Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WBC Finals...Japan Wins Again!!!

Nippon, nippon!!! That's what the fans of the stadium's minority were chanting (including us), unfortunately we kept getting drowned out by the Korean faithfuls! My wife (who's a Japanese girl at heart) made a really cool ninja/Nippon sign and I was wearing my Yomiuri Giants cap as we were rooting for team Japan to repeat their WBC title. This was by far the best WBC game that I have ever seen...it is even one of the best baseball games that I have attended. The Korean fans were intense with their drums, flags, powder blue thunder sticks, and uniform Korean chants throughout the entire stadium. This was definitely the most respectful group of fans that I have ever seen at Dodger Stadium. There weren't any of the usual fights among fans breaking out and no disrespectful behavior at all. Just a group of 55,000 fans pulling for their teams and having a great time. The Hollywood celebs were even out, as we saw Dodger season ticket holder faithful, Alyssa Milano taking pics with her Japanese fans. 

Talk about two pure fundamentally sound teams, giving it all. After 10 exciting innings, Ichiro led Japan to the repeat WBC title. Why Korea didn't pitch around Ichiro is still puzzling, but hey, it worked in Japan's favor, and backfired on Korea. This game had it all...small ball, strategy, Ichiro, stolen bases, great pitching, and even Yu Darvish. This is the closest thing that I will have to attending a WS game 7 and an Olympics game. We got to see the opening and closing ceremonies, the medal ceremonies, the trophy presentation by Bud Selig, and Dice-K receiving the WBC MVP award. Even Tommy Lasorda and Fernando Valenzuela made appearances by throwing out the first pitches. It was cool hanging with my friends that I've had since junior high school, Robert and Cyrus (Dodger season tix holders), at the game who were sitting a few sections over from us. This game displayed the total essence and spirit of what the World Baseball Classic stands for. What a perfect finish to our 2009 WBC journey!!! Hey, Team USA, take note, this is what it's all about. This is baseball at it's purest, finest form. I applaud teams Korea and Japan for showing the world their finely tuned game of baseball. What perfection. This was the best way for the WBC tourney to wind down, proving to all of it's critics that the WBC is necessary for the game. Thank you WBC for giving us a truly great baseball adventure...we can't wait for 2013!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What went wrong for Team USA in the '09 WBC?

After tonight's disappointing 9-4 loss against Japan, I decided to write about what went wrong for the US team in this year's WBC. First of all, many of the 
best American players turned down their offers to play in the tourney. Whereas, their foreign born counterparts did not, unless they were injured. Next, the Americans treated the WBC as spring training games, playing half-ass. Where all of the other 15 teams did not. The other 15 contending teams played for their country by giving 110%. Davey Johnson showed that he was a terrible manager by playing the games as if they were spring training. What happened to "the team comes first" mentality that he preached before the tourney started? He kept in Peavey and Oswalt during their starts way too long, when they were getting blown out, because he said they need to get their work in...this basically lost the game to Japan tonight. In addition, Johnson batted Evan Longoria, a righty vs. a righty with the winds blowing in from RF with available runner on third. Instead he should have kept Shane Victorino, a lefty in the game to take the at bat. Johnson batted Longoria because he felt bad that Longoria travelled all the way from FL two days ago and needed to have an at-bat in the WBC for his troubles. What's up with Dunn not hustling for the looper into RF tonight? His old lazy ass needs to retire.  Another big reason was having Adam Dunn starting in RF and even 1st base throughout the tournament...why not have Granderson in CF and Victorino in RF, and use Dunn as a PH as needed. Hey Davey, this was an international tournament against the world's best, not an all-star game! Like I said before, if the American players knew that they were going to play in the WBC ahead of time, they should have started training for it back in December/ January. This was obvious with all of the US injuries and fielding errors in the WBC. Why didn't the other teams endure as many injuries to their MLB players? PREPARATION, IS THE ANSWER, MY FRIENDS. I am tired of people making excuses for the US team, saying that since they have MLB players, they don't want to risk injury by playing their hardest and that they weren't in game shape to begin with...uh, what about all of the other 15 teams that had MLB players on them? Did the Dominican Republic give those excuses for their early departure? No, they did not.  Did Puerto Rico or Venezuela give those excuses...No way! I am embarrassed at my country's WBC performance. They really didn't deserve to beat Puerto Rico to go to the semis. I wonder what would have happened if PR had deservingly beat the US in Miami...hmmm? Yes, the US did better than their '06 performance, but this is our game...our national past time, and we should be in the finals every time this tournament happens. What a huge disappointment. Especially when you hear Chipper Jones making ignorant statements about Toronto being a cow town. Uh...Toronto is a cow town??? Funny, I didn't see anything like that during our week in Toronto. It was like a mini NYC or Chi-Town. Toronto proudly touts the title of the world's most multi-cultural city. Talk about an ignorant redneck! This type of arrogance and ignorance portrayed by an American is a huge reason why the US is disliked internationally. Chipper Jones shouldn't have been on the team to begin with. At 3B, it should have been Wright and Longoria. Jones shouldn't have been able to even speak...it only makes the rest of us look bad to the rest of the world. I am so disappointed and once again embarrassed at USAs performance in the WBC. I guess I will be rooting for Ichiro and team Japan at Dodger Stadium tomorrow night to repeat their WBC title against they very strong gold medal winning team Korea. News to team USA...it's no longer our sport, and you don't automatically deserve to win just because you are American MLB All-Stars! Maybe we should use a team full of AAA minor leaguers in 2013...I'm sure that they would treat the WBC tourney with the same pride and respect that it receives internationally. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2009 WBC- San Diego

As promised, here are the deets on our trip down to San Diego last Sunday to watch Cuba vs. Japan. Since it is only a 2 hour drive to San Diego from LA, we thought, why not? So we went doen to my wife's home town and watched a second round WBC game at Petco Park. It was a 2006 WBC Finals rematch between two of the world's best baseball teams. Dice-K was on the hill for Japan, which was cool to see him pitching for Japan and not the BoSox! It was really amazing on how many Japanese and Cubans filled the stands. There were definitely some Cubans wanting revenge from there team's loss three years ago. We were sitting in a section of almost all Japanese fans. We joined in and cheered on Ichiro and his country mates with the fans in our section. I even wore my Yomiuri Giants cap to the game. Dice-K was awesome, and Japan won the contest 6-0. The noise from the fans was continuous with chanting, waving flags, holding signs, and the thundersticks. We had a great time. If this isn't a reason for the WBC, I don't know what is. The international spirit of the game was definitely there among the players and the fans!

2009 WBC- Toronto trip- Part III

First, I apologize to my blog friends that I haven't followed up on my Toronto WBC trip...I am still getting over my Canadian cold. Anyway, since I am home sick from work today, I thought that I would wrap up the Toronto WBC postings. Like I said, we had a blast...we got to see team USA's all-star dream team, led by my favorite player, Derek Jeter. Overall USA did okay in the tournament. They hammered team Venezuela in their first meeting, but the last game of Pool C, the US played very poorly...as if they didn't care. They already secured their 2nd round spot, so this game was to determine who would have the top seed of Pool C. 
This seems to be a common issue with team USA in contrast to the other 15 teams that were/are in the '09 WBC. To most of the non-USA players, winning this tournament for their home country is much more important than winning a World Series for a city that they have no affiliation with other than a paycheck. I truly wish that the U.S. players felt the same way as their foreign counter parts. Like Ichiro said in '06, winning the '06 WBC is the most important day in his baseball career. Why can't others feel that way? It is shameful for the Americans not to feel that way. If they want to treat it like Spring Training games, then they should have been training and practicing since January if they wanted to participate, that way they can give
 110% for their team, country, and fans. Believe it or not Team USA, but their are a lot of fans out there, like us that really care about the WBC and want to feel a true sense of national pride that doesn't come with the 26 World Series championships, but with seeing your country win for their people.  Have a safe and fun St. Patty's day everyone! And PLEASE don't drink and drive!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2009 WBC- Toronto trip- Part II

My friends, I took a bunch of pics on our trip, and yesterday's post was just a small taste of what our sweet trip was all about. Unfortunately, I caught a cold on the last day of our trip and have been fighting it ever since. I think I got sick from walking about 10 blocks in 50 mph gusts of icy Lake Ontario wind. We walked to Wayne Gretzky's restaurant on Wednesday before the game. It is not far from the Rogers Centre, but we kept getting a lot of terrible directions from the locals...I wonder if it was because we were totally decked out in our team USA gear from head to toe...hmmm? Anyway, I had a BBQ chicken sandwich and fries at Gretzky's, and it was by far the best meal that I had on the entire trip! I love their Heinz ketchup. I know what you are thinking, Heinz ketchup!? What's the big deal, Junior? The Canadian Heinz has liquified sugar in it instead of vinegar...so it is sweeter. I actually really prefer the Canadian ketchup over the stuff that we get here in the U.S. I even bought a bottle to bring back home with me. I know, it's weird, but if you are ever in Canada, try the ketchup, and then judge me. I have a huge sweet tooth. My wife doesn't, so she prefers the American ketchup. It's all about personal taste preferences. The address to Gretzky's is 99 Blue Jays Way, and they burn the number 99 into the hamburger buns to honor the Great One's jersey number. Okay, back to baseball...

(I'm not sure what happened to the font up there, and I can't figure out how to fix it) 
It was so crazy on how many Venezuelan fans packed into the Roger's Centre to support their fellow country people. Their were very loud, with their unified chants and whistles, along with their red, blue, and yellow flags every where. I'd have to say that they showed the most country pride out of all of the fans, even the hometown Canadians. The best game that we saw was Italy's elimination of Canada in game 4 of the series. Both teams having lost one game each and 
were facing elimination and the underdog, team Italy won. I was supporting the Italians due to my proud heritage. It was really cool seeing future Hall of Famer/ former Dodger & Mets catcher, Mike Piazza as Italy's hitting coach. Unfortunately, we were unable to get Mike's autograph on our ball. Oh well, Mike is still one of my all-time favorite players. (BTW, the Dodgers always seem to have really good catchers: Campenella, Scoscia, LoDuca, Piazza, and now Martin). I thought that the Italian team were all Italian- Americans, but there were actually some players from Italy on the team. My favorite Italian player was the right fielder, Mario Chiarini, who made some web gem defensive plays. On one play, he made a sweet diving catch and broke his belt in the process. Mario is definitely a gamer! While getting our ball autographed by Italian players, a couple of them only spoke Italian, which took me by surprise, but they were all really cool and willing to sign the ball. If I ever go back to Italy, I might try to check out a game over there to compare it to our version. After their victory, team Italy celebrated on the field as if they just won the World Series. It was their biggest victory of the tournament, as they were unfortunately eliminated the next day 10-1 by Venezuela. My friends, I will write more about our trip in tomorrow's posting, because I am starting to feel really runned down. We are actually driving down from LA to San Diego tomorrow to watch Japan vs. Cuba, so hopefully I will being feeling better. I will have even more WBC adventures to post on here. I will continue with the Toronto trip, as there is still a lot to cover, then I will post the San Diego stuff, so stay thirsty my friends!

Friday, March 13, 2009

2009 WBC- Toronto trip- Part I

So we are back from our trip to Toronto! Although it was extremely freezing cold with icy rain and snow, we had a blast! The wind gusts from Lake Ontario were brutal. The Rogers Centre (aka- Skydome) was great. The food was very disappointing...only pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, and nachos- typical ballpark food from about 15 years ago, but Toronto needs to get with the times. Maybe I am a bit spoiled, but I like a lot of variety, especially since we were there for all six games of the '09 WBC Pool C. (In case you are wondering, the best food that I've had at a ballpark was in Pittsburgh). Aside from the food, the ballpark is pretty nice...we were really happy that it was a dome, considering the weather. 

One thing that the Rogers Centre had that I've never seen before is baseball card vending machines! That's right, baseball card vending machines. They had all different years and makes of card packs. I bought a 1989 pack of Donruss cards, hoping to find a Junior rookie card, but no luck. It was cool getting a Don Mattingly card and a Warren Spahn puzzle piece. I 
used to have that completed puzzle framed on my bedroom wall when I was a kid...I wonder what happened to that? 
We got a team autographed ball by team Italy, a game used ball tossed to my wife from Venezuelan pitcher, Hernandez, and met Frank Catalonotto. 
We saw some really great baseball played. The first game was USA vs. Canada. The US beat their northern neighbors 6-5. Throughout our week in Toronto, we saw USA, Canada, Italy, and Venezuela battle it out. The final results, USA and Venezuela advanced to the next round. We were lucky enough to go up to the top of the CN Tower (the Space needle looking building next to the Rogers Centre). It is the second tallest building in the world, after the new tower in Dubai. We went to the Hockey Hall of Fame, ate at Wayne Gretzky's restaurant, and truly enjoyed the Canadians' hospitality. We would like to go back, but next time in the summer, when it is much warmer.