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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Japan wins again

Kudos to Japan for a fairly improbable (due to sample size, alone) repeat of the Classic.

So how good is the Japanese league? As Patriot points out, it's good, but the proof of how good is in the larger sample: MLB is clearly superior. Of course, MLB is the cream of the crop from (increasingly) all over the world. I'd still take team USA in a do-over, as it was stocked with high caliber MLB talent at every position. But Japan's clearly no slouch team either. I'm sure we'll continue to see more and more Japanese players heading directly to the states rather than working their way over via the NPB.

So, time for the final reckoning on the 'ole bracket. It's not pretty.Oh well! I did successfully "predict" (guess) the semifinal game between the USA and Japan, even if the path I took to get there wasn't correct. I'd tally it up if anyone else cared, but given the interest my other WBC posts have gotten (zero), it's probably not worth it.

I do wonder a bit whether Japan's repeat actually hurts the WBC. They clearly will be the team to beat in four years, no matter who is on the team (and Ichiro, perhaps, may not be). But if the WBC starts to get the reputation as "their" tournament, I can't help but wonder if the interest of other countries may start to fade a bit. And somehow, a second victory for a team featuring so few MLB players just seems to further emphasize that it is a small sample size crapshoot. I knew that before, of course, but now it's bugging me a little bit more than it used to. Maybe I'm just a sore loser.

That all said, this year's WBC was vastly better than the last one. The double-elimination format might be confusing at times, but it's so much more BASEBALL than the ridiculous round-robin + tiebreakers we saw in '06. And while Team USA ran into some major defensive breakdowns, not to mention injuries, it seemed like the guys on that team really played hard. And usually, they were managed to win. That made everything--even the defensive implosions we saw late in the tournament from team USA--a lot easier to take.

I'll leave you with a fun fact: my first daughter was born just a few months after the first WBC. And my second daughter will be born just a few months after this year's tournament. :)