On Friday I fulfilled a lifelong personal dream!
I got to meet Larry Walker!!!
Actually, that’s a lie. I didn’t meet Larry Walker; but I did meet a very nice Canadian couple wandering the streets of Chicago looking for restaurant suggestions. The man’s name was Larry. And since all Canadians look alike, I think we can assume there isn’t much difference between the two.
All fooling aside, let it be known that Canadians are awesome! Awesome as in “awe” inspiring. They’re so friendly. They have funny accents. And they speak French!
Larry and his wife were so excited to talk to a real life US American (me) that once they got to talkin’, they started revealing all sorts of dark Canadian secrets — information I certainly shouldn’t be privy to. Oh well. Part of being a US American is not shying away from free enterprise. I’m sure Larry and his wife will understand. So here’s what I learned:
There Are No Death Panels
“We do have to wait in line sometimes for our x-rays and such,” said Larry, “but they certainly don’t make us wait in line during life threatening circumstances. And if you’re well off like we are, you can go to your own doctor on your own time if you want. The Canadian system of health care is great.”
Terrance & Phillip Characterizations Are More Accurate Than One Would Think
“We eat a lot of the same things Americans eat,” said Larry’s wife, “but the lower temperatures seem to wreak havoc on our bowels. We try to avoid Mexican food all together.”
Not All Canadians Live In Igloos
“My brother still lives in one,” said Larry, “but he’s a moose hunter and moose hunters are… well, they’re just a bit off, eh?”
Canadians Think US Americans Are Silly
“George W. Bush? Really? You guys voted for him… twice!” said Larry’s wife. “That’s silly to us. And you’re always scared. Fearful. No one’s going to blow up the Sears Tower. Chicago isn’t important on the world map. That’s like saying they’ll blow up the Stade Olympique. Why would anyone do that? Yet so many of you Americans are convinced your local Wal-Mart is the next target. Haha.”
I asked them: “What do you think of when you hear the name Joe Carter?”
Larry and his wife looked at each other and said, in unison, “Touch ’em all, Joe!”
How can we not love Canadians? Seriously.
Hate me ‘cuz I get all international on you, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right: Canadians are people too.
As we look over the baseball season and all the stories that emerged, we also start putting the pieces together, trying to see what parts of the story are most important. This process often leads to discussions of who deserves which award and even when it’s a clear-cut race, that doesn’t mean that people won’t still yell long and hard about who they think should win.
So let me jump into the fray early on and start campaigning for a couple of my choices.
Let’s start with the American League where the manager of the year is obviously Jimmy
Leyland. Despite the whole “losing the division his team led for five
months on the last day of the regular season” thing, you have to admit
that it’s pretty impressive that he was even able to remain standing
for 162 games. Seriously, his lungs are like little tar flavored
prunes. If he’s an organ donor, the only person who could use his lungs
is a researcher at the Kingsford charcoal company trying to figure out
how to pack even more carbon into every little bricquet.
And on the NL side there are many people who think that Albert Pujols should win the MVP award. And despite his team’s ignominious crash out of the first round of the playoffs, the argument is a strong one. However, let me suggest another possibility. Rinku Singh. Ok, so he technically isn’t really eligible since he didn’t even play in the majors this season. But, think of this. In a nation of nearly 1.2 billion people, he is the first one of them to win a professional baseball game. That’s one small step for a man but one giant leap for, uh, India, I guess. And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s also the only reason that most Americans even realize the Pirates still play baseball. Those are pretty strong credentials, my friends.
So as you start debating the relative merits of the possible winners of this years’ awards, take a second and consider the RSBS inspired ticket of Leyland and Singh. They may not be winners in baseball but they sure are winners in life.
Baseball, Apple Pie & Lobster
While still behind the modern US American game in terms of global appeal, Japanese baseball does have a special place in the universe of our national pastime. Indeed it has evolved much beyond the infant and fundamentally challenged Chinese game and the linguistically worldly fella in me likes to think that even Japanese basebrawls tend to be a bit more aggressive than their Korean counterparts’ elusive yet intriguing pitcher’s mound chicken dance routine. Still, there is more to it than that.
During my first year in China, I had a Japanese roommate named Hayashi Nobuhide. Nobby — as we white devils called him because, well, it was easier to pronounce — was a rabid baseball fan. In fact, our friendship, which was predestined to be rocky due to 60 years of bad history, was solidified by our matched passion for the game.
Some of my fondest memories revolve around us getting up at 5am to watch the 1999 World Series during which he vehemently professed his equally tired hatred of the New York Yankees — for they were, to Nobby and his Japanese brethren, holistically representative of “all that’s bad with America” (his words, not mine, though most probably true, especially when considering the likes of Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch and Tony Tarasco).
And that year, Nobby cheered on the Atlanta Braves just like any other rabid Japanese nationalist: while wearing a Seattle Mariners cap.
Ichiro! Ichiro! Ichiro!
“But what about Hideki Irabu?” I asked.
“**** that traitor! Go Ichiro!” he replied.
“But Ichiro’s not playing.”
“He should be! ICHIRO!!!”
To hear Nobby tell it, Ichiro Suzuki was more popular, more influential, more inspiring than Jesus Christ himself (not to mention having a better stylist). Everything about Ichiro, from his odd pregame warmups to his ritualized on-deck routine to his classic power pose at the plate was unequivocally all-things Japanese: systematic, graceful and proud.
Consider the fact that this undying allegiance came during the height of the steroid era, and I gotta admit, Nobby had a damn good point:
Sensationalized as the above may be, the truth remains: Ichiro is powerful.
And now, that power has multiplied. The Japanese gifts continue to grace diamonds all across US America. From Ichiro Suzuki to Takashi Saito to
Kaz Matsui Kosuke Fukudome Hiroki Kuroda, the game has plenty of room for Japanese imports.
If we’re lucky, maybe someday we can even borrow the Hiroshima Toyo mascot; ‘cuz nothin’ says powerhouse baseball like a wet, smelly Carp.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Despite the late-inning dramatics and clutch hitting by Team America,
the World Baseball Classic will be especially notable to MLB managers
because of the rash of injuries that has hit the players. With
important team leaders like Chipper Jones, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan
Braun suffering injuries, how do you think this will effect teams’
decisions to let their players participate next time around?
The World Baseball Classic, still in its infancy, is similar in that it has yet to find the perfect balance of entertainment and logic. We, the viewers, cannot expect it to be the perfect international tournament it aims to be — not yet at least.
There are naysayers. There are those who feel the Classic is a colossal waste of time. There are general managers and agents and players and pundits who see it as a liability more than an asset. And I understand their points of view.
If I were Omar Minaya or Theo Epstein or Frank Wren and I was forced to watch my best players risk injury in the name of a “friendly” tournament with seemingly zero tangible gain, I guess I would be a little ticked off too. But I believe the World Baseball Classic is more than just a King Bud money machine meant to get more people interested in Major League Baseball around the world. To me, it is a showcase of the most talented players on the planet: a baseball bravura boasting a playoff-like atmosphere during the most boring weeks of spring training.
And whether ballplayers are playing in the WBC or in Jupiter, Florida or with their kids at home, guys are going to get hurt.
Just ask Joel Zumaya about his Guitar Hero hangup.
Or just ask Aaron Boone about his penchant for pickup basketball.
Or just ask Ken Griffey, Jr. about wrestling with his children.
And while the easy way out is to say let us put an end to this World Baseball Classic for good and focus on the regular season, players are still going to find ways to injure themselves on and off the field. Personally, I would rather see a guy get hurt for his country than a video game.
The WBC only happens every few years, folks. Eventually, the kinks will be worked out. In the meantime, the foreseen benefits of firing up an entire baseball-following planet are far and beyond more plentiful than the occasional injury risks inherited by players, teams and front offices.
The truth is: baseball (yet again) was light years behind the rest of sports in not having an authentic international forum. And while the rewards of the Classic won’t be seen for another twenty years or so when little Chen Jianguo and Mario Perugino and Ned van Flanders are all grown up and starting superstars in the Majors, I think we all owe it to the world to give this tournament a chance — and most of all, to enjoy it.
But just to be safe, we should all continue to pray to the baseball gods that our team’s best players escape injury free and refrain from jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
As if facing Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic’s upcoming semifinals isn’t enough pressure on the already limping USA squad, once the laundry list of abominable possibilities finally settles in, we US Americans could be in big trouble.
Nevermind the impeccable team consciousness so calculated and so perfected by Team Japan during international competition. Nevermind Team Japan’s quiet gamesmanship deftly defining and defending their world-class status. Nevermind Dice-K and Darvish. There is much more to fear… for example:
Rape! Dear readers, Ted Bundy, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant… these guys ain’t got nuthin’ on the Japanese. Don’t believe me? Know this: from December 1937 to February 1938, the Japanese raped an entire city! The then southern stronghold of China, Nanjing (aka Nanking), was completely decimated by the Japanese in a not-so-quiet storm of raging pillage quite akin to the stomping Chris Brown gave Rihanna not too long ago.
If that isn’t reason enough to fear the Japanese, how about this?
Not only do they combine situational hitting with speed, they are also known to make sure the opposite clubhouse spread is spiked with magic mushrooms, leaving the competition confused in a burst of beguiling blur.
Yet nothing should invoke more fear in the hearts of Americans than the Japanese group mind. To illustrate, here’s a clip of Team Japan’s batting practice:
They may not be a hit on Broadway (yet), but the Japanese sure do know how to rhythmically scare the bejesus out of any and all opponents willing to scrap.
US Americans, let us unite! Persevere! And conquer!
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
P.S. Dear readers, if you haven’t already, make sure you purchase the Prince of New York Paul Lebowitz’s 2009 Baseball Guide. You can get it *here* and you should get it soon. It is your one-stop shop for all things 2009 MLB and it has magical powers (and by “magical powers” I mean “table of contents”). Believe me, this dude knows what he’s talking about. He’s the clean, charming, polite version of Jose Canseco.
On the real.
(Ichiro blur photo courtesy of Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Sixteen-year-old Eri Yoshida, a knuckleball throwin’ femme phenom, recently became the first woman ever drafted in the Japanese Professional Baseball League — which would most probably make her the first professional female baseball player in an all-male league (I think; our staff is working on this one).
Eri, a studious highschooler with a keen eye for Red Sox geriatric Tim Wakefield and his trademark knuckleballing mechanics, has proven herself quite the asset amongst her male counterparts and thus looks forward to breaking in as a rookie with the Kobe 9 Cruise this spring.
In lieu of these developments, we at RSBS (namely Me) would like to take a moment to congratulate Eri Yoshida on her groundbreaking achievement by memorializing the trailblazing feats of women sports icons both past and present because… well, because we can and we should.
And we will.
Helene Robison Britton
Inheriting the St. Louis Cardinals from her uncle, Stanley Robison, in 1911, Ms. Britton broke ground as the first woman in the history of the world to own a Major League Baseball club. During her six year reign at the top of the Cardinals organization, the team managed an average winning percentage of .441, a number which — in a round about world — popped up again in 2008 as the batting average for hitters facing the Cardinals bullpen.
Okay, so she’s not much of an athlete, but she sure knows how to piss a lot of people off with her baseball-related antics. Sen. Clinton’s meandering baseball allegiances have long been the seed of the People’s frustration. America may not see in just black and white anymore, but we die-hard baseball fans tend to be staunch conservatives when it comes to flagrantly waving about one’s fan preference. Don’t get me wrong: I sincerely respect Senator Clinton. She had a great run and she would’ve gotten my vote if the desire for change in Washington wasn’t burning so strong in my heart. I voted for that change. And how am I (and all US Americans) being rewarded? By seeing the same old Washington insiders posted in the highest offices under the President.
Excuse me while I go stab myself.
Super hot woman who knows more about sports than I do? Not much else to say.
Now that the dust has somewhat settled, let me commend Gov. Palin on being the laughingstock of modern politics. Not quite the Dan Quayle Potato-Head, still, she provided plenty a laugh throughout the campaign. She’s worthy of commendation because she stuck it out and never got too rattled (unless you count that Katie Couric interview, SNL, et al). As an avid hunter, basketball player and all around “hot mamma”, I bet she’d be a pretty sturdy fireballer on the mound late in a game. The Cardinals need some bullpen help. I’m just sayin’…
*Drool… drool… drool…
What? She didn’t make the Olympics? She doesn’t play baseball? Do I even care?
Just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
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.