World Baseball Classic Finals

Japan was one U.S. victory over Mexico from elimination in Round 2, and Cuba escaped first-round elimination by Ruben Rivera of Panama instinctively jumping out of the way of a pitch that would have forced in the winning run.  And although a runner-up in the first two rounds, Japan prevailed tonight and became the first World Baseball Classic champion, beating Cuba, 10-6. Cuba fought back the whole game, even getting within one run in the eighth inning, but could not overcome the uncharacteristic shaky start by three Cuban pitchers in a marathon first half-inning as Japan put up four runs ( 350K) before Cuba ever came to bat.

A sellout crowd seemed pretty split in their loyalties, although the Cuban fans made much more noise. On the other hand, the Japanese fans were noticably more demonstrative than they were in the games in the Tokyo Dome in Round 1, even in the deciding game against rival Korea, and became increasingly noisy as the game wore on.
Aaron, Oh
Too many dignitaries were here tonight to begin to list them, although we were joined by Mayor Williams of D.C. again and senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Commissioner Negoro of Japan was on hand to accept the winning trophy from Commissioner Selig.  What a thrill the opening ceremony was watching all-time Major League home run champion Hank Aaron walk arm-in-arm with, and be handed the ceremonial first pitch ball by, the all-time Japan home run champion and the Japanese manager, Sadaharu Oh.  Hank delivered the first pitch to the Cuban catcher, Ariel Pestano, a veteran of international play and one of the key components of Cuba’s incredible run in the tournament.

It was also another big weekend for the Habitat for Humanity site here at the ballpark.  On Sunday, in a remarkable show of sportsmanship and compassion, both the Cuban and Japanese teams showed up and autographed the houses and offered their support.  On Monday morning, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield graciously got up in the middle of the night and was at the site at 5 a.m. for a "Today" show appearance promoting the event and the Habitat buildout.  And at a press conference just before the game, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America unveiled its new anti-steroid PSA ( 350K) in partnership with MLB, following on the heels of last year’s very successful crumbling statue PSA, at a press conference with Commissioner Selig and Steve Passierb, President and CEO of PDFA.

Cubafans

Ratings have stayed good.  In Japan, the Japan/Korea game Saturday night averaged a 36.2 and peaked at over a 50 share.  Since today is a holiday in Japan, I assume tonight’s rating will be a monster as well.  Noby Ito of the NPB and winning Japan delegation predicted an even bigger number than Saturday night.  And there is no reason to think that the Cuban ratings have fallen from their 90 share.  Domestically, we more than held  our own, even against the NCAAs on Saturday and even without the U.S. team in the semifinals.  And whatever short-term rating loss we may have suffered at home by having Cuba and Japan in the finals, or because ESPN joined the game in-progress tonight,  we made up for in long-term event credibility.

Even though I thanked them during one of my early blogs from Japan, I would be wrong to not again say what a phenomenal job our International Department did to a person in pulling off the logistics of this first-time event, led by Senior Vice President Paul Archey.  His entire staff has run itself ragged for the past three months to ensure as few snafus as possible, and to accommodate the needs of 17 different baseball federations, 16 different rosters, thousands of press, multiple broadcast partners and almost 750,000 fans in six different venues.  I also would again acknowledge the role and efforts of the MLBPA, from Don Fehr and Gene Orza to their staff and those who served on the technical committee.  In fact, the entire technical committee deserves enormous credt for seeing this through without incident. 

Thanks to the IBAF: President Aldo Notari, who was at most of the games, and Miguel Ortin, who was also at many, for their leadership and for administering the drug-testing program. My thanks to our promoters in Japan and San Juan, and our hosts in Orlando, Phoenix and San Diego for their fine work, and to mlb.com for its coverage of the event and sale of tickets, including moving a lot of tickets the last weekend in the secondary market when the final pairings were set. Productions and broadcasting were everwhere and I am sure a great DVD will be shortly forthcoming, up to their Emmy-winning standards.  Our special-events people were also terrific, having to pull this together at a number of disparate venues and not knowing which teams would advance often until the day before they would travel to the next site.  And I also would like to acknowledge the fine work MLB’s entire security staff did throughout, particularly given the unique participation by both China and Cuba and the protocols that required.  But all in all, I know I speak for all of the people I just mentioned in saying we are all honored to have been involved in this and will look back in 20 years and say we were in on the ground floor of a great international compeitition that celebrated the great game of baseball and took it to a new level.

I also thank all of you for your passion and interest.  No shock that I found your comments more interesting than what I wrote.  They were, for the most part, very thoughtful, even when they disagreed with the event or how it was run, and many of your suggestions and ideas will be reviewed as we look at doing this again.  I will close this with my choices for various "awards" for the inaugural World Baseball Classic.  I welcome your continuing suggestions for improvement of the event.

Japancelebrates

Get ready for an exciting 2006 Major League Season, and we will see you in 2009.  Best wishes.

First Hit – Hee Seop Choi (Korea) – Double, in the second inning against Taipei.

First home run – Wei Wang (China) – Game 1 against Japan ( 350K).

Most Impressive Performance (Team)Korea going all seven games that it played without an error

Most Impressive Performance (Player) – Seventeen-year-old Shairon Martis (Netherlands), who pitched a seven-inning, complete-game no-hitter against Panama, facing just 22 batters, allowing one walk and recording the final out on his last allowable 65th pitch, inducing a double-play grounder.

Most Exciting Play – Adam Stern (Canada) – inside-the-park home run against U.S. in Canada’s stunning win ( 350K)

Best Defensive Play – Jin Young Lee (Korea) – A catch ( 350K) against Japan in right field in the first game between the two teams at Tokyo Dome, which kept Korea in the game at the time and allowed its winning rally.

Most ironic event - Seung Yeop Lee (Korea) hit a home run ( 350K)  to beat Japan in Round 1 in Tokyo.  He plays for defending Japanese champion Chiba Lotte Marines during the regular season.

Biggest disappointmentU.S. going 3-3.

Biggest surprise (team) – Play of Mexico, which beat Canada, split two games with the U.S. and played Korea and Japan very tough in its games with them.

Biggest controversy – Two questionable calls, by the same American umpire, that went in favor of the U.S. in two critical games.

Narrowest escapeCuba, which might not have advanced to Round 2 if  Ruben Rivera had not avoided being hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of the game between Cuba and Panama.

Most enthusiastic fans: 
Round 1 – Venezuela
Round 2 – Puerto Rico
Round 3 – Korea

Best food (overall) – San Diego’s PETCO Park

Best food (single item)
– Plantain Chips (Hiram Bithorn)

Biggest deal with smallest impact - Pitch-count restrictions

Rule I would most like to see changed for next time – Crossover pairings in semifinals

Best Quote #1 – Commissioner Bud Selig: "Baseball was born in America, but now it belongs to the world."

Best Quote #2 – Ambassador Thomas Schieffer, U.S. Ambassador to Japan in discussing why China will be a long-term force in international baseball:  "Remember that in China, when you are one in a million, there are 1,300 of you."

Best Quote #3 – Steve Hirdt, Elias Sports Bureau: "Next year, we’ll all be missing the World Baseball Classic," quoted by Tom Verducci on SI.com.

Reasons to do the event again – Every player who committed to the event and every fan who was enthusiastic throughout

Reasons to not do the event - Myopia

15 Comments

Well over all it was great! But there again there is the way it was broadcasted. The college basketball game NM and M. was exciting say the least 2 overtimes. I guess MLB and ESPN didn?t take into account there could be a overtime. Many people like myself missed the whole half 1st inning of play and didn?t get to see the the first run scored nor got to see the first pitch thrown by Arron nor the opening ceremony or even better we all missed the starting line ups where they introduce all the players of each team. What a shame to not have this on National TV so everyone could have seen it. But thanks for telling us about it Bob, I am glad you got to be there and to see it.

Also Bob just to let you know I paid 9.95 to join MLB.TV where it said join and watch “live” all the games for 9.95. So I did but it would not let me see the final game tonight because it said due to national live broadcast restrictions the game was blacked out. Well, I want my 10 bucks back!

In protest of the TV sheduling of the WBC, I vow for everyone to not buy the DVD set containing all the games. Maybe in 2009 they will put the games on national TV.

Once again, WOW!!! What a great tournament topped by a great final game. Cuba played with all the heart advertised and Japan showed that they are truly the best with great pitching, fabulous defense – with the exception of two errors – and hardball offense. Despite the gripes about not being able to view all the games in the U.S., (same here in Japan); despite a couple of HIGHLY questionable calls by an umpire that probably should not be allowed to work a USA vs anybody game; despite the strangeness of having a team that went 6-0 until the semi-finals not making it to the finals after being beat by a team they beat twice in the previous rounds and despite the inevitable whining by a very few fans, less players and most likely some politicians looking for an angle to push forward an agenda, the WBC has been one of the most exciting sporting events I have had the honor to witness in a very, very long time.
Three years from now may be too long to wait for this to come around again – but wait I will. In the meantime I will be wearing out MY DVD set of the first WBC highlights in anticipation of WBC II. Great Job everyone involved – especially the fans from every country represented.

Dear Mr. DuPuy, Congratulations on a great tournament to all involved. Now for a couple of ‘suggestions’.
MLB has got to refine their coverage of all baseball.Last night, the beginning of the WBC was not shown because ESPN carried a NIT double overtime. This should not happen. Nor should any baseball game be limited by ‘regional restrictions’ or blacked out. All baseball games should be carried live at a reasonable hour. Remember your future fans are the children who watch with their parents, not the advertisers looking for more ‘bang for their bucks’. Remember how well the WBC afternoon games were received? Your future fans are on Little League teams now and cannot stay up late to watch night games. Also, baseball fans tend to lock into a team early and stick with them no matter where they live – for example, there are Cubs fans all over the country – why is the TV/radio access to any team limited to a ‘region’? The WBC was successful because of the fans. MLB needs to remember that. Also, although you mentioned the opening ceremonies and the National Anthems before every game – we never saw that on TV. Why?

I loved this tournament because I love baseball, and because baseball itself – the GAME – was the star of the WBC. I can’t wait for the next ‘Classic’.

Thanks for putting this tournament on, Bob. Thank Bud Selig for me too, will you? To me, the level of excitement and intensity in this tournament rivaled, and possibly exceeded, the Yanks/Red Sox World Series of two years ago. Every team played with a purpose, and as fans, we took note. This is the way baseball should be played, and enjoyed. Now, if I can bone up on my Spanish a bit, I’ll be ready for the televised games on ESPN Deportes in 2009. Anyway, great work. Thanks again.

Here is the standing after round two of the series….the way I see things….the best 8 teams made it to the second round…any of these teams could have won…they were all very good made up mostly of major league players anyway but grouped together under their respective countries…it was very refreshing and very interesting…I am still trying to grasp it all

Dominicana 5 1

PR 4 2

Korea 6 0

Venezuela 3 3

Cuba 4 2

EEUU (USA) 3 3

Mexico 3 3

Japon 3 3

Japan, which came in second in both rounds, became the champ…I think the rounds need some revision, I want this classic every two years and please remember that “Puerto Rico Sabe a beisbol” count us in everytime…

What an exciting event this is. I am not going to miss it next year, I already do. Please Bob, don’t makes us wait four more long years.

PETCO park was fantastic (I was there). I was a bit dissapointed that I did not get to see the cubans warm up, but the pre-game environment was electrifying: the giant japanese drums playing in one side of the stadium, spontaneous salsa dancing in the other, the opening ceremony was vey classy, the closing ceremony was thrilling. How about Aki going back to his former ballpark and closing the championship game? That was just so exciting for us Padres fans. I was cheering for Cuba, but I witnessed two great teams play and I was just as happy to see the japanese win. Good for them. And you are right, the food at PETCO is better than most parks.

The way I see it, the US might not have won this tournament, but it certainly won a medal for organizing it and its tremendous success. Thanks to all who made this possible.

This WBC tournament was just amazing, thank you very much for finally putting it together. Like most others, I’d hate to wait another 3-4 years to live it again… but I guess I’ll have to. I’m of hispanic descent and have always been into the soccer world cup, and my wife (who’s American) never really understood how much more drama is involved in a tournament when it involves countries playing against each other, instead of regional or state teams. Boy is that viewpoint different now! She was pretty sure USA was going to mop the floor with everybody else, and when it didn’t happen, things got real interesting. We had a blast cheering & crying for Venezuela through the tournament, and then for Cuba after we got disqualified. I feel like she’s become aware of a “bigger” world, if that makes sense, thanks to the WBC. Thank you again for a great experience.

Its interesting to see that the more and more the WBC went along, the less and less detractors were posting comments, the less we heard about King George Steinbrener, and the less we heard about players not wanting to participate. The WBC became the story that MLB wanted it to be, its just a shame that it wasn’t accepted in the same way it is now when it began.

I saw about 32 of the 39 games on MLB.com, and I never really had many problems. I enjoyed listening to the discussions of the announcers between innings- it was actually more enjoyable than watching commercials. I’d like to see some changes, but everyone has gone over them time and time again, so I’ll refrain from that.

To everyone who still has their doubts about this, get a clue. I’d like to see this event every 2 years, but its all about supply and demand- the longer we have to wait inbetween WBCs, the more interested we will be, which is what MLB wants, and I can’t argue with that one bit.

Bob, thanks for giving us your thoughts along through your travels. I certainly enjoyed it. It wasn’t perfect, but the first WBC certainly had my following. Thanks to you and everyone who helped get this event off the ground.

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

For the poster above, you do realize Cuba since 1951 has never failed in reaching the finals of international competitions. They said doing it in the WBC would be their biggest test yet still did it. I do beleive you can consistently win in tournaments like this as long as you incorporate the Cuban and Japanese styles of smallball.
Im really sad its over now, I havnt been this excited for baseball since my Tigers about 5 years ago were within 5 games of the wildcard late in August. Watching these games were magical. I loved seeing the two home run kings walk out together, that was special. My sportsnet coverage cut short though after the game, was there a trophy ceremony?

Thanks Bob for the blog, they were always so informative and interesting to read. This was the best idea for baseball ever. Even better then the wildcard decision.

Kudos to all involved, a splendid tournament. I enjoyed every game immensely, and the only negatives were Bob Davidson (won’t be a problem in 2009), the U.S. media’s lack of coverage of the tourney (beyond your control, and their loss), and the radio coverage.

I have to bring up the last point because no one has done so yet. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned (although I’m only 29), but sometimes I prefer to listen to baseball games rather than watching them, and often I am driving so wouldn’t be able to watch the games. I’m sure many other people interested in the games couldn’t follow them because they weren’t near a TV, whether it was because they were in their office, were driving, etc. Please try to ensure that the games are on the radio next time – this will add to the potential audience. And see you all in 2009!

I agree with the last post. I’m in Minneapolis where the only ESPN station was running their normal broadcast schedule (which was whining about NBA basketball). Hopefully ESPN can pull the reigns in a bit more the next go ’round and ensure that the WBC (or baseball in general) takes precident over any local blabbering.

Here?s my two cents on tweaks needed for the next WBC tournament:

In the first round of group play teams should play each other twice for a total of six games. This will even out the “home” and “away” games at three apiece. This will also reduce need for tiebreakers.

After group play, the top two teams from each group will advance to a best-of-three elimination round. Best-of-three will allow teams to overcome a bad game. Keep the best-of-three format to the final. This will not significantly extend the duration of the tournament, and it will add more drama to the series.

Add a 3rd place consolation game. How cool would it have been to see Korea and the Dominican Republic face off against each other?

Finally make the WBC every two years. While the soccer World Cup occurs every four years, there is plenty of international soccer (European Cup, Copa America, World Cup qualifying, and more…) to keep fans happy. Unless MLB has plans for some regional tournaments, we’ll need something to keep us international baseball fans pacified during the “tween” years.

Great tournament Bob! I can’t wait to hear the details for 2009!

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