illustration by Samara Pearlstein
sticky: liveblog schedule
True fact: THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC IS AWESOME. I know that I have already said as much, but after this first week or so of WBC play, I feel the overwhelming need to say it again. Haters can pass on by: I know all the arguments against it, but I love the base ball. I love it so hard. The only way I will be unhappy with it is if a player I care about gets hurt, which is something that has, knock on Kerry Wood, not happened yet.
Counting from wicked early this past Thursday, there have been seven RotT/BCRS World Baseball Classic liveblogs, mostly for Pool A/Tokyo Dome games, mostly me rambling in an unconnected manner and swearing up a storm because I can’t do that over here. The link to all the completed transcripts and upcoming liveblogs is sticky-posted at the top of this entry. I’ll sticky it to the top of any new posts made while the WBC is going on too.
I know what you’re saying: RotT, I did not see the games that you saw, and/or I have not yet been bored enough to read the transcripts, what did I miss with this baseball and such? And I will tell you! Blogs! Excitement!
Tigers-related WBC shenanigans
–Fu-Te Ni looked OK in his single inning, as if you can tell any darn thing from just one inning.
–Jason Grilli pitched for Team Italy! MANY LULZ. The first batter he faced was Carlos Guillen, who immediately hit a home run.
–Miggy is 0-for-9 with 3 Ks and Maggs is 0-for-7 with a walk.
–Guillen is 2-for-6 with a walk and 2 RBI. He has been DHing.
–Arrrrmando threw 64 pitches in 4 innings, giving up 2 ER on 5 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 4. I didn’t see this game, as I was out’n about, but that does not sound like a bad outing to me.
–Granderson didn’t start the first game for Team USA, but he did start in the second game and went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
–Pool A color commentator Orestes Destrade is the Cuban Rod Allen. More on that in a bit.
RotT, you say, that does not sound particularly thrilling. Well I agree, it is pretty boring and factual, so let me explain some of the true joy of the World Baseball Classic.
Numerous other WBC shenanigans
First you have to understand that ESPN (and its assorted family of networks) is fully aware that this is an international tournament, and they want to take advantage of the global nature of the event to educate everyone about the various participating countries. Commendable! To that end, they have compiled Fun Facts about each country. Not commendable! There are two main problems.
1) They repeat pretty much the same facts for every game involving that country.
2) They only have a few (like, 3-5) facts per country, and they are breathtakingly stupid.
You have no idea how many times I heard that Japan features Mt. Fuji this weekend. Or that Korea cloned the world’s first dog! An Afghan hound named Snuppy! DID YOU KNOW KOREA HAS THIS DOG, THEY CLONED IT, HOUND, SNUPPY!! KOREA INVENTED THUNDERSTIX!!!!! Panama has many bird species, over 1000, DID YOU KNOW?!
My favorite, though, is the fact that the Great Wall of China is in China, and is visible from space. If you somehow did not know much about China before watching the WBC broadcasts, so all that you knew of China was information gleaned from a baseball game involving a Chinese team, you would now believe that the only thing in the entire country is the Great Wall and you would believe that it can best (and perhaps only) be viewed via rocketship. GREAT WALL OF CHINA IN CHINA DID YOU KNOW!! VISIBLE. FROM. SPAAAAAAACE.
Oh hell yes now you know.
Another thing you must understand is that Pool B is terrible. Just straight-up a terrible Pool in most ways. It consists of Mexico, Cuba, Australia, and South Africa, and is being played in Mexico City. Mexico was beaten by Australia in their own stadium, Cuba beat South Africa but couldn’t quite play well enough to force a mercy rule ending that would have spared us all the agony of watching them play 9 innings of the most boring baseball known to man, and South Africa is a team comprised solely of underwear models and disaffected soccer players.
All of the Mexico City games are on the MLB Network, which also has its own special set of problems, such as TERRIBLE CAMERAWORK, but I won’t get into them here because this post is going to be epically long even without it.
The announcers for Pool B are Charley Steiner and Jose Mota, and they deliberately, maliciously contribute to the terribleness. I liveblogged the Cuba/South Africa game because I thought that it would be interesting, or at the very least funny, and it was one of the worst things I have done. This was mostly because of Steiner and Mota, who were so aggressively boring that it was as if they were begging everyone watching the game to turn away from baseball and go gain other interests in life.
Charley Steiner sounded like he was trying to drug the viewers with his vocal chords and at the same time sounded like he himself was being drugged into a pliant sleepy state for some nefarious MLBNish reason. At no time did either one of them evince the slightest excitement. One of Fidel Castro’s sons is the Team Cuba trainer!!! FOR FREAKIN’ SERIOUS. They gave it a sedate, soporific mention and moved on. There are underwear models on the South Africa team! FOR FREAKIN’ SERIOUS. Nary a word.
Yes, it was kind of a blow-out, because South Africa does not understand what a baseball is, but I know that blow-outs can be perfectly good, entertaining broadcasts! I had seen evidence of this very thing earlier in the WBC, because there had already been two mercy rule’d Pool A games that were wicked ridiculous fun to watch.
Why were THOSE games fun? Was it sparklegraphics and video montages of explosions and baseball bloopers? (no.) Was it an exciting barrage of home runs? (no, Cuba hit plenty too.) Was it the much louder domed-in crowd? (maybe in part.) IT WAS THE CATDAMNED ANNOUNCERS IS WHAT IT WAS, because they sounded interested and they engaged in banter and they told terrible but occasionally hilarious stories, and MOST OF ALL THEY ACTUALLY SOUNDED LIKE THEY WERE ALIVE AND KIND OF ENJOYING A BASEBALL GAME.
Which brings us to the Pool A announcing team. Jon Sciambi on play-by-play, Orestes Destrade on color.
Earlier I said that Orestes Destrade is the Cuban Rod Allen, and here is why. He had a brief, terrible MLB career and a glorious Japan League career. He likes to tell occasionally rambling and occasionally amazing stories during broadcasts, which may or may not be related to the action on the field at the time, yet he also understands the game. He likes to lightly harass his booth-mate, and he is OBSESSED with the size of the ballplayers: the stockier, thicker, more solid they are, the better, so far as he is concerned.
Sometimes Destrade would wax so briefly poetic on the subject of some player’s broad base and fat thighs that it would be kind of uncomfortable, but at the same time he sounded so happy and was so clearly just having fun watching these guys that you didn’t really care. Team Korea was Orestes Destrade’s favorite Pool A team, because they had the chunkiest ballplayers.
Destrade and Sciambi argued about plays, argued about bento boxes, and pointlessly and hilariously declared any number of Pool A players to be the Asian counterparts of MLB players. At various times they decided that we suddenly had a
–Chinese Ichiro (even though the first time this nickname came up, Japanese Ichiro was right there on the field)
–Korean Adam Dunn
–Chinese Chad Bradford
–Japanese Don Mattingly
–Chinese Randy Johnson (“the Little Unit”)
–and Japanese Mike Mussina.
Most importantly, they took games that aired at 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning on the east coast of the US, mostly played by people nobody in the US had heard of, and they made them fun and engaging. A little bizarre, a little surreal, sometimes rather eye-roll-inducing, but wicked to watch. And it takes some doing to make me want to be awake and semi-alertly watching anything at 4:30 in the morning.
Also helpful in maintaining interest was the presence of SUPER “DRY”, an advertisement displayed in several prominent locations around the Tokyo Dome. That was all it was. A red background with the words SUPER “DRY” (quotation marks included) in white upon it. An enigmatic message that captured all our hearts. And no, you are not allowed to speculate as to what it might be or to tell others if you know: the mystery is the beauty. Also the quotation marks.
We have already had a number of amazing games in this WBC, even though we’re still in the beginning rounds. The Canada/US game was close and tense and riveting and TENSE. The Netherlands upset the Dominican Republic. Just this morning Korea beat Japan 1-0 in a beautifully pitched game to win the Pool A final– and this is after Japan beat Korea 14 to 2 in 7 mercy rule’d innings only two days before.
To reiterate: AWESOME.
The next liveblog will be the winner of Italy/Canada vs. Venezuela, 5pm Tuesday on ESPN2. Are you excited? I’M EXCITED.
Playing baseball! Foreign lands! The Great Wall did you know!?!? Canadian stereotypes!! Flags! WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC.