From the beginning, RSBS has been about both baseball and politics. But, it’s easy to lose track of the politics when the baseball plays out like it did this year. Also, the politics have been sucking. I mean, something needs to happen with health care but I’m sick of talking about it and even more sick of hearing about it.
Luckily, whenever I hit a point where American politics isn’t doing it for me, all I need to do is look south. No, a bit further south. No, not Guatemala. Keep going. Ok, there it is. Venezuela and it’s coffee-swilling chuckle-head of a president. So, what’s happening in the mind of el presidente today?
Hm, a little baseball over in that corner of the brain which makes sense. I mean, he is Venezuelan. Yep, definitely a little crazy over in that corner which makes sense since he’s from the same country as Ozzie Guillen. But those are just sideshows. If you really want to know what’s going on just step into the three-ring circus of Hugo’s anti-American paranoia. It’s a non-stop riot of fire-breathing, wild animal taming and tiny cars full of clowns. And this time it’s all about the war the US is apparently trying to launch against Venezuela from Colombia.
Here’s the thing, Hugo. Even if we wanted to start that war (which we don’t because, let’s face it, no one really cares about Venezuela), we don’t have the resources to do so. Cutting off ties with Colombia over this makes about as much sense as the proverbial cutting off of the nose to spite the face. Really Hugo, you need to sit back and take a lesson from someone who understands putting aside differences so we can get along. Deuce Poppi, take it away:
Happy Monday, y’all.
With the disputed elections in Iran this past weekend following hot on the heels of Kim Jong Il’s announcement that his third son will take over the reins of a dysfunctional but nuclear-armed North Korea, we here at RSBS started to wonder who would take the crown as king of the crazies if we actually did the research. Luckily, the interns had nothing better to do while Jeff and I watched some interleague tom-foolery and they came up with this objective and quantitatively analysed list. So, without further ado, we present the results of the very first RSBS “Demented yet Debonair” contest.
If at first you
don’t succeed, nationalize! Now, I’m aware that this could also be
America’s motto right now but Hugo has been doing it for so many years
now that he’s an old pro. On top of that, rumor has it that after the
recent introduction of Coke Zero to the country of Venezuela, President
Chavez promptly banned it on vague charges of healthiness. This coming
from a man who drinks enough coffee in one day to single-handedly
support Juan Valdez’s retirement. El Presidente, we salute you.
1st Runner Up:
just the snazzy gray suit worn without a tie or the oft repeated urge to wipe
Israel off the map. No, Mahmoud has that little something extra that
makes you think he’s capable of so much more. Maybe it’s the malevolent
twinkle in his eye. Maybe it’s his ability to go from zero to rabid
anti-Semite in 4 seconds flat. Or maybe it’s how he flummoxed all the
pundits and wiped out the opposition in this past weekend’s elections.
Whatever it is, the Iranian president will always be a contender.
Kim Jong Il
In a region where political longevity is often measured in fractions of years, the Kim family has managed to hold onto power for several decades now. How do they do it? Well, let’s just say that it has nothing to do with extra doses of the warm fuzzies. And Kim Jong Il’s announcement that his son, Kim Jong Un, will take over upon his demise combined with new nuclear sabre-rattling just kind of makes observers scratch their heads and wonder what is going on. However, knowing that Mr. Kim is a huge movie buff, I bet the picture all looked much clearer and much better in his head.
Sadly, despite all the craziness in the world today, there can only be one winner of this year’s “Demented yet Debonair” contest. And I don’t think any of our readers will be surprised to see….
Yep, although Commissioner Selig hasn’t done anything too wild recently, he still has done quite a bit to earn this honor. There was the infamous tied All-Star game and his non-action during the steroid era. He also bears a lot of the blame for the out of control inflation within baseball that has driven many fans out of the park and left it open only to corporate bigwigs and smarmy lawyers. But more importantly, Bud Selig created Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds and that’s unforgivable. Granted, he may not be looking to blow up the world or start the Bolivarian revolution but he has besmirched the good name of baseball. That’s not something we look lightly on here at RSBS. I suppose that if he sent Erin Andrews to come and convince us otherwise, though, at least half of us would listen.
–Thanks to L for the Coke Zero story
There is no Irish in baseball. Well, unless you include Jeff Samardzija, formerly of the Fightin’ Irish from Notre Dame. But today is a good day so I don’t want to talk about that. No, today is a day when we celebrate the completely fabricated story of St. Patrick ridding the Emerald Isle of snakes. However, apparently there are snakes aplenty within the comfy confines of the World Baseball Classic.
Much attention has been focused over the past few days on the Venezuelan fans booing of Magglio Ordonez. Now, when you seem to have become the lapdog of old friend of RSBS, Hugo Chavez and you are playing in front of a bunch of people who left Venezuela because of Hugo Chavez, well, it makes sense that something has to give. And so far that something has been any residual love for Maggs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about booing hated players. My brothers have made a sport of riling opposing outfielders from the cheap seats in left field and I’ve been known to throw a few choice words the way of batters during tight softball games. But the thing those people have in common is that they play for the opposing team. When you have become a pariah to even your own fans, it might be time to rethink your actions.
I’ll admit, I hated Maggs, too, but only when he was on the White Sox. Once he joined the Tigers and especially after that killer blast against the A’s that sent the Tigers to the 2006 World Series, he could do no wrong. But supporting the man who has managed to turn his capital city into the murder capital of the world? That might not have been the best choice.
Against Puerto Rico, some of the hatred seemed to subside and in a tight game, the Venezuelan fans were cheering every hit their team could muster. But pity the man if he pulls a Buckner or manages to strike out at an inopportune moment. Maggs, you’re on notice.
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.
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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.