I have not watched a single inning of the World Baseball Classic. And it shouldn’t have taken a jaw-dropping upset to remind me what a shameful thing that was. But it did, and I missed the Netherlands edging the Dominican Republic in extra innings last night 2-1. Yes, you read that right. The Netherlands. And apparently it was their second time beating the DR in this year’s tournament. Unbelievable. I didn’t even know the Netherlands had a team.
Since the second every-other-spring classic started getting media attention, my baseball-watching friends have consistently shat upon it. There’s the atrocious thirteen inning rule to complain about, the conspicuous absences of so many stars, the fact that this is Spring Training and nobody is mentally prepared for ‘important baseball’ yet. There are a million reasons not to watch. My spoken excuse is a good one (“don’t own a tv”), but in my heart of hearts I know its bullshit. Truth is I just didn’t care about the World Baseball Classic.
I repent. A game like last night’s rises sharply above the whiny, apathetic static of my nonexistent television. In the Majors, you don’t get guys named Englehardt, Randall Simon, Van Klooster, and Duursma digging in against Pedro Martinez. You might get a crucial 11th inning error by Willy Aybar, but you sure don’t get Yurendell De Caster coming around to score on it.
Plus, there’s the excitement. I’ve been working on an post that glances on Mexican League Baseball, and in my detailed, methodical internet research, I’ve noticed that Mexico really gives a shit about the WBC. From what I can see so does Panama, Venezuela, Cuba, and Korea. With the exception of maybe Canada, everybody else cares! And we should too. Losing at the American Pastime is embarrassing in the same way losing in basketball at the Athens Olympics in 2004 was embarrassing.
The easy argument is that we don’t need the WBC. We Americans are confident in our boys’ ability. Fair enough. We invented the sport, we host its most important league, and we put on the damn tournament, isn’t that enough? Probably. But our ego and indifference don’t cause the players to perform with any less passion, the fans to cheer with any less fervor; our ego and indifference don’t dull the excitement or weirdness of the Netherlands beating the Dominican Republic twice…at baseball.
So World Baseball Classic, Team Netherlands (and Netherlands Antilles), obese first baseman Randall Simon: I apologize for my neglect. From here on out I will do my best to watch your games, read your box scores, and write about you. Because beneath the flags and the stupid rules and the odd presence of Randall Simon this is still baseball. And damnit reader, that’s why we’re here. You and me. We like baseball.