Monday, March 11, 2013

Mariano, World Baseball Classic, and more: Monday Rundown

Quote of the Day:

"I didn't want to leave like that.  I wanted to give everything."  

-- P Mariano Rivera

As has been expected for a while, the all-time saves leader and career New York Yankee Mariano Rivera announced that 2013 will be his last season.  Then he promptly went out and struck out two of three batters that he faced, with that same cutter that he has fooled hitter with for the better part of two decades.


Look, I know I give the Yankees and their arrogant, annoying, passionate fans a lot of grief (and hate).  But every once in a generation, you get to witness a player who you can't help but cheer for and admire, regardless of the team he plays for.  Rivera is that Yankee for me. 

In addition to 608 career saves and a .998 career WHIP (second only to Addie Joss all-time), when Mo steps off the mound that final time (hopefully the last game of the regular season with the Yankees staring at an insurmountable deficit in the wildcard chase), it will be the final time that we see a player wearing the number "42" as Rivera is the last of a dozen players with a  grandfathered clause when Major League Baseball decided to retire Jackie Robinson's 42 across the game.  

Also a devoutly religious person, with amazing charities and causes that he supports, Rivera will be just fine adjusting to life after baseball.  May his cutter continue to fool hitters in backyard games of wiffle ball during family picnics.  


A few other things worth reading about Rivera:


  • Mo Deserves 100% of Hall Vote -- Wallace Matthews, ESPN New York
    • If Jesus Christ himself was on the ballot after a career where he threw a perfect game, every game for 500 career starts, Hall voters would have trouble voting him in unanimously.  But Rivera should.   



World Baseball Classic Intensifies

Canadian catcher Chris Robinson stepped at the plate to lead off the 9th inning during pool play of the World Baseball Classic against Mexico.  With a 9-3 lead, Robinson proceeded to bunt down the third base line for a single.  

That didn't sit very well with Mexican pitcher Arnold Leo, who promptly beaned the next batter, Rene Tosoni.  What followed was a benches clearing brawl and ejections followed.

After a melee more worthy of a hockey game, seven players were ejected.  A water bottle thrown from the stands hit Canada's batting coach Denis Boucher, Cale Iorg decided to throw it back.  



(WARNING: Do not fight Canadians in anything. They are trained to fight) 

Probably not the scene that the World Baseball Classic wanted.  And I can imagine guys like Dusty Baker, Ron Gardenhire and Don Mattingly watching guys like Joey Votto, Justin Morneau, and Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of the scuffle thinking "PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE DO NOT GET HURT!!!!!!"

A couple of other things: 

  • I get why it didn't sit well with Mexico.  If I bunted, up 9-3 in the 9th inning playing MLB: The Show, you can bet I would get a can of Pringles thrown my way by my brother who plays college baseball.  And it would hurt.  
  • But here's the other perspective.  The tie-breaker in pool play is run differential.  So teams (regardless of whether they're up 9-3) are going to play to score as many runs as possible.  If your third basemen is playing back on the grass, you're going to bunt away.   
  • An easy solution would be making the tie-breaker "runs allowed" rather than run differential.  And it doesn't make sense to have a ten-run mercy rule if run differential is going to be the tie-breaker.  
  • How did the umpire not take control of the game?  We've got Mexico's third baseman barking at the pitcher and pointing to his side, clearly telling Leo to bean the next batter.  Warnings should have been issued there. Ejections should have happened after the first inside brushback pitch.
  • Speaking of which, how did it take Leo three pitches hit to Tosoni?  The first two seemed to piss Tosoni off more and more until the third let to temper's flaring and benches clearing.  
Let's forget about Mexico and Canada.  They were both eliminated anyway.  The second round is well underway.  If you're craving baseball you can either watch pros and minor leaguers play Spring Training games or watch pros and minors play WBC. Either choice is fine.  

Here are the countries that advanced in the round-robin pool play from the first round of the World Baseball Classic.  (Winners are bolded)

Pool A

Japan
Brazil 
China
Cuba


Pool B

Chinese Taipei 
Australia 
Netherlands
South Korea

Pool C

Dominican Republic
Venezuela
Puerto Rico
Spain

Pool D

United States
Canada 
Mexico 
Italy


This week, the US will take on both Puerto Rico while surprise team Italy will play the Dominican Republic in the other round of Pool 2.  It's a double-elimination format, so if teams lose twice, they're out.  

Meanwhile, in Pool 1, a strong Japanese team has been rolling in wins over Chinese Taipei (Taiwan, for your non-geography fans out there) and the Netherlands.  Meanwhile the Netherlands rebounded nicely to knock out Cuba.  

Disappointing finishes for perennial power Cuba and Venezuela.  Italy and the Netherlands surprise, showing that maybe that socialist healthcare is paying off in athletics...wait!  They are loaded with "American-heritage" players.  



Ah, the World Baseball Classic!  And yes, I know all the games are exhibition and the tournament is still trying to win me over, but it's still baseball. Game like Mexico-Canada prove that teams are playing hard and it's fun to watch.  It also only comes around every four years.  And no, it's not the Olympics. 

But baseball is out at the Olympics anyway.  And what's more fun?  Would you rather watch Mexicans and Canadians fight on a baseball diamond or Alicia Sacramone straddle a balance beam at the Summer Olympics every four years?  

 This?


Or this?


Okay, whatever.  Olympics wins.  

But catch the WBC on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes anyway!