World Baseball Classic Semifinals

Two months ago, we did not even know if Cuba would be able to play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, as permission was initially denied by the State Department. Putting politics aside, there is no question that from a competitive standpoint they belong, advancing to the finals Monday by doing to the Dominican Republic what they did Wednesday night to Puerto Rico — beating a team 3-1 that had handled them easily in the preceding round. And they did it with something old and something new — Pedro Lazo
( 350K), the 32-year-old veteran of three Olympics and several World Championships, and Yadel Marti, the young right-hander who has yet to give up an earned run in the tournament. The Dominican team, winners of each of its two earlier rounds, squandered chance after chance and had the heart of its lineup up twice with multiple runners on base but could only score one run off the two Cuban pitchers. The two-run margin of victory seemed luxurious, since each of the four games that allowed the four semifinalists to advance were one-run games (Korea/Japan; U.S./Mexico; D.R./Venezuela; Cuba/Puerto Rico).

My mistake yesterday. I should have reread my manual on the way out to San Diego. The rules called for six umpires for the semifinals and finals so there were six umpires working both games today, and the games seemed to be decided without any serious controversy. Another fact I did not know until I attended the umpire briefing this afternoon: The games in this final round are played to conclusion. There can be no tie. But — if, in the opinion of the Technical Committee on hand, the pitching staffs of both teams are depleted due to a very long extra-inning game — the Committee could suspend the game to be completed tomorrow when the pitchers become eligible to pitch again. Given that the teams each only had one or two pitchers unavailable today and tonight, that would have required a game probably more than 20 innings so it is not a rule that would ever be likely to be invoked.

FukudomeTonight we had the first decisive win in what seems like a week. Contrary to the song lyrics, tonight in the seventh inning in Southern California it rained — runs for Japan ( 350K) and drops on the field and on fans. Until then, it had been a great defensive struggle with neither team mustering up much offense. At the end of the day, Korea could not pull the hat-trick and beat Japan three straight times. Korea had a great tournament and cleary is a force in international baseball. And its fans tonight were terrific. Most of the stadium was decked out in Korean gear and they cheered every pitch and play even when their heroes went down, 5-0. They even cheered throughout a 45-minute rain delay in the eighth inning and right until the last out of the game.

The Padres have been great hosts. Owner John Moores, club president Sandy Alderson, **** Freeman, Jeff Overton, Richard Andersen and countless others have interrupted their Spring Training and season preparation and put on a great show — even with the rain. Commissioner Selig was on hand today, along with a gaggle of Club owners and officials — I saw Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino of the Red Sox, Vince Naimoli of the Devil Rays, Eddie Einhorn of the World Series champion White Sox, and there may have been others. Don Fehr of the MLBPA is here for the weekend as is Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington and his wife. What has been done with Petco Park and the surrounding area is a perfect model for the Anacostia area in D.C. The ballpark is the centerpiece of massive vibrant commercial and residential growth and urban rejuvenation.

Sandiego

Had fun at the Habitat for Humanity event this morning. I can’t say my carpentry skills have improved with age. San Diego Mayor Sanders (pictured) was on hand, along with Alderson from the Padres, and Bob Tjosvold from sponsor Bank of America — which has been such a terrific supporter of Baseball throughout the country, and so generous in the community helping with so many events like the Habitat event today. I also had the privilege of meeting Chris Clarke, a senior vice president from Habitat from Humanity, who has been so helpful to us since MLB’s project inception in Houston last July, and Cheryl Keenan, the San Diego executive director for Habitat for Humanity.

So it is two teams largely unknown to U.S. fans before this event that are in the first World Baseball Classic finals. Both are very disciplined, execute every phase of the game well, and have gotten good pitching in every game that mattered. I think Japan will win a low-scoring game, but I thought the Dominican Republic would make the finals so . . . let’s see what happens Monday night. Tune in — it will be fun.

Fans

28 Comments

Great Tournament!!! It?s intriguing that the only ML player in the WBC final is going to be Ichiro. A good thing internationally and also a sign to MLB and players that they should to take this more seriously next time.

In the other hand, the Nippon and Cuban leagues are the best behind MLB, with Korea not far behind. So the top leagues in the world were represented in the Final Four, with the Dominicans full of ML all-stars who play winter ball in the Caribbean.

Bob, I just remembered that if Cuba wins they must donate their prize money to the Katrina Relief Fund. That is very generous of the Cubans, but, couldn’t the US government, somehow, make an excemption and let these guys keep what they rightfuly earned? I read many baseball fans here wondering why they love to beat us at anything in other countries…well, get a clue! We certainly don’t need the money, and giving them their fair prize would go a long way towards improving PR and restablishing “honor”. I know it probably won’t happen, and I can only think that it is a shame.

For all of you thinking that Cuba is in the final thanks to “chance” and are giving the “anything-can-happen-in-one-game” excuse, let me tell you that this is their 37th consecutive final in international competition, including the WBC, World Cup, Olympics and Intercontinental Cups.

No Cuban team has finished lower than 2nd place in international competition under Fidel Castro?s watch, and he?s been in charge more than 45 years (Last 3rd place finish: 1951). Think about this: they?ve won 25 of 28 World Cups. Twenty five!!! In MLB we have the Yankees winning 26 World Series of more than a 100 played so far, and we think they?ve dominated professional baseball. Cuba has been three times more dominating to international baseball than the Yankees to MLB. Fidel is to Cuban baseball what the Boss is to the Yankees, with less money and better results. I don?t like his politic ideas, but it?s hard to argue against those achievements on the field.

Have watched most of the games around but it seems Japan team are most balanced overall and they deserve to go to the finals thanks to Davidson making no mistakes this time.It is a pity that Korea had to face Japan 3 times it looked like they had to fight against Japan until they lose. In any international tournament, same 2 teams facing each other for the 3rd time is just too ridiculous. Bob, the grouping seems like divisional series of MLB style but I don’t think this is pretty in international games. I also heard that in Japan, only Japan games are shown on TV hope next time all games are shown live in all the countries participating. Also, Bob, there are too many pitching limits such as ball to be thrown in 1 game. I heard that this has to do something with MLB player’s insurance, but if MLB players have problem, restrict numbers for US team only let others throw as much as they want. I felt this strongly today watching Uehara of Japan go all the way to the 7th inning there are many pitchers who can go all the way and that is their formal style of pitching. Regards, Joe

Bob – Is it true that Cuba will be required to give their prize money to Katrina relief? Whose idea was that? The blog is great, as always, and the WBC just gets better and better. It’s kind of counterintuitive for Korea not to make it to the final, since they’d already beat Japan twice, but I guess that’s how tournaments work. Japan is certainly right up there too.

Memo to rmendoza: Don’t forget Akinori Otsuka of the Texas Rangers/Japan.

Great blog the whole tournament I gotta say. I too feel bad Korea lost in the third game to Japan after beating them twice already, I really think you must do a crossover next time because this was just silly. I also feel bad Cuba gets no money from this too, it would only go to baseball development. I also agree with if you dont play in the MLB, why bother with thier insurance policies?

Some interesting things from the Cuba victory against Dominican that you won?t see in MLB:

1.- The no.5 hitter bunted in the 2nd inning

2.- The cleanup hitter was replaced with a pinch hitter, who later was replaced with a pinch runner, who later was replaced with another pinch hitter. This 2nd pinch hitter happens to be the Cuban HR leader and by the time he came to the plate for the first time in the 8th, he successfully bunted 2 runners to scoring position.

3.- Cuba?s best starter, Lazo, is their own Rocket. He was used in relief in the 5th inning. Contrary to what team USA did in their game against Mexico and Dominican in the semifinal game, Cubans used their best pitcher in the situation that decided the game. Buck Martinez and Many Acta saved them for the 9th inning and never got the chance to pitch because the game was decided by then. That?s why Cuba won and the others lost.

Mr. DuPuy, I had the pleasure of attending all of the Round 2 games involving Korea, and I have to say, it was THE greatest baseball experience I’ve ever had! I’m so glad that this tournament was established, and I look forward to the next one already! I’ve heard many people yearning for a shorter timeframe between each Classic. Is this even something that would ever be considered? The three (and eventually four) year wait between seeing the national teams from across the world compete is far too great!

But regardless, thank you and everyone involved for organizing this event, it is truly a memory that will last with me for the rest of my life!

Oh and one last time, Dae Han Min Guk!

Mr. DuPuy – Here in CT I fell asleep before the Japan/Korea game ended, but thanks to WFAN I had the score and information first thing this morning. I had watched every minute of the Cuba/Dominican game.
No, I didn’t know too many of the players when these games started, but I know them now thanks to you, ESPN, the WBC site and this great blog. Press and media coverage has been lacking here in the Northeast although the NY Times Sports Writers have done their share – particularly George Vescey. Unfortuately, Mr. Steinbrenner and his opinions cast a big shadow around here and many who would ordinarily have lots to say about a baseball tournament kept quiet. Personally, I think ‘George’ would have liked the WBC if he had given it a chance because he really does love baseball. I’m glad that the Yankee Captain played and was the same good role model/ambassador that he always is. Bernie Williams did the same in Puerto Rico. Maybe George should be taking PR lessons from Derek and Bernie. Some of the Cuban youngsters remind me of Derek when he was 19 – he has always played full-out as they do.

So, thanks again for everything you and MLB have done to give us this wonderful event. Everyone who loves baseball are the winners because of it.

Joe(interdiv),
Actually, all the WBC games were shown live (and on tape) IF you had cable/satellite. The local channels had the Japan games live, so I was able to flip to both commentaries in japanese and english.

Great tournament, can’t wait for the finals!!

Bob:

The World Baseball Classic is a Hit. Thanks for giving us an inside track to this historic event. I Live For This!

Please keep your blogging up all season long!

Good luck tomorrow night!

Korea and Japan Game.
Their isn’t any international tournament that one same team plays same team three times.

Yes, it gets dull or boring. Korea beat Japan twice. Korea had won all 6 tournament games. Seeing Japan reaching final even they won 6-0. I mean what a joke!!!

The World Basball classic team bracket system is a joke. If baseball lovers have any sense of pride and dignity Korea should be playing top two carribean or latin-american teams in cross over team bracket system. I know which team is truly a champion and its KOREA#1.

Dear Bob,

I do think to avoid two teams meeting three times in a tournament, we should not only use crossover in the semifinal play, but also mix up the teams in the round 2.

For example, pool 1 of the round 2 should be made up of the winners of pool A and pool B and the runner-ups of the pool C and pool D. Pool 2 should be made up of the rest teams.

That will give us the following format:

pool 1: Korea, Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela

pool 2: Japan, USA, Dominican Rep. and Puerto Rico

Therefore, the teams that meet in the round 1 will not meet again in round 2. They could meet in the semifinals or the final, but that’s the only chance that two teams will meet TWICE and no two teams will ever meet three times.

Hi Bob,

Yadel Marti’s age is 26. He was born on July 22, 1979. From his Cuban team webpage: http://www.radiococo.cu/imagenes/industriales/industriales/indyadel.htm

OD

Dear Bob

Ive been thinking of the WBC alot lately and ways it could be improved I think when it comes to format of the tournament. I beleive two pools with 8 teams in each would create for a good round robin for first round. That way the teams get 7 games which means more spotlight chances for lesser skilled teams. That way instead of Australia being 3 games and out, they will have gotten to play atleast 7 games. Then you take the best two teams of the pool or maybe just take only the two pool winners and have them play a series of 3 games.

I still really beleive the citizenship rules are a joke though. Team Italy was not a representation of Italy at all and to me they come off as a token team.

Cant wait for the final tonight. I dont even know who to cheer for but Im going to watch anyway, I love this international baseball!

As a Cuban I?m happy that Cuban baseball is finally receiving the respect it deserves. Just think that up to 1959, when Castro seized power, 89 Cubans has played in the Majors versus only 10 other Latin American players. However, every victory of this Cuban team also leaves a bitter taste because of the unavoidable political connotations. Here is my translation of an article published today in Granma, the main Cuban newspaper:

The rythm that the million dollar dance lacked

?…The American baseball industry has never been interested in the Olympics. Moreover, the Classic came late, after much struggle, designed for a happy ending with the American millionaire stars, which in turn, became a nightmare when they were eliminated by a Mexican team with almost all its players from its domestic leagues…

After all, it was the main exponent of olimpic baseball which triumphed, to help spread the message of popularity and cultural heritage in the region. That?s why, in an attempt to save baseball participation in the Olympics, Cuba accepted to participate in the United States, despite the traditional lack of institutional and judicial lack of protection against the thieves of talent and their million dollar offers?

After 2 weeks of watching never-seen-before TV images and destroyed myths ?created by, on the one hand, our imagination, and on the other, the multimillion dollar advertsing campaign, including video games-, we can draw the conclusion that Cuban players, followers of a century long tradition, has brought a new rythm to this juicy dance.?

Some truths, some misconceptions, and above all, politics ?revolutionary and comunist Cuba, the world of “amateurism”, versus capitalist America, the world of money. Not that we want to mix politics and sports -we’re forced to.

http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/eventos/clasico2006/not/u78.html

O Dominguez

Thanks for the translation odprada – though it seems almost reserved in its crowing. No surprise that the politicos like to ride sport’s coat-tails – and not just Cuban ones and not just baseball! Of course any ‘defections’ or alternate results would have been used in the opposite cause.

But that doesn’t mean we are forced to mix politics and sports – unless you believe all Cubans now love their President because they won a baseball game. I’d doubt it – people ain’t nearly so dumb as (nearly all) politicios like to think. ;-)

My pick for tonight is Japan over Cuba in a low scoring game. Of course Im biased because Im originally from Nagoya, Japan. But I really do think Japan baseball is just as good as the rest of the world, including MLB. The WBC has been great for all baseball fans, I just wish it had a better system to advancing to next rounds. Anyone can win just 1 game, or even 2. I like the playoff atmosphere and the way the series play out.
Also, my thoughts on when it should be played, is after the MLB world series. I think that it shouldnt be based on the ALL STARS. I think the winning team of each countries championship series should go on to play the other countries winners in a WBC series. It would make it more legit I think. Its the team that gets you to the promised land…not the individual.

I am so looking forward to tonight’s game. I thank you Bob,Tommy L. and all the MLB for having the foresite to promote this. It will prove to be the best thing for the greatest game on earth in decades. The whole world is watching.A young man from our area was the starting pitcher for Canada against the mighty USA and every kid, including mine, shared his dream. Cuba, who voluntarily donated any earnings to Katrina victims has proven it’s place, against all odds.And Japan is Japan.Don’t bet against them.A fine day for the human race.Only wished I lived in our good neighbors country sometimes so I could catch more MLB games.As with the rest of this Classic, the team with the most heart will win.Here comes the first pitch. Thanks again.

well, what do you know, the college basketball game is in 2nd overtime and I am missing the WBC final game,….did you people not think that the game might go into overtime????. stupid!

Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid

Sorry Bob and MLB and ESPN, you guys are STUPID!!

Bob,
This is my last shot to address someone with some pull in this whole thing. The biggest sham of the tournament took place at the beginning of the championship game. I log on to mlb tv and get stuck watching the last 4 minutes of the NIT 2nd round game between Notre Dame and Michigan. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! If we can’t get the game broadcast to an international audience how are we going to claim it is worth investing their time in. This was the biggest failure of the event and it only lasted the first inning! When will they learn that the global market will buy, if we start selling to them instead of packaging it for americans only! I’m very dissapointed….the nit? uffda

well the basketball is now over, but in the WBC game its already 1 to 0 Japan over Cuba…i dont even feel like watching the rest now since I missed most of the action already

Dear Bob:

Please, don’t select ESPN to broadcast the WBC II, (please any single game), they don’t have respect for the baseball fans. Imagine the US baseball fans missing the first inning on the final World Series game.

When this thing generates much money(Then, perhaps George, will wish to obtain his slice, and we see the Yankees like USA Team), each hungry broadcast will wish to obtain it. Just look the Fifa World Cup will generate about $2.500 millions.

Please, God, give me life to see that, not for the money, just for the baseball.

I LIVE FOR THAT!!!!

Is there anyone else that could not watch the final game tonight using MLB.TV??

I signed up and paid 9.95 to see all the games, but wasnt able to see the final game due to national live broadcast restrictions??? why is this? I want my 10 bucks back MLB!!!

From an article by Jayson Stark on ESPN.com :

“… As it turned out, Japan lost more games in this tournament (three) than Korea (one) or the Dominican (two) — but somehow, neither of those teams even made it to the finals.

The Japanese did, though. Somehow or other.

They got this far even though they actually had a losing record in Round Two (1-2)… ”

Does that really make any sense? First of all, how could a team with a losing record in Round Two, who were on the brink of elimination, had their bags packed ready to go home, be allowed to be in the same position (reach the semifinals) as a team (Korea) who had at that point lost “0” games. As you all may know, unlike in Basketball or Football, it is more difficult to win 3+ games in a row and even difficult to win 60% of your games. That’s why in baseball, you have the so-called “good teams” ending up with a 85-77 record. In baseball, on any given day, if the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are having a good day, they can beat the mighty New York Yankees. The point I’m trying to make is that during the semifinals stage, it shouldn’t be single-game elimination. If the first two rounds had every team playing 3 games and having the two best teams advance, then the semifinal and final stages should be a best-of-three series. The winner of a best-of-three series would be a better indication of who is really the best team.

Imagine if this flawed format was incorporated for the American League Championship game. For example, lets take a Tampa Bay Devil Rays team who somehow got by a Minnesota Twins team during the quarterfinals in a best of 3 series. Then they face the New York Yankees in a single game elimination and beat them because they had a good day. Wouldn’t you think the city of New York would be rioting that night? If you had this format in the MLB, you would see the Devils Rays as champions one year and the Colorado Rockies champions in another. Yes, I understand there isn’t much time for the World Baseball Classic, but an extra 4 games in another weeks span of time, wouldn’t be too difficult to incorporate into the next World Baseball Classic.

Please help correct the flawed format of the World Baseball Classic. I don’t want to see South Africa win the next World Baseball Classic because they had a good “day”.

Thank you,

Vincent Anthony

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