No question, it was disturbing when a b-ball matchup of Michigan vs. Notre Dame (in the NIT, of all places) delayed the beginning of our World Baseball Classic championship showcase.
Now that it's all over -- capped by the title tilt between two island nations -- all most of us can think of to say is, "We'll miss you, Matsuzaka and Matsunaka."
Matsuzaka and Matsunaka ... never has there been a more powerful Japanese merger than when Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern gave the world MR. SPARKLE Dishwashing Detergent.
In the videotape that was sent to America for Homer to watch in his home or prefecture, Mr. Sparkle's mission statement was clear:
"Join me or die! Can you do any less?"
Anyway, Chipper and Big Papi and Jung Bong and Stubby Clapp were missing from the title-game pageantry, but, so, too, was EspyTime's commentator, Orestes Destrade.
It only seemed natural that a CUBAN who played four years professionally in JAPAN would be in the broadcast booth for a Cuba-Japan championship, but EspyTime opted to go with Joe Morgan to make either fairly-obvious observations or ones which were incomplete.
Destrade (oftentimes called“O”) was outstanding during the previous-round games in Puerto Rico (when Hershisher wasn’t hogging the mike) … but, alas (sigh) ... maybe it makes too much sense for EspyTime to showcase the smooth-sounding Cuban who was an original Florida Marlin after his fence-busting stint with the Seibu Lions.
It's a simple truth: Joe Morgan needs to explain baseball to the viewer, just in case that viewer is watching his/her first baseball game. Joe needs to explain the nuances, lest we allow "O" to mess things up by giving us some cultural background re: Cuba or Japan.
Listen up, America! Joe's explaining something known as "the hit-and-run."
Little Joe was a fine Hall of Famer (who usually sucked in the postseason, by the way -- .182 avg., .182 avg., .182 avg.), but he's so trite.
Destrade, on the other hand, used a moment during the Cuba-Dominicana contest from earlier in the week (the game when Big Papi hit the 500-foot homer and then did one of those bat-flip/twirls wherein the lumber flips/twirls 30 feet) to note that Dominicans should feel empathy for the plight of Cubans, who, unlike the Dominicans, are stuck on their island forever (unless they climb onto a raft with a tattered “USA or Bust” flag as a mast).
Shortly after that mild political observation, Destrade remarked that the catcher made a great stop, a la Grant Fuhr, to save a near-wild pitch.
When Gary Thorne was shocked at Destrade’s name-dropping of NHL goalies (he'd earlier thrown Pete Peeters’ name out there), "O" said, “This Cuban knows his goalies.”
Quality work by Destrade.
Well, for those of us who were on-board with the WBC right from the get-go, what transpired last night at Pet Shop Stadium in S.D. was fairly epic.
We knew that we were hardcore WBC when Team Japan’s lineup was displayed on the TV screen and the name "Aoki” was at the top of the order and it was “Imae” batting fifth and playing third base.
Immediately we asked, “Where’s Fukudome – and what the hell is Manager Oh thinking by benching Iwamura and his L'Oreal hair?”
Leave it to Sadaharu to pinch-hit Fukudome in the 7th – and leave it to “The Fook” (if that’s what they call him) to clout that 2-run homer (after Nobuhiko Matsunaka rifled that leadoff double into the corner) to snap the 0-0 tie and kick-start the 5-run rally.
In the first 6 games and and 6 innings of the tourney, Korea’s pitching staff allowed eight runs … then, the roof caved in.
No doubt, Hines Ward, who was wearing his “K” cap from that very good seat at Pet Shop Stadium, felt the sting while watching his Koreans struggle.
Without Korea in the title game, it was up to Japan's stars (stereotyped as "mechanical" and "regimented") against the “passionate” and “flamboyant” Cubans.
Both teams have their styles, but, bottom line, they are smart and skilled … and, while Japanese players don’t bear hug each other as those two Cuban pitchers did Saturday during that pitching change (which did look mighty weird, by the way) they're just as pumped, just as intense … as evidenced by Matsunaka when he completed his head-first slide into second by giving the base a solid punch to start the 5-run rally.
And, Fukudome was smiling when he rounded the bases on his homer.
So, Japan kinda dinked some hits and nudged some runs across last night (a 4-spot in the first and a 4-spot in the ninth) ... a style of play which caused some of us to tigthen the sash on our kimonos and pour another glass of sake for the little geisha girl by our side.
Creating a noisemaker by banging a ladle against a wok ... that's simply foolish.
We'll miss those guys ... from Ogasawara's goat-tee to Watanabe's mega-submarine pitching mechanics, but HEY!
Chipper and "America's Team" will be boring the bejeezus out of America somewhere around mid-June ...