March 22, 2009
Korea 10, Venezuela 2, WBC semifinal #1
Had you told me that Saturday night's semifinal between Korea and Venezuela would be decided in its first 10 minutes, I would have likely told you that the remainder of my night would've been spent tracking down Tommy Lasorda for a Dodger Dog eating contest.
Somehow, though the final eight-and-a-half innings of Korea's 10-2 win over Venezuela remained relatively compelling, at least for a complete blowout.
Maybe it was because of the way that Korea's fans stayed in the game the whole time, working out a drumbeat that had my man Tim Brown sprinting for his earplugs and Advil.
Or maybe it was because I couldn't stop counting the major leaguers on each roster — 22 for Venezuela, one for Korea — and wondering why the result wasn't the exact opposite.
Or maybe it was because it was my first in-person experience with international baseball, watching all the pomp and circumstance turn what would have otherwise been a cool and ordinary Chavez Ravine night into something more remarkable.
In the end, though, I think it was Korea simply taking advantage of five Venezuela errors earning a berth in Monday's final against either Japan or the U.S. that proved most captivating. With Opening Day still two weeks off, any baseball — especially the kind that involves good pitching intertwined with some good plate power — is good baseball.
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Play of the Game
With Korea already enjoying a 2-0 lead thanks in part to Bobby Abreu's error in left field, Shin-Soo Choo blasted a Carlos Silva pitch over the center field wall, effectively ending the game when it had in fact just started.
Cleveland's Choo is the only Korean player on a Major League roster, but his performance in the World Baseball Classic so far had not reflected that. The homer was only his second hit in 11 tournament ABs.
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The Second Guess?
Venezuela manager Luis Sojo got plenty of criticism for his WBC managing tour in 2006, but probably gained a lot of respect back with his team's run to the semis in '09. That's not to say that he won't have some 'splainin to do once he gets back to V-country. Namely, he'll have to go through the thought process that had him saving Felix Hernandez for a WBC final that never came and running out Carlos Silva after being lulled into a false sense of security after wins over Italy and the Netherlands. C'mon Luis, even new Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu could've told you what to do and he's hardly even met these guys yet.
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WBC Fan Factor
Fan Fact No. 1 — During Team Venezuela's games in Miami, Magglio Ordonez was roundly booed by Venezuelan fans for his support of president Hugo Chavez. Maggs caught a break in Los Angeles, though, as the booing at Dodger Stadium was hardly audible. It could have had something to do with the fact that Venezuelan fans were outnumbered 10-to-1 by Korean fans in the stands. Or it could have had something to the fact that his team was already losing 7-0 by his first AB. Or maybe both.
Fan Fact No. 2 — When I snapped a photo of this excellently-coordinated family, it was sitting in seats high up the third base line. A few innings later they were sitting in the $500-a-pop seats behind the plate, you know, right near Mike Brito, the scout with the Panama hat and cigar who was back for the WBC.
Since most of the pricey seats were empty after the game started, I had suggested that MLB pick some well-dressed fans to keep 'em warm. Now I'm not saying that's definitely what happened here; what I'm say is that if you're headed to the U.S.-Japan game, you might want to think twice before leaving that Sam The Eagle costume at home.
Fan Fact No. 3 — I wasn't able to snap a good picture of it, but a good number of Korean fans at field level were waving around inflated powder-blue garbage bags after the middle of the seventh inning. Turns out that Korean ballparks hand out garbage bags to each fan near the end of the game so they can clean up after themselves. That's evolved into a tradition of its own as Korean fans put down the Thunderstix and treat the garbage bags like a kid treats a balloon. (There's a good shot here.)
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From the files of one picture speaking a 1,000 words ...