World Baseball Classic Final Round: What We Finally Learned

Jeffery StonerCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 23:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of Japan holds up the championship trophy 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 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

What (We Thought) We Learned in Round One.


What (We Thought) We Learned in Round Two.


Japan vs. Korea is the best non-soccer international sports rivalry in existence.  After five meetings, four of which were very competitive, what is better than a 10-inning championship game? 


Watching Korea tie the game in the ninth after never leading, then seeing Japan win with two in the 10th probably made more U.S. viewers wish they would have found a way to watch those 4:30 a.m. games earlier in the tournament.  OK, maybe not, but they at least would have looked the scores up the next morning.


Japan has more world-class pitching than just Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish. 


Hisashi Iwakuma pitched more innings than anyone else in the WBC, eating 20 innings with a 1.35 ERA.  Reliever Toshiya Sugiuchi appeared in five games out of the bullpen with two holds, one save, and no runs allowed; throw in Matsuzaka and Darvish, and these four pitched 54 innings with a stellar 1.67 ERA. 


The United States needs to decide if this is spring training or an important event.  Davey Johnson for the most part treated this like the former, except for the (correct) decision to start Roy Oswalt, who had outperformed Jake Peavy in the tournament.  It would have been Peavy’s turn in a regular rotation.


However, with all pitchers available, Johnson elected to stay with Oswalt while giving up six runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched.  Johnson explained that Oswalt needed the work as the season is only a few short weeks from starting.  However, no one can explain the inconsistency in changing the rotation for the best chance to win, but not making a substitution in the name of training.


There needs to be a bronze medal game added to the agenda.  The host city would embrace it to encourage international travel, and if it were played as part of a double header, or even a day-and-night double header, it would not add a lot of cost.  The players would only have to spend an extra 48 hours in Los Angeles, which would not be detrimental to anyone’s training regiment. 


There is already a meaningless game to decide seeding in each of the six prior pools, and this game would mean more than any of those.


The international ratings assured that this event will continue.  Even as MLB players continue to unnecessarily fear injury in the event, the show will go on.  The owners cannot miss an opportunity to spread their product into new markets, even if they prefer to do it with other owners’ players.