URL Weaver: Tiny Victories

Japan v Netherlands - World Baseball Classic Second Round Pool 1

It isn’t perfect. The World Baseball Classic remains a deeply flawed competition, hamstrung by its own rules and regulations, a slave to many masters which dictates the timing of the event and the quality of competition participating.

Anyone who thought the WBC would instantly become a de facto World Cup of Baseball is a fool. The quadrennial soccer competition which dominates world headlines and captures the attention of billions didn’t get that way overnight. It certainly took more than two iterations to grow into the corruption-fueled beast we all know and love.

The WBC has a way to go but, after a legitimately entertaining weekend of baseball, it is a little bit closer to achieving relevance.

Canada v Mexico - World Baseball Classic - First Round Group D

Two images capture the dichotomy of the weekend of World Baseball Classic for many North American baseball fans. The above image of brawling Canadian baseball players is sure to overshadow the on-field achievements of this tournament, beating Mexico and playing the Americans close before the bullpen failed to hold the fort.

For Canada, this is a reasonable moral victory. Saturday night’s fisticuffs got many people’s attention, the win gave Sunday’s game with team USA some drama – winner moves on isn’t a bad way to start. Eliminated but engaged, yesterday’s game was the tournament equivalent of Meaningful Baseball in September. It was something. Jameson Taillon might not be Canadian Canadian but he gave Pirates fans a glimpse of their future, whizzing high 90s heat and snapping off curveballs good enough to fool the best hitters in the game.

World Baseball Classic - Pool D - United States v Italy

For American baseball fans, this image remains the dominant one from the weekend. Until Team USA comes through and wins this tournament, too many people will spend too much time worrying about who isn’t playing compared to those who are. Mike Trout watching the game from the stands can be a little too much to take for those you recognize how much better their team is with him on the field with USA across his chest.

The inability for team USA to assemble the best and brightest diminishes the event in many eyes. That isn’t a problem for many countries. Venezuela sent almost all their available talent, save Felix Hernandez, and their quick exit from the event has many in the Venezuela calling for major change and rolling heads in the baseball world.

It matters in Venezuela and, should they fail to hold off the upstart Dutch side currently playing them tough, it will certainly matter in Cuba. It matters in Korea where many hands wring over an early exit and it matter in Taiwan were the Chinese Taipei team advanced before a humbling loss to Cuba ended their event. It matters in Japan where a team without any Major League stars still secured a spot in the semis, a threat to win this tournament for the third straight time.

It matters enough that the Dominican Republic sent a stacked lineup to compete in Puerto Rico, where they advanced to Miami with a perfect record. The starting pitching might be thin but the DR team will score runs in buckets on anyone.

The next round of games begins Tuesday with the Pool C winners from the Dominican taking on the surprising Italian team while Team USA faces a stiff test against Carlo Beltran and the dangerous Puerto Rican team.

For all the bunts and warts, this is a fun event. The Canada/Mexico fight brought attention such a game might not garner otherwise. Team USA coming from behind to secure advancement helps keep a significant portion of fans interested, which is good for the event for better or for worse. The atmosphere in San Juan was electric for the DR/PR game. The opening round was nearly everything baseball fans could want from a mid-March event.

I salute all the efforts of the ironically detached to repeatedly express their aversion to a “stupid exhibition” as though the REAL baseball season has great bearing on their lives. If you get out of your own way from time to time, I bet you can have a little fun.

And the rest

Team USA wins Pool D in spite of Joe Torre, who is their manager and ostensibly trying to help them win. [Hardball Talk]

Subbing Ben Zobrist in against Canada wasn’t Torre’s problem. Zobrist is great yet still underappreciated. [Baseball Nation]

Rob Neyer didn’t like what he saw from the managers this weekend. [Neyer Nation]

King of the WBC Cheerleaders Jon Morosi feels for Torre, who is a slave to many masters during the tournament. [MOROSI!]

Brandon McCarthy and Answer Dave have themselves a time. [Big League Stew]

Mariano Rivera, kind of the best. [Sports on Earth]

Brett Anderson, hurt again. Sad face. [A's Drumbeat]

He’s right, you know. That is a great photo.