Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Who doesn't like a good Group of Death?
The World Baseball Classic is in full swing again. It's a little odd to call it a "classic" when this is only the second time the tournament has been played, but I for one really like the format. Sixteen national teams from around the world meet, split into four groups. Eight teams survive to a semifinal round, then four to a final round, and two play for the grand final.
The first time it was played in 2006, the United States did not make it to the final four. They finished third in their semifinal group, losing out to Korea and Japan. That was a Group of Death, three good teams vying for only two spots.
This year, Japan and Korea find themselves in another Group of Death, with the third good team being the Cubans. In 2006, Japan beat Cuba in the grand final to become champions. Tonight, Japan and Cuba meet again, but this time the loser goes home, unable to even qualify for the Final Four. Korea is already in. This will be a calamity for one of these two nations, places where baseball (or more precisely, yakyuu or béisbol) is really a national obsession and not just called the national pastime by people clinging on to a fading past.
The game won't start until 11:00 pm for folks on the East Coast, but here on the West Coast, it starts at a pleasant 8:00, so I know what I'll be watching tonight. Since Cuba are technically the underdogs, I'll be rooting for them. Moreover, they have this outfielder named Frederich Cepeda, a switch hitter batting .600 over five games with 3 home runs. This guy is scary good.