America No Longer Has a Grip on Her Pastime

Lyell MarksCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 23:  Japan players pose for photos after defeating Korea during the finals of the 2009 World Baseball Classic on March 23, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Japan won 5-3 in 10 innings.  (Photo by Mark J. Terrill-Pool/Getty Images)

When any human holds a round and potentially dangerous object in their hands, size no longer matters. Just ask Goliath, or for that matter ask team USA how a team of 160 pound pride fighters were able to out-hit, out-pitch and frankly outperform, a groomed collection of physically superior, millionaire big-leaguers.

The World Baseball Classic proved that baseball still is a game of heart, hustle, and desire. It proved that small ball might not be flashy, but it wins games, and winning is always appealing in the long run.

Team USA kept waiting for the three-run homer that never came. Japan stole bases, used hit and runs, and used the bunt in a way that seemed foreign to American viewers. Japan used tremendous base running and perfect sacrifice bunting to manufacture runs that would have been stranded by playing traditional American baseball.

Joe Morgan made a comment right before the game started about how he thought the USA would win the tournament because of their mental toughness. That didn't happen, and I assure you it was because of Team USA's mental and strategic inferiority that they are heading home instead of playing for theWBC championship. They might be thinking the same thing Goliath was when he saw David was pretty good with a sling.

Japan studied the American game and dissected its weaknesses. In the MLB, only the most adventurous hitters venture a swing at a 3-0 pitch. The Japanese jumped all over Roy Oswalt when he fell behind, because they realized that an American pitcher has been trained his entire life to treat a 3-0 pitch as a "just get it over the plate." The Japanese hitters didn't just let a meatybp fastball pass them by for a free strike, they loaded up for a fastball and let it fly.

Another advantage Japan possessed was their ability to throw any pitch in any count. Every one of their pitchers was capable of throwing their off-speed pitches for strikes, which made the stereotypical fastball situation for a hitter almost impossible to predict. Team USA looked confused at the plate all night long because very few times during the entire game were they correct about guessing what pitches were going to be thrown. When your timing as a hitter is off, you have little chance of making an adjustment in the split second it takes a ball to travel 60 feet, no matter how big your forearms are or how far you can hit a baseball in batting practice.

If I am a major league general manager, I'd be willing to bet that you could field a team composed of players from Japan and Korea for a lot cheaper than the going wage of anMLB free-agent. I might also start to notice how in consecutive tournaments, Japanese and Korean players have frustrated and beaten a group ofMLB All-Stars who are making their opponents yearly salary every inning. Maybe I'd also notice that the Asian-led revival of small ball might be a practical application to the Major League game, considering how effective it was against All-Stars like Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy.

Or maybe I'll just continue to over-pay baseball players who can hit home runs, but couldn't put down a sacrifice bunt if the winning run was at first base.

My hat goes off to both Japan and Korea for playing the game the right way, and proving that American baseball isn't as mentally tough as Joe Morgan may think. It reminded me a bit of how Pete Rose played the game (on the field) and was reminiscent of a throwback style that the likes of Ty Cobb would partake in.

Helmets shattered, thunder-sticks roared, chants erupted; baseball had life again and America had nothing to do with it. Team USA can continue to ignorantly believe that they are superior in the game of baseball, but for two straight tournaments they weren't only beaten, but were embarrassed.

So while American GM's continue to tell Asian players that they just don't fit the American style of baseball, those same players are making quick work of some of the finest our major leagues have to offer.

Maybe the third time will be the charm? Maybe by the third time Japan beats team USA in the next WBC, that same GM I was fantasizing of being might actually start to become serious about fielding that sort of baseball team.