A classic game in World Baseball Classics

Still in shock after the second consecutive defeat against Korea. It was a good World Baseball Classic game, well it was a great game. I couldn’t leave in front of my computer monitor. Every at-bat, every pitch was so important, gut wrenching. It’s like Sox-Yanks Game 7 – only in March. My wife told me to stop yelling, and I didn’t even know I was. It was awesome.

After all, Japan played well, but Korea played GREAT. There was two minor – but costly – mistakes in Japan’s part, and Korea had none. Japan contained Korea’s best hitter, Seung Yeop Lee (0-for-3 with a BB), who beat Japan with his swing in the first match, and Korea contained Japan’s hitters (6 hits total but 7 strikeouts) enough to do any damage. I think Japan did very well, all things considered. There were many Korean’s in the stadium, and all USA fans, who want to see their team survive, rooting against Japan, it must have been really tough to play there. It was an away situation even though they were hitting at the bottoms of innings.

Shunsuke Watanabe, with his floor scraping delivery, going 6 innings with one hit is really remarkable. But Korea pitched as well as Japan. And I really thing it came down to that: good pitching. Korea has team ERA of 1.33 in its 6 game winning streak. and its pitching squad sport 6 major leaguers: Dae Sung Koo (Mets), Byung-Hyun Kim (Rockies), Chan Ho Park (Padres), Jung Bong (Reds), Sunny Kim (Nationals), Jae-Weong Seo (Dodgers).

Japan is not too shabby in that department either, after 6 games they are 3rd (2.49) among the 16 teams behind Korea and Puerto Rico (1.33) in team ERA. When good hitters fails about 70% of time, I guess pitching dictates short decision baseball, and that is tough. But I guess it is part of the game.

I was there at the “controversial” game (OK, I am choosing my word carefully here) at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Photos are here but I was using my new camera lens which I didn’t notice that it was broken till I got there, and depth of field of it is very very shallow. That was another great game. Except, of course, the hero of the game was the plate umpire and a certain Yankee player who earns about $40K every at bats. (*My calculation: $25,000,000/year divided by 600 AB). But overall it was a great game to be at.

The saddest thing about yesterday’s game was that Ichiro was booed furiously every-time he was up at bat by the whole stadium. He was treated like a villain. Partly because his remarks before the Asia round:

“Not only will we win, but also we’ll make Japanese baseball fans feel that they saw a truly great game. I want to make [Korea and Taiwan] see that they will not be able to beat Japan in next 30 years.”

I think the comment is very unlike him. I know he is a fierce competitor, and he probably made the comment in hopes to rally up the Japanese players (it obviously back fired) and there might be a little bit of “lost in translation” in there. But obviously he was not a happy guy after the game. (Sidetrack: I also stumbled upon this flick of Ichiro’s slide while surfing. Remember that?)

Korea’s captain Jong Beom Lee was excited but was bit more classy:

“I don’t think we can say we are better than Japan just because of these two wins,” said Jong Beom Lee. “It made me proud to be Korean, but more important, we beat Japan,” he offered. “It was sweet revenge.”

I think healthy competition is a good thing. This may help Americans notice that Asian countries like Japan and Korea has a good baseball, too. And Lee should be proud because he won a tough game against a good team. I love this game and I thank both Japanese and Korean teams for a great match. I will also post link to two Japanese players who blogged about the event: Akinori Otsuka and Hitoshi Tamura. Now, Let’s Go Mexico!