Results tagged ‘ Team USA ’
By Jeff Idelson
The second of two semifinal World Baseball Classic games came to an end last night here at historic Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. The Japanese national side proved too tough for its U.S. counterpart, beating the American team in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.
So Japan, which sealed victory in the 2006 Classic by beating Cuba, will defend its title by playing intracontinental rival Korea tonight, with first pitch slated for 9 p.m. ET.
Last night’s game had a similar feeling to the Korea-Venezuela semifinal on Saturday. Korea, featuring but one current Major Leaguer, Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo, faced a Venezuela club that was stocked with Major Leaguers. As any good team will do, the Koreans took advantage of five Venezuela errors and parlayed that into a bunch or runs and a lopsided victory.
The U.S. also played sloppily defensively, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective enough to keep the U.S. in check, allowing two runs over five innings. A three-run ninth inning for Japan turned a 6-4 game into a lopsided 9-4 final outcome.
The pageantry in the stands was vintage international sports. Japanese flags, thundersticks, balloons, homemade signs and constant enthusiasm gave Team Japan support and took any thoughts of home-field advantage away from the U.S. True, the support for the U.S. was strong, but there was great balance.
Japanese baseball Commissioner Ryozo Kato and all-time home-run leader Sadaharu Oh were in the stands, sitting in front of me. I first met the commissioner last spring in Washington, D.C., when U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon England invited me to lunch in his Pentagon office with Kato and Stan Kasten of the Nationals.
At the time, Commissioner Kato, a very big baseball fan with a deep understanding of U.S. baseball history, was Japan’s ambassador to the United States. He is very proud of his national team.
After the Korea-Venezuela game, Brad Horn and I visited with U.S. reliever Brad Ziegler, who last year ran a record-string of scoreless frames for a pitcher starting his Major League career (and yes, he did donate his spikes). Ziegler, an impressive kid who has tremendous respect for the game and visited the Hall of Fame last fall to enjoy the game’s history, felt that the team chemistry was strong, allowing the U.S. to reach the semis. Chemistry in sports does matter, but the U.S. side just did not jell last night.
Before the game yesterday, the team seemed loose. David Wright, who delivered the game-winning walkoff hit to propel the U.S. over Puerto Rico and into the semifinals, donated the bat he used to the Hall in the U.S. dugout. “I am so honored to be asked to have something in Cooperstown,” he told me. I let him know how grateful we were to him for recognizing that fans would want to see his bat for many years to come and thanked him for sharing it with the baseball public.
Tonight’s matchup should be terrific. You have a hungry team in Korea, whose players want to show they can beat a world-class team like Japan. The Koreans have 2008 league most valuable player Kwang-Hyun Kim, who was 16-4 with a 2.39 ERA last year, as well as the two players who finished second and third in the voting, outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim (.357 average) and first baseman Tae Kyun Kim (.324, 31 home runs, 92 RBI).
Japan has a host of talent, led by Ichiro Suzuki, who has 3,000 combined hits between the U.S. and Japan, pitching phenom Yu Darvish, who was 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 2008, and standout outfielder Norichika Aoki (.347 average in 2008).
It should be a great game, and the Pacific Rim again is showing the world that baseball is as important there as it is in Latin America or the Untied States.
Jeff Idelson is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
By Brad Horn
As Hall of Fame skipper Earl Weaver was known to have said during his managerial career for the Orioles, “Nobody likes to hear it because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same — pitching.”
No one could argue Earl on that point and have a realistic shot to win the debate. Consider Saturday’s World Baseball Classic semifinal at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Venezuelan roster boasted 22 players currently active on Major League teams. The Koreans? Just one. Still, just 20 minutes into the first of two Classic semifinals, it was clear the Korean team had a significant mental edge and a superior starter over the Venezuelans, jumping to a 5-0 lead after the first half inning.
By the time the dust cleared Saturday night at Chavez Ravine, the Koreans swung a mighty stick with a 10-2 victory to advance to Monday’s Classic final against Japan.
Pitching had a large role in Saturday’s contest. Korean pitcher Suk Min Yoon dazzled, baffling Venezuelan sluggers and surrendering just six hits thorugh his first six innings against a lineup of potent bats featuring Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, among others.
Even though the Venezuelan team fell short to the Koreans on Saturday, ending its Classic bid, humility in defeat and graciousness permeated the Venezuelan clubhouse following the loss.
As we in Cooperstown strive to document and preserve the game’s history, the collection of artifact donations from current-day stars as these historic moments unfold is critical to our ability to tell the story in a timely manner for our visitors. We hope to represent all four semifinal teams in Cooperstown from the 2009 Classic through artifact donations from the teams and their players, and Saturday, Venezuelan stars Cabrera and Felix Hernandez were more than willing to help us commemorate this historic event.
Shortly after the loss, Cabrera donated the helmet he wore in the tournament to us. Excited for the opportunity of having his first item in Cooperstown, Cabrera didn’t think twice in handing his helmet to me. The pain was evident, though, in his eyes, after falling short in a quest for the Classic title. A powerful sense of national pride was visible in members of all four of the semifinal teams here in Los Angeles. The Venezuelans are very proud countrymen, and returning to their Major League camps and going home early surely was not their plan on this night.
Also after the loss, the Venezuelan team donated the cap worn by Hernandez in his two wins during Classic tournament play. If one word summed up King Felix in this Classic, it was excellence. His pitching line reads like a masterpiece: 2-0 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings, with five hits, six walks and 11 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .172 in his two starts. If I’m a Mariners fan, I have to be hopeful about this ace heading to Opening Day.
Sunday, the artifact chase continued with an acquisition from the USA. Prior to last night’s game, the Hall of Fame received the bat from David Wright, whose ninth-inning, game-winning base hit on Wednesday night propelled the U.S. past Puerto Rico, punching its first semifinal ticket in Classic play. It will be the first artifact from Wright’s young career to make its way to Cooperstown.
Today, we’ll also solicit artifact donations from both teams in the finals. The only things constant in baseball are winning and losing, but we’ll be hoping for continued generosity from the international baseball world so that these treasures can be viewed for generations, only in Cooperstown.
Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.