Sunday, March 15, 2009

Watching the WBC

In some sports, you know you've lost the game when your opponent trots out their second string to finish the game. In baseball, there are starters and closers only on the pitching roster, but apparently if you're the United States in the World Baseball Classic and you have a six run lead over the Netherlands in an elimination round you have a second string of sorts. Not an entire lineup you can swap out your starters for, but a young catcher known for his talent behind the plate that you can send out into right field.

Watching Brian McCann run out into right field to take his position for a team short-handed because of injuries has to be one of the greatest moments of the WBC thus far. It was absolutely awesome to watch the Netherlands come out and knock the Dominican Republic out of the WBC, but Brian McCann in right field reminded me why national allegiances truly matter in an international competition like the World Baseball Classic.

It didn't matter that the young man from Athens, George had never in his professional career played a game or even an inning in right field. It only mattered that when Davey Johnson, manager of team USA, said guys, we have some shortages going into the final inning and I need someone to pinch hit and then volunteer to hold down a foreign position, that Brian McCann's team needed him. The two-time all star catcher and everyday pitch-caller for the Atlanta Braves must have been hoping like hell that nobody hit a shot his way. Actually, I wonder if Brian even owns a fielder's mitt. Though, I'm sure his ability to catch the ball was less of a concern than his ability to get to the ball quickly.

It's hard to watch the World Baseball Classic for me when my favorite current Major League player is playing for Puerto Rico, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, and Puerto Rico poses the biggest threat to team USA (mercy-rule whomping them in their latest match up), but watching Brian McCann this evening sure reminded me why the 2009 team is nothing like the ego-driven, early defeated team USA of 2006.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to watch the great Vinny Castilla manage the Mexico team in a late night West coast game against Korea.

(Click here for the WBC bracket or here for the schedule.)

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