I'll be honest: If I weren't headed to Dodger Stadium for tonight's WBC final between Japan and Korea, I'd likely be DVRing the game for later consumption.
I'll be most of you agree that it's an easy one to delay — or skip altogether, really — considering that the two nations have already met four times in this tournament and that almost all of the recent WBC games have clocked in at over three hours.
With the regular season just over two weeks away and my fantasy drafts fast approaching, it simply seems like it's time to move on, unless you can tie your heritage to either proud country, of course.
But let's say your television is stuck on one channel. Or that you're too lazy to pick up the remote. Or that you really just don't have anything else to do.
Whatever your excuse, here are a few ways to get into what you'll be watching ...
The world's best international baseball rivalry?: You'll find no argument to an affirmation here, especially given their recent history on the diamond and their longtime rivalry over all other things in the Far East. (Korea's still smarting over being constantly invaded and occupied by Japan over several decades, and understandably so.) The two teams have split their four WBC '09 games, but Korea holds a 4-3 edge overall. They've yet to win the big one, though, and it was the Japanese who ended their title dreams in the '06 semifinals by dealing Korea its only loss of the tournament.
It's Bong time: Ace lefty Jung Keun Bong gets the starting nod for Korea tonight and he's just plain dominated lefty-heavy Japan in this tournament. In two starts against the rivals, Bong has a 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, allowing only one run and six hits over that time. Japan will counter with Hisashi Iwakuma, who is 1-1 this WBC and dueled with Bong in Korea's 1-0 victory in the first round of pool play.
International baseball the way it's supposed to be played: Unlike the U.S. — hey, different strokes for different folks — both nations prefer to focus their energies on winning international glory. That means both lineups have been optimized for performance, the best players are on the field (and not sitting at home) and they're likely to do the little things that baseball fans enjoy. There's sure to be a lot of managerial maneuvering and situational hitting, so sit back and experience the impact that Tony La Russa has had on the rest of the world.
The pageantry: When Bud Selig and Co. came up with this whole WBC idea, you know they were dreaming of scenes like we saw in the Tokyo Dome a few weeks back. The place was jam packed, Korean fans provided good representation and they set a tournament attendance record. The Koreans brought over their enthusiasm to Dodger Stadium, keeping a steady drumbeat with their inflatable drumsticks in a win against Venezuela and it shouldn't be any different tonight. Japanese fans, while a smidge more reserved, should help to form a flag-waving, noise-making spectacle in Chavez Ravine that'll look nice on Bud's WBC wrapup video.
(Which is really why we're at this point, right?)