Results tagged ‘ Venezuela ’
So far the 2009 World Baseball Classic has provided plenty of
nail-biting drama, including upsets by the Netherlands, Italy and
Australia, proving the magnitude of baseball’s global potential. In
recent years the NBA has had success in sending the message of its game
worldwide and to some degree, so has the NFL. Realistically speaking,
does baseball have a shot at becoming a truly universal sport and is it
premature to think that little kids in London might some day replace
the soccer ball with a baseball?
In many ways the WBC is like any other tournament. You get your share of upsets and surprises and there’s always some sort of Cinderella story. But, at the end of the day, the teams that are supposed to win usually do. Look at the run the Americans made in this year’s Classic, edging out Canada with some late inning heroics and treating Venezuela like Hugo Chavez treats the rule of law. But, when it came down to it. They faltered against Venezuela the second time around and then embarrassed themselves against Puerto Rico. The same thing is going to happen to the Netherlands and other pretenders.
Here’s the thing, though. Calling this exhibition the World Baseball Classic is a misnomer at best and an outright lie at worst. Team Italy? A bunch of American baseball players who happen to have Italian last names. Same thing with with the Dutch. Actual baseball does not exist on the European continent nor does it have any role in the sporting lives of millions of Africans and billions of Indians (with the exception of Rinku and Dinesh). Even in the Americas, baseball is far from being the most popular sport and pales in significance to soccer. In its own birthplace, the USA, baseball comes in third behind the NBA and the NFL in terms of popularity.
So, what are its chances of becoming a truly worldwide phenomenon? Somewhere between slim and none and slim is on his way out of the building. There are really two issues here and they happen to be two sides of the same coin.
Number one is the worldwide popularity of soccer and the ease of entry into playing the game. Stuff a sock with some rags and you’ve got yourself a makeshift soccer ball. Offsides can be a somewhat difficult concept at first but the rules are relatively straightforward. If you can get the ball into the goal, you score. It’s that easy. And you can play on a dirt field, the middle of the street or even indoors. Realistically, it’s hard to say that more than half the world’s population can be wrong.
By contrast, baseball is a prohibitively expensive sport, especially when you’re living on less than 2 dollars a day like a majority of the world. At the least, you need a glove, a bat and a ball but none of these are easy to come by. You need a space that’s big enough in which to play and you need enough people to field a couple teams. Once you add in the intricacies of the rulebook and the relative slowness in the speed of play, well, I think it’s safe to say that baseball’s spread has been contained.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the popularity of baseball expand. I think it’s a wonderful way for the US to conduct soft diplomacy. And I think it’s one of the few areas in which we’ve had constructive interaction with Latin America. But, I don’t think it’s very realistic to think it will happen. The competition is too stiff and the barriers to entry are too high.
This isn’t to say that the WBC has no place and that we should give up. It’s great that every few years different countries get a chance to show their skills and it’s particularly fun to see the Cubans emerge from their isolation. But a tri-yearly celebration of international baseball is not going to overcome the incredible headstart that soccer holds, nor is it going to make it possible for a poor kid in Port-au-Prince to get a glove and go play catch with his friends. Unfortunately, that is where the warm fuzzies of the WBC run smack into the cold, hard truths of real life.
me ‘cuz I’m right.
A loaded topic like this can really only take us in one direction: The weirdness that is the World Baseball Classic. Pedroia and Jeter trotting off the field together after a put-out at second base? That just doesn’t look right. Wright and Rollins manning the left side of the infield? Did I miss something?
Now, I realize that this weirdness can also happen during the All-Star Game but that’s a once a year freak-fest where the players wear odd uniforms and the outcome has taken on a disproportionate level of importance.
This is the World Baseball Classic, the World Cup of Baseball. I want drama. I want to watch MLB teammates like Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez whip themselves up into a nationalistic fervor so intense that they come to blows and then both demand trades. I want Jeter to talk about the toxic environment created by the presence of Red Sox players and former Yankees. I want David Wright and Jimmy Rollins to use this forum as an excuse to decide the NL East crown in the most logical fashion possible, pistols at dawn on the pitcher’s mound.
But no. Instead we get stories like this, where injured players are sticking around and other players are happy to sit the bench or take limited playing time just for the honor of being part of this team. Where’s a T.O. or a Latrell Sprewell when you really need them? Can we really allow this love fest to continue unabated?
However, there is still hope for the Scrooges among us. So far the US team has made congeniality easy by eking out a win over Canada and then pounding Venezeula. But what happens when they are faced with real challenges by way of Puerto Rico or Japan? Only then will we see what these players are really made of and what happens when vexing developments explode inside cramped locker-room havens.
But until that time I’m going to swallow my bile and cheer like a pre-pubescent girl at an early 90’s New Kids on the Block concert as the announcers rattle off the Pedroia to Jeter to Youkilis inning ending double-play. USA! USA! USA!
Here is but a sampling of the goings on around the league:
Alex Rodriguez Homers in Spring Training Opener
Immediately after he hit that bomb, all controversy of A-Rod’s MVP PED use and the subsequent tarnishing and questioning of his character disappeared like the hopes and dreams of Pirates fans. Well, maybe not, but one can fantasize, right?
Ryan Dempster Has Yet to Say Something Stupid
Last year during spring training, Dempster guaranteed Cub fans a World Series title. His foot-in-mouth silence at the start of this season practically guarantees another stellar regular season record, followed by a quick division series exit to the tune of 101 years. Which leads me to the fact that…
Cub Fans Still Hungover from 2008, 2007, 2003, etc.
A simple stroll through Wrigleyville these days will yield much more than the average Barleycorn date-rape and trust-fund-baby all-night-party — both of which have long been synonymous with the neighborhood. Nowadays you can still see the aftershocks of that disappointing NLDS performance against the Dodgers in the face of this guy and this guy and these guys.
Khalil Greene On Pace to Replace Ozzie Smith as Shortstop Icon
Don’t look now, but after one spring training game, off-season blockbuster acquisition Khalil Greene is on pace to hit .333 this year — which is way better than his .212 average of 2008! While John Mozeliak sits back and strokes his pompous ego, we Joe Six-Pack fans are left daydreaming of that fifth-place NL Central finish.
Yankees Lend a Helping Hand: Willing to Pay Off the Country’s $1.75 Trillion Deficit
Okay, this is a lie; but the Yankees unwillingness to cooperate just proves how anti-American the organization really is.
“But as long as the nation is obsessed with historic milestones, is no
one going to remark on what a great country it is where a mentally
retarded woman can become speaker of the house?”
Ann, sweetie-pie, remember: we had a mentally retarded man with a fancy-rich last name as president for 8 years. Let us have our speaker and please stop talking.
Indians Fans and Cub Fans Breathe Collective Sigh of Relief
Joe Borowski, possibly the all-time scariest closer for all the wrong reasons, officially announced his retirement. There are parties in the street. Check ’em out.
Tigers Fans Better Off Watching Hockey
After my esteemed colleague and Tigers apologist Allen Krause wrote his annual lament on the sad state of his team, one clever commenter riffed:
“When the tigers crush your soul as they inevitably will, just remember to look on the brightside, we still have the Red Wings.”
Enough said. Thanks, D.K.
No One Cares About Blagojevich Anymore
Or Roland Burris… or Dick Durbin strong-arming Burris to get out of town… or the poor economy… or world hunger… or the climactic dictatorship of one Hugo Chavez… dude, who cares? There’s baseball to watch!
And at last…
The MLB Network Is Seriously Affecting My Loyalty to American Idol
I apologize to all my supporters, for it is true: in my living room, the MLB Network has temporarily taken the place of American Idol. Two weeks have gone by and I haven’t watched a single A.I. episode. I know, I know. This situation is difficult to accept for all. But believe me when I say it hurts me more than it hurts you. For some reason, Barry Larkin’s nonsensical ramblings and Al Leiter’s delusions of grandeur are just way more entertaining than Ryan Seacrest’s hair and Simon Cowell’s cliche Britishness.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Nothing says “It’s almost time for baseball” more than the Superbowl. On the one hand, the end of the NFL season means the next couple weeks are devoid of anything sportingly worthwhile. Basketball is fine but I don’t really care until the NCAA tournament rolls around. And hockey? Well, if the Red Wings are playing and there’s nothing else to do, maybe I’ll check it out. But the other side of this is knowing that in two short weeks (or maybe two long weeks) pitchers and catchers report.
So, what can we do to fill the time between now and then? How do we kill 14 days without losing it and accidentally killing something more? Here at RSBS, we’re compiling an ever-expanding list of things to do to pass the time until the baseball season finally begins.
Sight-Seeing Vacation in Detroit
What isn’t to love about the city that could have served as the backdrop for the movie “The Crow?” However, beyond seeing what is left of old Tiger Stadium and visiting Greektown, there are also new and exciting tourist destinations. For instance, the body frozen in ice. Or how about Ford field, site of 8 of the Lions’ 16 losses this past season? Hurry, though. It’s all going to thaw soon and then you’re in real trouble.
Finding the Most Famous Email Address in Washington
Apparently only a select few have access to the President via email. Where’s that transparency you told us about, Mr. President? If I can’t forward you emails from my Grandma about Barack Obama being a secret Muslim, then what…….oh, right. Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t want those emails either.
Helping Jeff Feel Sorry for Himself
Nevermind. It looks like he already has that one under control.
So, there you go. Already we have four ideas for you and there’s no telling how the list will grow. Happy Superbowl and just so you know, I will be cheering for Arizona. What can I say? When you’re a Lions fan, you just get used to cheering for the underdog.
Well, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I have a special place in my heart for the baseball-mad Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its idiosyncratic, coffee-swilling leader. It has been awhile since we last checked in but let me tell you, it never gets quiet down there.
For instance, just yesterday El Presidente had the national assembly allow a referendum that, if passed, would let him stand for unlimited terms as president. To put it in other terms, he’s basically a more rotund and more friendly with Iran version of Michael Bloomberg. But really, can you fault a guy for trying? Who knows how many terms FDR would have served if he wouldn’t have croaked in office.
There is also some other sad news out of Caracas. The Cleveland Indians’ Venezuelan scouting supervisor died in a car crash Sunday night while on his way to a baseball showcase. Now, I have no love for the Indians and I have to admit that my first thought upon reading this was that it was a great opportunity for the Tigers to make their move.
However, I’ve said it before and I truly believe that baseball is one area that the US has not exploited enough in its diplomatic efforts. Although not as popular as soccer, it is a uniquely American sport that has come to be enjoyed and even dominated by southern neighbors we haven’t always treated so well. Is there a better way to illustrate the American Dream in Latin America than by sending previously indigent kids out as ambassadors to show how they have succeeded in the United States?
So, even as the Bolivarian Revolution seeks to institutionalize itself and continues to demonize the US, it’s nice to know that guys like Henri Centeno are out there bringing the American Dream to life for a few kids and proving that maybe we aren’t so bad after all.
I have been accused by some people of writing too much about Venezuela on this blog. But it’s hard not to write about this wonderfully dysfunctional country when they just keep finding ways to amuse. Now, if Mr. McCain were our president I’m sure he would have already gone in and occupied the country since war is the first and only answer.
However, cooler minds had prevailed up until this point and we had managed to stay out of a p!ssing match with our South American wannabe nemesis.
In the same way I have tried to avoid conflict with my friend and co-blogger, Mr. Lung. I figured that by letting him say what he wanted and not responding, I could avoid the tension and childish escalations that now define the U.S.-Venezuela relationship. In both instances, those days are now behind us. From now on, I will call it exactly like I see it.
Mr. Lung, you are wrong about instant replay. Reviewing disputed home run calls makes the game more just. And the game stops for less time than a commercial break so where’s the continuity problem many opponents have decried? If there were umps down the baselines in the outfield like there are in the playoffs, then you might have an argument. But there aren’t so I’ll have to kindly ask you to go home. You have 72 hours to pack your bags and leave.
Now, I hope this doesn’t provoke some sort of diplomatic incident. I hope you don’t get sick on some sushi and throw up all over my shoes. And I hope you will still continue to sell me your otherwise unrefinable crude oil.
However, if I may be so bold, I would like to make one final effort and extend an olive branch to my once and future friend. And this symbol of peace comes, strangely enough, directly from President Chavez’s rambling diatribe dismissing the US ambassador this week. I think we can all agree on this one thing:
F—ing Yankees indeed.
Ever since the accident (see comments), I’ve been having difficulty focusing my thoughts; but don’t worry. I will still find a way to express them in a brilliant, informative manner as is always expected here at RSBS. I am many things, but a quitter without an opinion I am not.
Picture it: October 2008. The first round of the MLB playoffs are in full stride and not a Red Sox or Yankee is anywhere to be found. Yes. It could happen, folks. For the first time in recent memory, both the Yankees and the Red Sox may find themselves sitting out during the important games. The Rays and Angels look to be locks and it seems that the Twins and White Sox are in a tussle for the other two spots in the AL. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s hard to dismiss the possibility. Think of the chaos, the madness, the tantrums that would follow. At least emergency rooms in the northeast would be more quiet than usual.
Imagine my horror. Finally over the disappointment of not being able to see Allison Stokke vault her majesty in the Olympic games, I found myself settling on Swedish hurdler Susanna Kallur to satisfy my propensity for body-gazing during female competitions. Yes. My mind was made up. She was going to be the one. And then she knocked down the very first hurdle, fell to the ground and didn’t finish the race, further proving my theory that the combination of beauty and athletic prowess is more rare than me having somewhere to go on a Saturday night.
Envision the face of Barack Obama’s Vice President. Is it male? Female? White? Black? (doubt it) Latino? (double-doubt it) In any case, we should know soon and I have a feeling it will be someone whom we never even thought of. (No, silly, it won’t be me. I’m too busy blogging and raising cain, but thanks for the thought).
Think about it. Wouldn’t that USA/China baseball spat have been more exciting and more newsworthy if some real punches had been thrown? Look, I get it. The Olympics is all about class and sportsmanship but this isn’t the floor exercise we’re talking about here: this is baseball. Our sport. Our way. And we fight. Robin Ventura, Nolan Ryan, Michael Barrett, A.J. Pierzynski… those guys would have tore heads off — they would’ve brought bloody pride to the Red, White and Blue. A knockdown at home plate, some bean balls here and there… jeesh. I was really disappointed.
See the world the way my colleague Allen Krause sees it and see a world that revolves around the wonders and blunders of one irksome Venezuela. Yes, dear readers, I ask the same question you do: What the hell is up with all of these Venezuela posts? This one and this one and this one… I understand that Venezuela is quickly rising the ranks to be the proverbial pebble in US America’s shoe, but come on… Mr. Krause is talking about the degrees of handsomeness between Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Ozzie Guillen. That’s crazy. That’s just plain crazy.
And you know it’s crazy. You know you’ve had enough. And you know there’s no reason to hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Regular readers of RSBS know that I have a special place in my heart for Venezuela. And really, why not? It’s a fascinating place and lends itself to all sorts of interesting discussion. They have a wealth of oil, a wealth of baseball talent, a wealth of beauty and wealth of crazy. And since Jeff and I both share an affinity for two out of those four things it’s only fitting that RSBS take up the debate.
My partner here at RSBS pointed out in a comment on a recent post:
“The Venezuela team (including Maggs, Santana, Cabrera etc) is threatening to not compete in the WBC sighting (sic) poor per diems and lack of organization as reasons not to play.”
Now, why would elite baseball players making millions of dollars per year threaten to pull out of the World Baseball Classic over some measly travel and lodging expenses? Personally, I think it has something to do with a much deeper rooted problem endemic to Venezuela.
Yes, in a land with so much wealth the unfortunate fact is that this wealth has been unequally distributed. And I’m not talking about the oil money which has accrued in the hands of well connected elites. No, I’m talking about the fact that while Venezuelan women are beautiful and have won more beauty championships than the women from any other country, the Venezuelan men seem to have lost out in the looks department. So of course they act out via other avenues.
Luckily for them, the Venezuelan men men are eerily good baseball players. Rumor has it that El Presidente himself actually joined the military in order to make his way to Caracas and play baseball. Apparently he got a little sidetracked on the way but others among his compadres have made their way into the Major Leagues where they have had major impacts. From Carlos and Ozzie Guillen to Asdrubal and Miguel Cabrera, Venezuelan baseball players are integral to the success of many MLB teams. But they just aren’t very good looking.
So, when you’ve got talent but you look like a toad, what’s a guy to do? Well, either you move to the US and become a highly-paid baseball superstar. Or, you throw a coup, invite the whole country and hope the oil party keeps raging. Go-go-go Hugo.
Despite baseball and basketball being sports born in the good old USA, both national teams have lost touch with winning gold at the Olympic games. Why do people care so much more about the basketball team losing top standing than the baseball team?
Quick, name the top three players in baseball. If you did this honestly, you probably came up with A-Rod, Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and so on and so forth. Now, do the same thing for basketball. What’s the difference? When you name the basketball players they all have last names like Bryant, Garnett, Anthony and James. Good ol’ Anglo-Saxon names that sound about as American as apple pie.
Americans like their heroes to have names that sound like their own. There’s a reason you see Senator Obama slipping in the polls and it isn’t because John McCain has a better energy plan. When it comes right down to it, Americans, despite being only a couple generations removed from immigrant status themselves, don’t trust immigrants. When a current nominee for the presidency has to deny ties to Islamist terrorists in the same way that Kennedy had to deny that he would take orders from the pope 50 years ago, it’s not hard to see that we haven’t come all that far.
Beyond all that, timing is an integral part of who can actually
represent our country. The baseball season is in full swing and there’s
no way that all those athletes are going to sacrifice their big
salaries or that the teams are going to sacrifice the playoffs for a
couple of weeks of nationalistic fervor. I’m sure that basketball GMs
dread having their best players out there risking injury but at least
the Olympic competition is over before players even need to report for
However, in the Olympics, it also comes down to something much more simple. Basketball has been around in the Olympics for decades and became a sporting symbol for the Cold War conflict between the US and the USSR. When the Soviets beat the Americans in 1988, it stunned the US sporting psyche in the same way that Sputnik called our national pride into question at the end of the 50’s.
Baseball just doesn’t play the same role. It’s only been an Olympic sport for the past 12 years and the US hasn’t even qualified every time. And beyond that, who plays the role of the villian? What reason do we have to win? Real baseball plays out between May and October in a bunch of stadiums scattered across North America.
So, maybe if Cuba ever becomes a legitimate threat or Venezuela is able to back up the big game they talk with some international clout, then baseball will come to play a similar role to that of basketball. But until then, the Dream Team will be Kobe and company and the Olympic baseball team will be a bunch of college schlubs trying their hardest to make their country proud.