Earlier this month, they announced the schedules for the World Baseball Classic, part of which is taking place in Arizona here next March, and well as the major leaguers who've offered to take part. I'm stoked about going. This could be huge: imagine, in 40 years time, telling your grandkids you went to the first-ever World Series? If handled correctly, the Classic could be that big - and after it's next run in 2009, will only be every four years, like the Olympics.
Arizona is getting what I'd like to call the "British Commonwealth" pool, with Canada, South African and Mexico in addition to the US - Mexico being the only one that isn't a former colony of ours. Because of this fact, teams will sit down for tea between innings, and games will take five days to complete. :-) However, this does present me with a dilemma, in that it is all but impossible for me to support the US.
There are three main reasons for this:
- I'm not American.
- No Diamondbacks have declared themselves eligible for the US team.
- On the other hands, Barry Bonds and Derek Jeter have. Supporting them would be anathema to long, deeply-held personal beliefs.
Besides, we British are a nation with a glorious history of bravely finishing out of the medals at major sporting events, so I am obliged to support the underdog. I love the idea of a team from South Africa facing a Team USA that contains, in addition to Bonds and Jeter, Roger Clemens, Derrek Lee, Chipper Jones and Billy Wagner. The idea of - somehow - Team USA losing, appeals even more.
For can you name one South African baseball player? BaseballReference.com can't find any born there - though that doesn't perhaps mean anything, given that Mike Piazza, a son of Norristown, PA, is playing for Italy. And I know rugby, football (oh, alright - "soccer") and cricket are all much bigger sports there.
On the other hand, there are apparently several South Africans in the minors. And according to this article, "baseball is played more often and at a much higher level than is generally acknowledged in the U.S." Maybe, just maybe, a monstrous shock might occur. Back in the 1950 World Cup, the US soccer team beat England 1-0, a result which remains one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time. So, who knows?
[While fact-checking the above - I couldn't recall if the 1950 match was a meaningful contest or a tour friendly - I stumbled across this article on The 10 Greatest Moments in history for Yankee Haters. No prizes for guessing what #1 - with more than twice as many votes as the next candidate - was. Ah, happy memories...]
Sadly, looks like I'll be working that day, so won't be able to attend USA vs. the Springboks (that's the nickname for the other South African sporting teams - if you go to any of their game, you can now sound knowledgeable by shouting "C'mon, ya Springboks!" in an appropriate accent), but I hope to take in a couple of the previous games: the aim is to see one at Chase, the other at Scottsdale. Reports will, naturally, follow. In March. If I remember to buy tickets. :-)
The only D'back I might see is Edgar Gonzalez, who is eligible for the Mexican team: Cintron has signed for Puerto Rico, and Juan Brito for the Dominican Republic, but they're not playing in Arizona. However, a lot of former Diamondbacks might be seen in their various national colours. David Dellucci, Mike DeFelice and Matt Mantei have signed up for that Italian squad [John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were both eligible as well, but opted to try for the US team instead.]; Elmer Dessens and Karim Garcia join Villarreal in the Mexican list; while Vazquez, Carlos Baerga and Jose Cruz Jr pull on the Puerto Rico jersey. Byung-Hung Kim will no doubt play for Korea, though I haven't seen a list of the Asian MLB players yet.
Which is all in the light of there being not much D'backs stuff to talk about. Am getting on with the Hot-Stove reports: SS should be up in a few days. Lofton is supposed to be leaning towards the Dodgers (as is Garciaparra, which is weird, since they already signed Furcal - Nomar is going to be playing 1B in most reports); if the Lofton deal falls through, we'll probably end up with someone like Corey Patterson from the Cubs. Maybe trade Alex Cintron for him, that kind of low-level exchange.
And no sign of Shawn Green getting dealt to the Cubs: I was thinking of buying myself a subscription to scout.com, as they have a lot of info on the D'backs, but when they're also posting apparent complete bollocks [there's a good, old-fashioned, entirely appropriate British word for you] like this, I'll get myself something more useful. Like an iPod. Is there any baseball content out there, actually worth paying for?