24 March 2009

WBC Final: The Straight Skinny

I wasnt planning on watching much of the World Baseball Classic, until the cultural mavens at AVS turned us on to the novelty of the international game. The first thing I noticed, were ten thousand Korean thundersticks shaking Dodger Stadium like some fool Rain concert, making me long for one Angelino beachball. Then, I noticed all the ill-nourished, jaundice complected, half adult/half anime players and it was on.




ESPN.com's Eric Neel:


Japanese left fielder Seiichi Uchikawa skidding to cut off a sharply hit ball in the corner later in the fifth, and then popping up and firing to nail Korean second baseman Young Min Ko at second base -- a play from start to finish I cannot imagine a single current major leaguer even attempting, let alone pulling off.

It's true. He looks 155 pounds, dripping wet, an Asian Endy Chavez. The training, agility and flexibility to make that play is not something we see in major league baseball. Indeed, diminutive Ichiro burst onto the MLB scene some years ago and immediately laid claim to best defensive outfielder, best OF arm, MLB's best leadoff hitter, and one of the game's top base stealers.

Now, I know the WBC isnt the majors and our team is shaking off world conquering American rust. But Japan's won two of these tourneys now, with a roster of guys under 160 pounds. Except for the slanted eyes, yellow complexion and proverbial buck teeth, you'd swear they were MLB players from my youth. Forget steroids. That was a time when baseball and legitimate weight training mixed as often as Noam Chomsky and Sarah Palin.

That was always part of baseball's charm - that you didnt have to be 6'9" or bench 400 pounds to be a ballplayer - even a great one. Boys could relate to that, could see themselves in normal-sized heroes in a way today's disconnected youth cannot incorporate distant, comic book monstrosities.

Growing up, I remember Bobby Murcer, the Yankees most powerful hitter of his time, listed at 5'11" and 180 pounds. In the box, he'd lean forward awkwardly at the waist, head almost in the strike zone, and leverage balls into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium, as if by magic. He was the same size as Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Stan Musial was 6 feet, 175. Before them, Mel Ott, all 5'9" and 170, was one of the greatest power hitters of all time. There were bigger guys, to be sure, but even Jimmie Foxx, The Beast, was only 195 pounds.


Watching the WBC final and championship teams built on discipline and grace, thin hips and small shoulders, reminded me of baseball before the American fall. And it was not hard to imagine young boys laying skinny necks on pillows, from Osaka to Seoul, dreaming of their tomorrows as men.

13 comments:

Michael Norton said...

Although I didn't watch the WBC this time, I understand your sentiment. It was what I felt last time when the Japanese won. Indeed international baseball is all that gives me hope for the game anymore.

Michael Norton
Some Clubhouse - It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere!

PAUL said...

Times could be a'changin with one of the positive aspects of Moneyball being the conscious decision not to look solely at a guy's body before deciding whether or not to draft/sign him; and Tim Lincecum is lucky if he's 5'8" although he's listed at 5'11". 5'11" my ass.
This reminded me of the mid-size/mid-level talent Canadian boys' panic when the Russian skill players started coming over to play in the NHL. People rarely credit the likes of Alexander Mogilny and Slava Fetisov for the beatings they took to open the door for other Russian skill players to come over. The Canadian kids knew that if that door was open to the world, their jobs as courageous grinders would be gone, and that's pretty much what happened. (I was gonna post something about that myself.)

Matt said...

Paul,

Maybe itty bitty James Skelton, our Rule 5 pickup, reflects the cuttinge edge thinking, cuz, believe me, he dont look like a major league American ballplayer. But he gets on base. He can catch, maybe play some second. At this point, I'd rather watch him than "athlete" Chris Young.

And more hockey comments! Puleese!!


Michael,

Fun to watch. Intense, and more of a team vs individual orientation (ie cleanup hitters bunting).

Anonymous said...

Ill-nourished, jaundice complected, half adult/half anime players?

155 pounds, dripping wet, an Asian Endy Chavez?

Slanted eyes, yellow complexion and proverbial buck teeth?

If you'd make the effort to raise your bloated, calorie-ravaged behind out of your seat, you'd see that these players average more than 6 feet in height and weigh in at no less than 185 pounds each. Stapping youth, them all.

Here, I'll make it easy for you. Just click your fat fingers on these links below to see their stats. Have a nice day. And, try to lay off the doughnuts.

http://web.worldbaseballclassic.com/rosters/index.jsp?team=kor&season=2009

http://web.worldbaseballclassic.com/rosters/index.jsp?team=jpn&season=2009

Anonymous said...

Otherwise, except for your unfortunate blog entries targeting physical appearances, your analysis is not bad.

Matt said...

My eyeball estimate (155 lbs) on Uchikawa could be a little low, especially since I now note Endy Chavez is listed on baseball-ref at 165 pounds.

But it's certainly not as embarrassing as your broad assertion these players average 6' and no less than 185 lbs.

According to the WBC links you were kind enough to furnish, Ichiro has not only gained 10 pounds from his mlb weight, but two inches as well!

http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/suzukic01.shtml

The WBC roster vitals are crap, and anyone with two eyes and an independent mind can see that.

The larger point, beyond any strict accounting one way or another, is that these players are generally smaller and thinner than MLB counterparts.

Mike said...

More impressive than the fielding was the pitching. Yu Darvish has sick stuff for a 22 year old

Russell said...

Spot on (particularly the bit about me being a "cultural maven").

Jeff said...

"Anonymous" writes in a similar fashion to you, Matt. Are you "Anonymous" perhaps?

Cool.

Jasmine69 said...

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Holy _________! This _____ is so _____ that I ______ want to _______ !

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