The Northside Lounge
A Chicago Cubs blog with an occasional tangent on pop culture
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
World Baseball Classic proves just about nothingJapan topped Cuba 10-6 to win the inaugural WBC Monday. It was a game that both teams clearly cared about, and at least half the crowd seemed passionate about it as well. There were admittedly some yawning white boys in the mix, but the older Japaneese couple with the rising sun flag jumping up and down in the midst of a bunch of guys with Cuban flags seemed more representative.
So Japan is the champion, and their fans are celebrating. This is all well and good. And yet some people think it means more. I'm just going to cherry pick a few choice comments so I can make myself feel good by calling other people dumb today. Here goes!
So it follows ... the best Japanese team ever, beating the best competition the world has ever offered. Can there be any doubt? Japan is the best.
This is an absurd conclusion on so many different levels. First, the "best competition the world has ever offered" isn't the same as "the best competition there is." You couldn't reasonably make the conclusion with most teams missing many or most of their best players. More importantly, this was a tiny sample size. The US played just six games. When 162 games is often not enough to determine which team is truely the best, six certainly isn't close. Donovan goes so far as to proclaim Japan "the best" based on one lousy game, the 10-6 win over Cuba. The only thing a baseball tournament like this proves is who is the champion, not who is the best.
Hal Bodley attributes Japan and Cuba outdoing the US and Dominica to fundamentals:
If there was one lesson to be learned, it's that Japan, Cuba, Mexico and South Korea excelled at fundamentals. It was so evident these countries played the game the way it's supposed to be played.
Scott Miller at sportsline.com agrees:
It's a whole lot of little things, things once were important in blue-collar America but no longer seem so emphasized in white-collar America. Things like attention to detail and the heavy lifting kind of work that doesn't necessarily get the glory or make the headlines.
There we have it- the results of the World Baseball Classic had more to do with Marxist class struggle than anything else. Its too bad, because I really thought the US team was inoculated against charges of not caring about fundamentals by including the ultimate fundamentalist Derek Jeter (two errors in six games.) Anyway, I hope Hal and Scott enjoyed the final, where Japan (three errors) defeated Cuba (one error and eight pitchers). A purists dream come true.
Sarcasm aside, it was a very good tournament won by a deserving Japan. They haven't proven themselves the greatest baseballing nation anymore than the US hockey team proved they were better than the Russians in 1980, but like the US hockey team they won the championship and they should be proud.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
In between games of the NCAA tournament yesterday I decided to flip around the channels and see if by chance the Cubs were on television. To my joy, they were so I flipped up there to see some of the action. I quickly realized this would be a mistake. Turns out it was actually a White Sox broadcast and they were overly eager to remind people who won the World Series last year.
Like always I am enjoying the tourney this season and my bracket is hanging on by a thread. I was stupid enough to put Illinois in the final four so I am down one team there, but otherwise not doing too bad. My alma mater Tennessee got bounced out and my favorite team the Hoosiers are also gone. I have finally gotten a chance to watch Gonzaga play twice and can honestly say they are a bunch of punks. They are good - definitely better than IU - but having the ref put them on the line over 20 more times than the Hoosiers does not help matters any.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The Sky is Falling
I am sure most readers have already heard what was reported in the Tribune today. Mark Prior has some shoulder soreness and will go for a consultation today. Cub fans wait on the edge of their seats to see what will happen. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that much of the season hangs in the balance.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
World Baseball Classic - Day 2
The US played their second game of the WBC and dropped it to our neighbors to the north 8-6. They were down 8-0 when I got home from work and I had given up them. Upstairs tending to my email I hear my wife let out a cheer and turn the station in time to see the replay of Varitek's granny.
Sabermetrics at work
I had an offsite meeting today at work to get to know the people on my team. One of them game a quick intro presentation where he mentioned a love for sabermetrics (even using the term). I was taken aback from the fact that this is the first time I have heard it at my job. To give some background, I work for a company that is half owned by a grocery chain (rhymes with Smoger)that is battling WalMart for sales. They were struggling before the joint venture but have now (as of yesterday) had 10 growing sales quarters in a row. Life is good for the company.
Canada 8, USA 6There are a ton of problems with the World Baseball Classic, but despite Selig's best efforts to make it a failure I have to admit that I'm paying attention to this tournament. Despite it all, the sight of passionate fans waving flags and screaming their lungs out (be it a few dozen for US/Canada or a stadium full for Dominica/Venezuela) gets me going.
That said, the structure of the tournament is so terrible that a big part of me was rooting for the US to get mercy-ruled today. I was literally bouncing around my living room with gleeful anticipation when we trailed 8-0 in the fifth. That dream slipped away, as did the potential joy of A-Rod's pathetic popout ending the game when the Canadian center fielder saw it pop out of his glove, but the result still highlights some of the myriad problems with Bud's baby.
I hope somehow these problems are fixed and a credible, viable international tournament emerges. No sporting event on the face of the earth matches the World Cup for sporting passion largely because it is shared by nations competing on relatively equal footing, but a true Baseball World Cup could come close. It would be nice to be able to care about a Star Spangled Nine without wanting them to lose to spite Bud Selig.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Kirby PuckettYou've probably read that Kirby Puckett died yesterday afternoon. Everywhere I've looked on the internet, people are mourning the loss of a beloved man and a great baseball player. Thats entirely appropriate, and fine as far as it goes, and yet...
Its driving me absolutely nuts reading so many effusive comments and stories about Kirby Puckett today, virtually every one of which ignores or glosses over the rather important fact that he was a serial abuser of women. Everywhere I go- from Baseball Think Factory to Fark, commenters are bemoaning the loss of the great Kirby Puckett. Anyone who says anything to the contrary is castigated as a terrible human being for speaking such awful words.
Counting only those incidents that made the papers, he beat up his wife throughout their sixteen year marriage, beat up a mistress he kept throughout his marriage, and dragged a stranger into the men's room of a restaurant where he sexually assaulted her. I understand the desire to accentuate the positive in the immediate aftermath of a man's passing, especially an athlete that gave happy memories to so many people. I can go along with recapping the highlights of his career at the expense of a sober analysis of whether he deserved to make the Hall of Fame on merit. I can accept Twins fans reminiscing about the joy he brought them as children. I can't fathom doing all of this and ignoring the fact that he brutalized women on a regular basis. For me, and presumably for his victims, his passing is not enough of a reason to let bygones be bygones.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Sammy Sosa and the curse of Van Halen
After reading Scott's post a couple of weeks ago about some of Sammy Sosa's exploits I had one rather striking thought. He might be the Van Halen of baseball. I have contended for years that Van Halen would be regarded as legends if their plane would have crashed in 1985 (or even 1995). Call it the Nirvana effect.
Tickets, get your tickets
There are two things I truly love about spring: 1.) the obvious would be the players reporting to camp to begin baseball and 2.) the new slew of baseball books that hit the shelf. I tend to read books about baseball, poker and business so I am pumped about the new baseball ones. Of course the return of baseball does bring about one of my least favorite things - buying tickets. I get so discouraged since it is hard for the average person to get a decent seat with professional internet ticket flippers working the system.