Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On the World Baseball Classic

So, the 2nd World Baseball Classic wraps up with another win for Team Japan in extra innings over South Korea.

I got the chance last night to watch just a couple of innings of the final game, and I thought it to be tremendously exciting and vibrant baseball. The opportunity to watch two Asian teams play each other underlined some of the differences between the way that these teams play ball and the style I'm used to seeing in the Majors. Meaning no disrespect to MLB, I see an extra element of energy and excitement in the way that the Asian players play baseball. It is as if the players are all on tightly coiled springs, and when the springs release, the vivacity with which the play unfolds is intoxicating. This energy manifests itself throughout the play... the hitting, the pitching, the running, the defense... It all happens so fast, and so explosively, that you can't be perfectly sure you've seen what you thought you saw.

It's an interesting parallel against the largeness and the power that so dominate the western style of the game nowadays. The fact that Japanese speed and finesse easily defeated US power in the semifinals puts the American baseball purist in a difficult position. Tommy Lasorda, for example, is not taking the picture well.
"Can you believe this? Look at the score. I feel so bad about this," Lasorda said. "We had high hopes. This is the second time we were supposed to win. We taught these people the game."
At the very least, fans of the MLB style of play can comfort themselves that the winning hit in the final came off the bat of Ichiro, a familiar figure for whom American baseball can take some partial credit.

Update: What he said.


  1. I was going to mention the Verducci article, but I see you've already seen it!

    Anyway, that was a lovely bit of baseball last night! One of the commentators mentioned that the Asian teams prepare for games far harder, and more as a team, than the North American teams do. For example, he cited the Japanese team doing full-speed infield drills during pitching changes. And it showed; there was some beautiful fielding in last night's game!

    It was great tournament to watch! I'm looking forward to the next one!

  2. Addendum:

    Eric Neel also has a great column about the game. He mentions this play:

    "Japanese left fielder Seiichi Uchikawa skidding to cut off a sharply hit ball in the corner later in the fifth, and then popping up and firing to nail Korean second baseman Young Min Ko at second base -- a play from start to finish I cannot imagine a single current major leaguer even attempting, let alone pulling off."

    I agree entirely with his opinion! It was a spectacular bit of work by the outfielder...

  3. I caught the game from about the 4th on. Loved it, my favorite kind of baseball: sparkling defense and lots of baserunning. Ichiro is my hero!

  4. There was a double-play turned in the sixth or seventh inning by the Korean team that was unbelievable too. Great, exciting play!