Monday, March 13



I'm not sure how you all feel, but I'm loving the WBC so far, and I hope it catches on. We've seen upsets, impressive hitting, lights-out pitching, and generally the high calibre of play that you expect from rosters stuffed with major league personality and minor league potential. That being said, I really hope Team USA does not win this tournament.

Contrary to what a lot of people have been saying, I think the Team USA defeat at the hands of Canada was the best thing to happen to this tournament, and definitely Selig's strongest argument in favour of making this the marquee world-wide event that he hopes it will become.

Team USA has been in the spotlight since the rosters were announced, from the hubbub surrounding Alex Rodriguez' allegiance to the heavy favourites tag placed on them by the media. Sure, they were willing to give credence to the power lineup of the Dominican Republic and the speed of Japan, but that was the end of the line.

Now, having witnessed the giants of the US slain at the hands of Canada [and their slew of minor leaguers], the tournament gained new life.

People were watching to see if the USA could still qualify for the next round, and once there, they sweated through a controversial 4-3 victory over Japan. Cuba opened many eyes en route to a 7-2 win over Venezuela. Puerto Rico shook off the Dominican Republic. South Korea battled to a late-night 2-1 victory over Mexico. Dutch pitcher Shairon Martis, currently in the SF Giants farm system, pitched a 7-inning no-hitter against Panama.

Aside from the exciting baseball and eye-opening performances so far, the upset of Team USA gave the tournament the final thing this tournament needed: the giant upset. It’s the hallmark of other major world competitions, and if the WBC is to succeed, it should be no different.

The World Cup in football [I’m sorry, “soccer”] has been around since 1930, and every tournament brings the monumental upsets and defeats that keep defying the odds [and the bookmakers] and that keep the tournament in the spotlight as arguably the world’s biggest sporting event:

1950: USA defeats tournament favourites England 1-0.

1990: Relative unknowns Cameroon defeat the defending World Champions Argentina 1-0 in the tournament’s opening game. Costa Rica defeats Scotland 1-0.

1994: Bulgaria defeat Germany 2-1. Romania shock Argentina 3-2.

1998: Nigeria shock Spain 3-2.

2002: Senegal defeat defending champions France 1-0 in the opening game. USA beats heavily-favoured Portugal 3-2 in Group D. Home country Korea Republic beats Italy and Spain en route to the semi-finals.

There are many more examples to be found, but they all demonstrate the biggest criteria for a tournament to be successful: you need the realistic potential for the big upset. March Madness, the World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, the Olympics; these tournaments succeed not only for their popularity but for their frequent giant-killing headlines.

Canada proved it can be done, and Japan nearly grabbed an upset of its own [denied thanks to a dubious overturned play] against Team USA. While national pride might cause anger and disgust if the US does lose again, it will be momentary compared to what such a defeat means: the future success of the WBC.


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