Today, in what may be considered a groundbreaking event in sports history, the Netherlands took down the Dominican Republic for the second time in the World Baseball Classic.
The loss effectively eliminates the Dominicans from the event. The Netherlands will be moving on to the second round in Miami alongside the Puerto Rican team. Great story, Cinderella.
Yet perhaps most do not understand the sheer importance of this occurrence. The World Baseball Classic was established in 2006 to give the world powers of baseball an opportunity to display their complete dominance in an attempt to overcome the odds and claim themselves as the emperor of the baseball world.
The 2006 Dominican Republic team was almost considered a shoo-in to win, with stars such as Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and several other manhandling the competition.
Supposedly at least. The Dominicans were upset by the Cubans in the semifinals, putting aside another dream of returning baseball glory to the Caribbean islands once more.
The team clearly had the talent to dominate all others in the competition. MLB All-Stars, excellent coaching, fantastic fan-hood. It was the complete food pyramid that could be a baseball team.
Yet for some reason, something would not click. The squad was unable to pick it up and come through in the clutch.
But the storyboard for the 2009 Classic would be different. With a carefully assorted team of veteran managers and youthful talent, the Dominican team came in looking to be more of a threat than in 2006.
They had the same look as the ‘06 group, with an additional boost which appeared would be the X-Factor in completing their ultimate challenge. Many had predicted a rather simple finals appearance for the team, as media members flooded the compounds whenever possible.
This was the year of the Dominicans. Too bad the media forgot about parity.
The Netherlands squad seemed to be nothing impressive. Only thirteen players on the entire roster with major league experience, non All-Stars. The most recognizable of the bunch, Randall Simon, only known due to smacking giant sausages in the back of the head for fun. The pitching staff was subpar. The hitting mediocre.
A little speed, nothing big. Coaching staff average. Everyone forgot to judge something though: heart.
The Dutch team, marred with the cold shoulder from the entire baseball and sports world, silently took down the Dominican team in the opening game 3-2. The pitching was stellar, holding the power-driven Dominican squad to barely any hits.
Big hits were delivered exactly when they needed to be, and the asset of speed proved to be vital in advancing base runners. Of course though, it was a fluke. No way could they do it again. No reason would they need to be, the Dominicans were not going to let themselves slide.
After thrashing Panama 9-0 in Game 2, this assumption seemed correct. Not only that, but the Netherlands lost a hefty game 3-1 to Pool D winners Puerto Rico, in a game that was not as close as the score implied.
The D.R. would roll right over the Netherlands this time, no problem. Restore anarchy back into the global phenomena that is baseball. Yet the game was still to be played.
Knotted up throughout, it appeared no winner would be named. The Dutch proved that even without the primary major league talent, the pitching could still dominate some of the best hitters on the planet (no hyperbole intended).
Even after the Dominicans took the lead, the Netherlands refused to quit. They quickly boasted a rally, signifying the end of the Caribbean dominance of the game. After tying the game, the speed became a quick advantage.
A wild pitch by Carlos Marmol enabled runner Gene Kingsale to advance from first base to third. When Yurendell de Caster hit a swift ground ball back at 1B Willy Aybar, the inning seemed destined to be over.
The baseball gods must have been working the magic though. Just as Buckner did twenty three years prior, Aybar muffled the ball, allowing the Netherlands to successfully pull off one of the greatest upsets in baseball history.
Now obviously, this is definitely no World Series. Hell, this may not even hit one’s importance scale, period. However, this may have seriously been the Marty McFly of global baseball.
After a failed attempt back in 2006, the Dominicans return only to be completely obliterated and embarrassed. The entire conservative style of conditioning and tradition has been made a mockery of, something at which had been greatly admired by players and coaches alike for decades.
Baseball in the Dominican Republic has taken a stabbing today, and it is the Dutch for whom they have the attack to blame upon.
At a time in which the Olympics no longer house the sport of baseball, the World Baseball Classic is going to be one of the very few opportunities for all to witness the true glory of international sport.
The Netherlands have proved that even in a sport as individual driven as this, George Mason’s exist everywhere. Regardless of what the Netherlands end up doing in this Classic, the image has been repainted.
All now are well aware that parity does indeed exist within sports. The best part is that this parity is one that can be taken in ways that previously seemed impossible. With shock. With awe. With pride.
Now, all that the Dominican Republic can do is wait. Wait for that opportunity to once again try to disprove the Yankee curse of too many All-Stars and shock the sports world.
The chance to actually go into the 2013 World Baseball Classic as pure underdogs, needing to earn a little respect back into the eyes of the entire baseball world.
The players will return to spring training, well aware of the feat that they oh so horrifically failed to accomplish. At the same time however, the Dutch will hang proud. All will remember the day that the mighty Dominicans were taken down.
The day that baseball changed forever, even without many being aware of its significance.
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