The WBC and Spring Training

I had a chance to watch a few innings of the much anticipated Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic match up in round one of the World Baseball Classic.  I’m already in love with this tournament.  First off, I think spring training is great anyways.  There is really no way to explain this to the non-baseball fan. There’s a scene in the movie Fever Pitch in which Jimmy Fallon explains to Drew Barrymore that he goes to spring training to “. . . figure out who should start and who should be cut.”  Clearly impressed, she replies, “Wow, and the Red Sox ask for your opinion?”

Check this out: I can actually say that I’ve witnessed a spring training no-hitter.  Four Angels’ pitchers, the most famous of whom is named Shawn Boskie, combined to blank the San Francisco Giants on a beautiful March day.  Who else can say something like that?  This is just one of the magical moments that make this time of year so special to me.

I’ve heard some complain that the WBC is ruining spring training, but I completely disagree.  Nobody actually cares about scores during spring training, you care about individual performances.  So if I see that my team got blown out today, I save my reaction until I see who pitched.  Now that we’ve entered the era of the WBC, I still care about individual performances, but now I have a few scores I want to check as well.  And now that the USA is actually in need of help to advance to round 2, I even have an underdog to pull for.

I haven’t even approached the topic of how fun it is to watch these games.  Venezuela vs. DR was packed with intensity.  Johan Santana arguing with the ump between innings, Bartolo Colon pumping his fist after a double play, and David Ortiz . . . well, pretty much doing what he always does, hitting balls out of the park.  The whole pitch count phenomenon simply adds a new level to the games.  These battles won’t be confused with September playoffs, as normally durable starters are guaranteed to be lifted somewhere around the fifth, if not earlier.  This emphasizes deep bullpens, but usually results in some more offense as well.  

The tournament was advertised as being a game for pride, with no pennant on the line.  With the energy and environment we’re seeing from the Dominican Republic’s dugout, it appears that pride is a pennant in and of itself.


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