Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels ……. Bang You’re Dead !
Not wanting to assail Major League Baseball (MLB) for wanting a good thing. But I’d now like to know what was the whole premise behind entering a team into the World Baseball Classic if not to win it ?
To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or in this case misfortune is one thing. But in this case the showing of the team most certainly hasn’t met the expectations of the game’s hierarchy domestically. It doesn’t matter what they might say publicly. In reality however it’s suddenly beginning to sink in that they’re going to have to rethink their whole preparation for a team and the assembling of a roster for international competition. The event will no doubt make a significant amount of money for the parties concerned. But if anything it’ll perpetuate the notion that the long held belief that US baseball at the international level if anything isn’t as superior as the fans or players may well believe.
If anything has been indicative of this, it has been the failure of team USA to advance to the Finals of the competition. In 2006 they were an abysmal failure falling at the quarter finals’ stage. And now in 2009 in the semi-finals they succumb to a Japanese team that was very much their superior in every facet of the game right from the start. If the final score of 9-4 wasn’t a reflection of that. Then those who felt the opposite may well have been watching through rose colored glasses.
All the excuses in the world cannot make up for this. And that’s most likely what we’ll hear over the ensuing days if not weeks. One can be sure that not all of the game’s fans domestically were enamored with the competition to begin with. If anything it was thought of as an intrusion in their rite of passage as far as Spring Training was concerned. And the fact that they’d be denied to see many of their idols play for their professional teams at the start of the Grapefruit and Cactus League’s season was tantamount to all but abandoning the season itself. OK so they’d get to see some of the younger players from a team’s Triple A affiliate. But the majority of the time that’s not what the fans are there to see. But that’s what tends to happen when the whole thought process and timing of the event is ill conceived. But far be it for anyone to suggest that the MLB hierarchy and the game’s international governing body doesn’t indeed know what it’s doing .
For Japan they’ll now meet their Asian counterparts and rivals Korea in the Finals. And with Korea themselves being the reigning Olympic champions. This game will certainly not be a foregone conclusion in terms of Japan being considered an overwhelming favorite. Korea has surprised everyone in this competition with the level of their play and sound fundamentals. They do almost everything with effortless ease. And if anything the US team could learn something from how the Korean players apply themselves to the task at hand. Suffice to say it’s easy to make the claim that the players on the US team were playing with a great deal of pride but the reality of it all is that pride wasn’t borne out in the level of their overall play throughout the competition. If anything there was a cockiness and over confidence that spelt disaster at some point. In many ways it was somewhat reminiscent of what we’d often witnessed from their counterparts in the NBA . If anything the belief was all that they had to do was to just turn and an opponent would quake in their boots and surrender to their will. The competition has proved however that sum of the parts doesn’t equal the whole when it came to team USA. They labored under the assumption that a roster filled with All Stars and they’d prevail.
If there was any indication as to how rough the going was to be for the US team. Then consider this Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0) came in the game unbeaten in the Classic with a 2.45 ERA . And from the start there had to be a sense of foreboding for this team. The game basically became irretrievable for the US team when Japan scored 5 unanswered runs in the fourth inning to open the game up and then to coast on to victory. From thereon in it just became a matter of time to see whether or not the team would gut it out and try to make a fight of it . Or just lay down and die. Off course we know the answer to that by the end result . Somehow this wasn’t meant to the US team’s day nor was it meant to theirs from the advent of this competition at the start. If nothing else it’s one to think that they were far superior to anyone else. But the fact of the matter was they even failed to prove that they had the potential to begin with to show that they were good enough.
If the USA is to succeed in this competition as is their want . Then they’re going to have to seek a long term commitment from a core group of players. Much like the commitment that was sought by Jerry Colangelo Executive Director of USA Basketball. When he assembled the men’s national basketball team for the Olympics. That was a three year commitment where the players got together, trained together and even played against MLB teams as well as international competition on a scheduled basis leading up to the Olympics. Nothing like that obviously was considered here when it came to the assembling of this team. So it’s understandable that nothing but abject failure would follow. The team by the sum of its parts was greater than the whole. And if nothing else there was never any leadership or cohesiveness from the get go. And in terms of coaching it was very much self evident that whatever was exhibited in terms of that was poorly executed to begin with.
They were dead on arrival even before they faced the Japanese in the semi finals. A fact that was borne by the end result. Lock stock and two smoking barrels and the US team was smack bang dead on arrival in the waning moments of the semi final game against Japan. As succinct an epitaph to this competition as they could’ve sought.