Saturday morning I had some time to kill and since I just renewed my MLB subscription decided to put it to use. I flipped on some of the Braves spring training game against the Cardinals, but then noticed that Team Canada was playing Team Colombia. Let’s check that out.
Braves superstar Freddie Freeman, playing for Team Canada, lined in an RBI single against Braves ace Julio Teheran. Then he tried to steal a base, which ended predictably with a caught stealing.
Later, 41 year old Eric Gagne came in to pitch in relief for Team Canada and pitched well in over 2 innings. Yes, that same Eric Gagne, who hadn’t pitched in an MLB game since 2008.
I love it.
Major League Baseball is a long season, and in today’s game the size of a players contract, or in younger players lack of a contract, plays into deciding who plays and how much they play.
In the World Baseball Classic? It’s like picking teams on the playground based loosely on ethnicity and country of origin. You have minor league players, unsigned players, former big league players and current ones all playing for their countries and trying to make the best team out of who you have.
So you see a Puerto Rican squad with Francisco Lindor at SS AND Carlos Correa at third, with Javier Baez thrown in at second base.
You see Venezuela with Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Gonzalez in the same lineup, with Felix Hernandez on the mound for fun.
Fun, you see fun baseball. Talent is key and doing all you can to win. In the US/Colombia game Friday night the first hit for either team wasn’t until the top of the 5th. Jose Quintana for Colombia didn’t allow a hit until the 6th inning. The US won it on an Adam Jones walk-off single in the 10th inning.
The World Baseball Classic has been criticized in the past because it puts players at more injury risk, it disrupts the “flow” of spring training, and takes some top players away from the spring training circuit that fans now flock to every year in a big business. Watching Colombia win their first ever WBC game with a group of prospects, veterans, career minor league players and a few All Stars working together for a common goal. Baseball binds them, and on this team there are no contracts. Reputations and job status don’t matter, only what you can accomplish between those white lines of chalk.
The first round wraps up this weekend with Round 2 of Pool Play starting next week in San Diego and in Japan. The Championship round starts in Los Angeles on March 20th. Will the US be able to make it for the firs time and finally bring home a WBC? After Japan won the first WBC in 2006 against Cuba (I was fortunate enough to be there!), Japan beat South Korea in 2009 and the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico in 2013. Will we have a new champion in 2017? I don’t know, but make sure to try and watch to find out!