Japan Wins World Baseball Classic
Well, actually they won it this past Monday, beating Cuba 10-6. I did predict it...and I don't know why. I tend to make my prognostications with my heart rather than with my head, and I had started to root for Japan mid-tournament, and that, more than any insights probably made me pick them.
I liked them because--they had suffered two bad calls by the American umpires that really hurt them, and were much more gracious than US players would have been under the circumstances.
I liked them because the great Sadaharu Oh was their imperturbable manager.
And I did feel bad for them when the Korean team beat them twice in a row, and then ran riot over the field, waving their flag over the field, planting it on the pitchers mound, something noone had ever done before. It was too much.
The Japanese lucked out when Mexico beat the US, which gave them new life. Allowed into the semifinals by good fortune, they beat Korea, then the mighty Cubans.
The final was a bit of a blowout, which was a surprise.
I watched the final game in a hotel bar in Jupiter, Florida. Most Americans had a very lukewarm interest at best in this competition, but to me it was as important as a Super Bowl. I was bitten by the international bug.
I was very happy to see the Cubans line up to shake hands with the Japanese at the end of the game. That was a classy gesture. NHL players do that at the end of a championship game, and I could never understand why baseball players didn't do some version of this gracious act of congratulations.
This was the first WBC tournament, and I think it can only be ruled an immense success. I heard that the final game drew 50% of the tv audience in Japan. The interest in Asia in general was very strong, as it was in the Caribbean, and in the rest of the world it was as big, or bigger than expected.
This was the first big time international baseball tournament, and it can only be ruled a great success. Good job.
I think that the individual player who impressed the most was the great Japanese outfielder >Ichiro Suzuki. This catlike, graceful athlete could have blown off the tournament like most US players and as his countryman Hideki Matsui did. But Ichiro leaped at the chance to play for the country. He arrived at camp early, trained hard, and played well throughout the tournament. I raise my sake glass to you, Ichiro-san.