【N.J】 World Baseball Classic was entertaining, but US participation should have been better – – – New Jersey News

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An Australian once explained to me that his nation’s five leading “religions” are: 1) Beer Drinking, 2) Rugby, 3) Cricket, 4) Episcopalian and 5) Presbyterian.

He didn’t mention baseball. It would have been silly if he had.

The Australian Baseball League is a weekends-only operation that fits a 40-game schedule between November and February. It doesn’t have a prominent position in the Aussie sports landscape. Accordingly, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the Australians had treated the World Baseball Classic with a collective yawn.

But they didn’t.

The Australian national team played its pool games in Tokyo, which is about 4,800 miles away from Sydney. It was supported by a vocal and active crowd, that was very visible in Aussie colors and very vocal as people waved banners and screamed. Clearly, none of them considered the World Baseball Classic to be a minor event.

They weren’t alone.

The Tokyo Dome seats 42,000 for baseball and it was sold out whenever the Japanese team played. Many Japanese players have their own songs, which are sung by the entire crowd as they come to bat. It’s not just a cappella music. The singers are accompanied by trumpet and drums as they fill the stadium with song. When the opposition bats the stadium grows silent. There is never any booing or any other type of derision. Japanese crowds are always respectful to both teams and, for that matter, to the umpires as well.

Another pool was played In Taichung, Chinese Taipei, where the stadium capacity was only 20,000. The crowd behavior there reminded me of a college football game in America. People enthusiastically chanted organized cheers in unison. They were led by uniformed cheerleaders who were stationed atop the dugout when the home team took its turn at bat. They disappeared when the visitors batted.

Anybody who thinks the World Baseball Classic was not well received was not paying attention to what happened in Asia — or, for that matter in Latin America.

Pool play in Miami and Phoenix was also well attended, in part because they drew throngs of spectators from Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It was easy to spot each group. They painted their faces, wore colorful hats and screamed their lungs out for their own respective countries.

However, even though these games were being played on American soil, very few Americans seemed willing to show that kind of partisanship. In fact, there were very few signs that many people in this country had much enthusiasm for the event.

For heaven’s sakes, the United States of America was the birthplace of baseball. The game was nourished here and even now we produce more quality ball players than other nation on earth. Yet American interest in baseball’s one truly international event remains tepid — or worse.

Aaron Judge refused to play for the American team. He said he is focusing all his attention on making the New York Yankees world champions and the World Baseball Classic would be a distraction. Justin Verlander says there are a limited number of pitches in his surgically repaired arm, and he didn’t want to waste any of them on the World Baseball Classic. Max Scherzer said the whole thing is a sham. He asserted that it would have meaning only if it were played in mid-season.

All three of them declined to play for their country.

I wonder if Shohei Ohtani can even understand those objections. I would be shocked if the thought of not participating even crossed his mind. That isn’t the sort of thing a Japanese man would ever consider. It’s not part of the Japanese national culture.

That mindset, however, is not exclusively Japanese. I doubt that Manny Machado, Julio Urias, Francisco Lindor, Ronald Acuna, Jorge Alfaro or Freddie Freeman ever gave serious thought to not playing for their respective countries. I don’t think any of them would remain popular at home if they had.

The strange mindset isn’t theirs — it’s ours. We’re the ones who seem to be out of step with the rest of the world.

Our team was good enough to win the silver medal. The championship game was a great spectacle with a made-in-Hollywood ending, but when it was over our guys were one run short.

Second place in a field of 20 is impressive. We should be proud of our players and — yes — I am proud of the ones who gave their all for the Red, White and Blue.

But I’m not proud of our attitude. Nineteen nations gave their best effort in the World Baseball Classic. Nineteen nations put their best lineups on the field in every game.

Only one nation — the one that invented the game — failed to do its best.

I’m sure every American baseball player considers himself to be patriotic. I’m sure the ones who declined to play for their country would object if somebody like me were to suggest they were saluting the flag with only one finger.

Very well. Go ahead and object, guys.


It doesn’t matter to me.

That’s what I think you did.

A FEW STATISTICS: Ohtani was clearly the star of the Classic. In seven games he drove in eight runs and scored nine while batting .435. He made three appearances as a pitcher, winning two games and saving another as he posted a 1.86 ERA … Phillies shortstop Trea Turner had a great series. He batted .391 and five of his nine hits were home runs … Great Britain right fielder Chavez Young was five-for-five in stolen bases … Over the past decade Major League Baseball has spent untold sums trying to introduce the game to China but evidently has failed. China lost all four of its games. It’s batting average was .170 and its ERA was 15.11 … Miguel Romero of Cuba pitched 8 2/3 innings and struck out 13 batters … South Korean shortstop Ha-Seong Kim batted only .188 but all three of his hits were home runs … Mexican pitcher Giovanny Gallegos recorded two saves but blew his third opportunity in the semifinal matchup with Japan … South Korea finished 2-2 despite a .326 team batting average. The ERA was 7.55 … In 43 games, 17 triples were hit. No player had more than one … Alex Webb of Great Britain threw only 53 pitches but still managed to let loose three wild ones … See Wong Park of South Korea allowed only one hit and no walks in six innings on the mound. He fanned nine … Randy Arozarena of Mexico had nine hits. Six of them were doubles … Tyler O’Neill of Canada is typically an all-or-nothing slugger, but he wasn’t in the WBC. He managed eight hits in 13 at-bats, but none were home runs … Javier Baez of Puerto Rico was the only repeat selection on the All-Classic team.

Former Hall of Fame voter Jay Dunn has written baseball for The – for 55 years. Contact him at jaydunn8@aol.com

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