Monday, March 18, 2013

Does professional baseball world revolve around Latin American axis? What's wrong if that's celebrated?

I must confess – I’d like it if a ballclub from Latin America were to prevail on Tuesday when the World Baseball Classic comes to a close for this four-year cycle.
The site of this year's "World" championship tourney

I was pulling for Team Mexico early on (and will probably grouse for a long time about how if only they’d have done better in the 9th inning of their game in Italy, they would have advanced and still possibly might be playing today), and my rooting interests shifted to the other Latin American nations when the baseball version of Los Tricolores washed out.

NOW AS I write this commentary, the team from Puerto Rico has jumped out to an early lead in their Sunday night game against Japan (they wound up winning 3-1, while the Dominican Republic is scheduled to play the Netherlands on Monday.

The winners of those two games will play Tuesday for all the bragging rights through 2017 (when the tourney will again be played).

Common sense said it would be Japan (which has won this tournament the two times previous that it was played) against the Dominican Republic. Although a part of me must admit the idea of a Dominican/Puerto Rican championship game is much more intriguing.

For I’m an honest believer that the reason the American and National leagues in the United States are superior overall to the Central and Pacific leagues in Japan is because of all those Latin American ballplayers who play in the United States rather than the professional leagues of their home countries is because the U.S. pays better.
The "Giant" from Puerto Rico

MY ETHNIC BRETHREN come here for a good paying job; not because they think there’s anything inherently superior about playing for a ball club representing a municipality such as Kansas City or Denver.

Too many people in this country seem to have trouble grasping that. They tend to think of all these Latin American ballplayers (about one-quarter of all current major league ballplayers) as honorary U.S. residents – at least so long as they can hit a curveball.

When their reflexes decline, they once again become foreigners (like the two guys who threw out ceremonial "first pitches" on Sunday -- Orlando Cepeda and Sadaharu Oh -- who “don’t belong.”

These thoughts came to mind when I learned during the weekend that the ballplayers who were part of the U.S. national team that ultimately was knocked out of the tourney with a loss to Puerto Rico were upset with what they thought was unprofessional attitudes expressed by the Dominican ball club – which also managed to beat the United States team.
The "Giant" from Tokyo

THEY EXPRESSED JOY. They were enthused. They didn’t act as though they were in attendance at a mortician’s convention – which is what U.S. fans attending these ballgames come across as.

It seems that when they’re not chanting, “U.S.A.” as an intimidation factor against some ball club they’re stomping all over, there’s none of the glee that one can get following the other ball clubs – which is why I’m following them rather than doing a party-line root for the U.S. team; it’s simply more interesting rooting for a Mexican team, or a Dominican club, or the Castro-influenced teams from Cuba than one from this country where it can be argued that the elite ballplayers who should be playing for a Team U.S.A. can’t be bothered.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I think Dominican pitcher Fernando Rodney’s “lightning bolt” pose that he adopts at the moment he saves any ballgame looks ridiculous. Although I’m sure Tampa Bay Rays fans who will watch Rodney make the same gesture this summer won’t be grousing.

Because it will mean their favorite ball club will have won a ballgame. It isn't inherently acceptable for a U.S. team, but showing off when his jersey reads "Dominicana."

WHICH MIGHT EVEN be the ultimate response to those who think the Latin American teams are too showboat-y. If a team doesn’t want to see their antics, perhaps they should play better and beat them.

Because those Latin American teams can’t get all excited when they lose.

And if, by chance, the World Baseball Classic does end Tuesday with the winner coming from Latin America, keep in mind that all the enthusiasm isn’t meant to show up anyone else.

It’s all about celebration. Your favorite team can shout “Wait ‘til Next Year,” and come the next tourney, you can celebrate all you want if your team actually manages to win.


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