he wanted to win for his country.
Looking at more strange occurrences, it’s hard to ignore the Red Sox, Yankee double play combo of Derek Jeter, and Dustin Pedroia. Could you imagine these two being this friendly in October?
The real beauty here is that baseball is a game of fundamentals, pitching and timely hitting especially during an elimination tournament. So the most talented roster probably will not win. It will come down to the way the ball bounces a few times, what batters get hot and which manager makes the perfect call at the perfect time. So enjoy the WBC, especially all the Orioles fans out there. Just today you got too see Sidney Ponson win a decision, Miguel Tejada hit a homerun, and Davey Johnson is back in the dugout. If Johnson in his managers’ uniform doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then nothing will.