Okay. I guess I am flattered that some of you are complaining I did not write anything about last night, but the deal was that I was writing about the locations I was at. I spent yesterday flying back from San Juan to NY, worked in the office (for the first time in almost two weeks) until game time last night, and then flew today to San Diego. But I do have some comments, even if a day late (and probably more than a dollar short):
1. I was struck by how excited the Mexican team and their fans were after the game, even though they had been eliminated. Beating the U.S. team was obviously a big deal. They played and pitched well, and executed when they had to. Vinny Castilla moved a lot quicker than most 38-year-olds with a bum knee.
2. Even though it was the difference in the game, I was glad my fellow MLBlogger Jorge Cantu drove in Mario Valenzuela with the run in the third inning ( 350K). The replays were clear about the ball hitting the foul pole at least eight or 10 feet up the pole. There was no question it should have been a home run. It would have been brutal to the long-term credibility of this event if the U.S. team advanced on two questionable calls in two different games in the second round. Maybe these games are already significant enough that we should use foul-line umpires like we do in the playoffs and All-Star Game. I think back to the first exciting Dominican Republic/Venezuela game in Orlando, where the third base umpire, Fred van Gronigen, from The Netherlands correctly called a ball in play off the outfield wall that could have been called a home run and impacted the outcome of that game and perhaps the round. The call last night was missed, pure and simple.
3. Roger Clemens put on a gritty performance
( 350K) and probably deserved a better fate. From a personal standpoint, I hope he comes back sometime this year. His retirement will leave a hole in the game.
4. I think the biggest surprise to me is not that the U.S. team lost this game, necessarily, but that it ended up 3-3 over six games. I don’t think anyone thought it was a .500 team, even with the injuries and non-participating players. It does demonstrate how much better competition has gotten worldwide. Although that should not be a shock, I guess, when you consider that Ichiro won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards his first year in the Major Leagues, and Chan Ho Park and Hee Seop Choi have certainly performed at a high level since coming to the States. One point to those who are posting that the U.S. was arrogant and that players A, B and C should have played: Remember, this was a voluntary signup. Some players chose not to participate because they did not feel ready physically and others because they just did not want to play, not because they were not "chosen." Could some of them have helped? Sure. But if you look at the roster that was assembled and the starting lineup that went out on the field, there is no team in the Major Leagues that would not like to field that team during the season.
Interestingly, the newest ESPN SportsNation poll has 78 percent believing that the U.S. loss will be a neutral or a positive in that it will drive interest in other countries, and 77 percent are still interested in the remaining games. The ratings last night were 2.1 on ESPN, meaning that almost 2.5 million viewers tuned in, making it the most-watched game of the Classic so far in the United States. It was the most watched cable show among men 18-49 and 25-54 yesterday, against, of course, the strong competition of the NCAA Tournament.
As I said, we arrived in San DIego this afternoon. The weather is cool but, more significantly, as I write this it is pouring rain. The forecast for tomorrow is dicey. I hope that if we get a game started, we can finish it. Given the format of the event, it would be a shame to get a game washed out or suspended. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for tomorrow.
As I mentioned last week, I agree with the posters who would prefer to see cross-over semifinals, i.e, Cuba vs. Korea and Dominican Republic vs. Japan, with the winners meeting Monday. I hope that will be on the agenda to review for 2009.
Rain or shine, we will be out at the Habitat for Humanity site tomorrow morning along with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and officials from the host San Diego Padres. The buildout at the All-Star Game last July in Houston got a lot of coverage as we built a number of homes that were shipped to the Gulf Coast, and this weekend, three more will be built and shipped to the same area. Some of the players have agreed to help out on Sunday in a terrific show of international compassion and sportsmanship. I will try to post a picture tomorrow night.