Monday, March 20, 2006

Even the President needs...

I was reading SI. com this morning and ran across an article by John Donovan about the WBC ( Here's a sample of what he had to say:

"That's what the U.S. was up against in this tournament and what, in the end, was its downfall. The final four teams in the WBC have a desire, a passion that the U.S. team simply couldn't match. Passion is the difference in this tournament. It's carried the WBC."

I understand his premise on some level, but seriously, passion and desire or lack thereof were not the reasons that the US did not make the semi-final. The US looked pretty passionate when they stormed the field after Arod's winning hit against Japan. I've already made mention of Chipper Jones' comments, so I'm fairly sure that they were passionate. And how exactly do you measure passion or desire. Were the Mexicans not passionate, the Venezuelans, hell even the Italians and Canadians were passionate. I didn't see one US player acting like they didn't want to be there. Passion has not carried the WBC, talent and pitching have.

Here's another quote from the article:

"But the truth is that the best four teams in the new World Baseball Classic are in this weekend's finale, and Team USA -- for all its future Hall of Famers, All-Stars and multi-multimillionaires -- is not. Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Korea and Japan have shown, even in the abruptness of a tournament like this one, that they're better teams. That they wanted it more."

I happen to agree with everything he said in this quote until the last sentence. How does he know "that they wanted it more"? What is that based on? The fans waving flags in the stands? It's a silly premise to base wins and losses on in a tournament like this. I could put together an all-star team of the most passionate little leaguers in the world and they wouldn't stand a chance in the tournament. Desire and passion are a part of the game, but in this tournament, I am fairly confident that all the teams had that going for them. All the players were proud to represent their countries. Is John trying to suggest that the team from Japan had more pride than the team from the US, or Mexico, or Puerto Rico? It just doesn't make sense (Maybe the team from Korea did have a better reason to play well than anyone else in the tournament. They were all promised that their mandatory military service obligation would be waived if they made the semi finals, they did and it was). Baseball isn't like basketball where desire can be seen by things like diving after loose balls and rebounding or football where fighting for extra yardage and running hard on each play are indicative of effort and desire. I've certainly heard the argument that people who care too much don't perform as well, because they are trying too hard. Why not make that argument about the US baseball team? Maybe the US just cared too much and they were too tight to perform. Some would say that Dontrelle Willis was so pumped up that he wasn't his usual self. I think that argument holds just as much water as the opposite does. Or course I don't think either of them are valid in this case.

The US may have had the most talented team at the WBC, but the teams with the most talent simply do not always win baseball games. The team with the better pitching and the timeliest hitting on that day wins them. The US had a couple of bad pitching performances from Dontrelle Willis that they simply could not overcome. The preparation time for the US was probably lacking. I think there was a conceit on the US side that they could simply put together an all-star team and win by mere talent alone. That does not mean that the players weren't passionate, it just means that they were not as prepared as some of the other teams. If the US team had been given a 3 week training period, I have no doubt that they would have had a stronger showing. In fact I would bet that the US would win a tournament like this 7 out of 10 times with the appropriate amount of time to get ready.

I applaud the teams and fans of the teams that made the semi's in the WBC. They all deserve to be there. The teams played with passion and desire and their fans reflected that emotion in the stands. The most important elements for the four teams however, were talent and preparation. Not passion and desire. By the way if there's a major league team out there looking for a passionate 40 year old who hasn't played since little league, give me a call. I'm still available.

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