I tuned into the Mets spring training win over the Astros on Saturday at different points. The few times I tuned in, Keith Hernandez was talking about Mayor Bloomberg's large soda ban, cats, and how he jinxed the last out of the game when, soon after he said "this could do it" on a simple 3-1 play, Bobby Parnell dropped it and gave up a run before the game could end. From this I gathered that on March 9th, everybody besides the players and coaches are pretty much ready to start the season, and nobody is going to get too excited over Lucas Duda's three hits, which included a 4-3 ground out that turned into a hit against the dopey shift, and a fisted double down the left field line. Against the Astros, no less.
But I have to admit, and this might be akin to admitting that I own a Justin Bieber CD (or, uh … so I would imagine because I don't have one, and you gotta believe me, right?) I'm diggin' this World Baseball Classic. Sure, I initially thought that this whole cockamamie tourney was nothing more than Bud Selig trying to cement a legacy for himself. And I kinda still feel that. But ya know what, I'm into it. And not just because David Wright hit a grand slam to single handedly turn the United States' tournament around … though it helped. But with the Olympics not recognizing baseball anymore as a sport (because we really need to have golf), in terms of international competition this is all we have. And it's much easier going down now that it isn't all about marketing. It's merely a tournament and not strapped into the back seat of the hype machine. And while it isn't perfect … while the entities that pay tons of money to Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander smartly don't want to see their elbows explode throwing a pitch in March to Chinese Taipei, what we have is a lot of fun. Who doesn't want to … just once … sit in one of those crowds in Asia that's up and singing the whole game and not because a scoreboard tells them to or because people are throwing t-shirts at them? Sure, maybe 82 games of thundersticks would want to make me want to jump off a tall building, but when I see these crowds in other countries a part of me asks myself what I'm doing wrong?
(Editor's note: I was recently told that a game in Japan is like sitting with 50,000 of me. And I didn't quite know how to take that.)
Also, how about that fight between Mexico and Canada? Aside from the fact that Mexico didn't understand that bunting with a six run lead in the eighth is acceptable because run differential matters in pool play, how funny was it to see Karim Garcia with this "hey I'm bad" look on his face at the end of the game, as if he was going to pretend that Justin Morneau was a pizza delivery boy. Jackass. And what of Oliver Perez? The last time there was a World Baseball Classic, he was free basing McRibs with Teddy Higuera. Yet on Saturday he was trying to go all Billy Blanks on the Canadian team? Sure, now he has some fight in him on the field. The only time he fought as a Met was when there was a demotion to Buffalo involved. He tried to pound a Canadian like he used to try to pound the strike zone, with the same level of success at that.
Then there was Sunday's win or go home battle between the U.S. and Canada. First off, you know that Canadians were looking for any reason to remind us that the first organized baseball game was played in Canada. Second, they already beat us in hockey. Twice. If they were to do that in their game, then knock us out in what has widely been thought of as "our" game, then no longer would Canada be a loft apartment over a really great party. They would have been the party. And we would have been smacking the end of the broomstick on the basement ceiling. Think about it … a Canadian victory would have set off a chain of events that would have caused football to be an Olympic sport. And no one wants that.
Luckily, Sidney Crosby wasn't at the bat rack for Canada. (He was busy setting up Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, and Pierre Larouche while making the Islanders cry.) And despite Joe Torre ridiculously asking Adam Jones to bunt in the second inning, the United States outlasted Canada thanks to a go ahead hit by Jones and a soul crushing three run insurance double by Eric Hosmer, and they will be moving on to Miami to face Puerto Rico. USA coach Willie Randolph threatened to sabotage the whole thing by mentioning before the game that he was looking forward to eating at Joe's Crab Shack, which is the 2013 version of "it'll make the champagne taste sweeter." That, along with telling the Mets to pack for Detroit in 2006 threatened to put Randolph only 84 horrible predictions behind Patrick Ewing on the all-time list. But like he did over and over again for Randolph while he managed the Mets, David Wright saved him with an excellent round one. Adam Jones and Eric Hosmer were huge against Canada, but since Wright is already ruler of the world (just as he was in 2009), Jones and Hosmer will have to battle over who gets to rule Australia. But after their performance, they deserve a little beachfront property.