Thursday, March 09, 2006

Canada Hits High Note, Promptly Exits WBC

A day after shocking the baseball world by beating the United States 8-6 at the World Baseball Classic the Canadian national team will not make the second round after a loss to Mexico. Despite all finishing with 2-1 records, the Canada will come third behind the US and Mexico on the tiebreak rules and the players will return to spring training.

I believe the tournament, despite its apparent flaws, is a success and should be embraced by baseball fans. It will never become the World Cup of Soccer, or even equivalent to the cricket World Cup. However, it can become an event embraced by baseball fans and players. It already has achieved that status in many parts of the world, particularly Latin America. Anybody who thinks the competition is a joke needs to only look at a game between two Latin American teams and look at the passion on the faces of the fans. In fact, all players are playing with passion they rarely, if ever, exhibit. Canadian Matt Stairs let out an uncharacteristic fist-pump after a key hit against South Africa; he said he could usually control his emotion on the baseball diamond, but just during that game.

Canada’s defeat of the USA is the biggest win in the history of the country in international baseball, a stretch that goes back over 40 years. It’s incredibly disappointing to follow that up with a poor performance against Mexico and to not make the next round. However, to be realistic we were never serious title contenders, although I’d have been curious to see how we fared against South Korea and Japan (and the US) in the next round. While making the second round would have been nice, in the end the victory against the US might be a more memorable achievement down the round.

In tribute to the Canadian team, here is a heartwarming (to me, at least) article about the team’s intramural hockey game before the competition. While the article emphasises the camaraderie involved, don’t forget that this was also a contact game and apparently most players left the pitch with bruises.

I’m going to quote the article in full below, in case it ever gets taken off the site’s archives and I need something to remember this team by.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Unlike the other Team Canada, this Team Canada can score goals.

Their work day done in Florida, Canada's entry into the World Baseball Classic did what a lot of Canadians would do to unwind on a warm muggy day:

They headed to the in-line hockey rink behind the Bobby Mattick Training Facility for a game of road hockey: shirts and skins on an Olympic-sized piece of pavement with regulation boards.

Instead of Gatorade, they drank Molson Golden on the bench between shifts. Ryan Radmanovich's Shirts swept the best-of-three series by identical 5-3 scores over Justin Morneau's Skins.

"Before we start, we have a no 'Bertuzzi-ing' rule," Radmanovich announced. Then, outfielder Adam Stern led the 21 participants in the customary singing of O Canada. Some of the notes were on key.

As the anthem reached its end Chris Begg wheeled and led the Shirts on a tour around the rink -- like they do at the Air Canada Centre.

"I'm a 15-second shift guy," said Matt Stairs returning to the bench after scoring.

During the games a couple of youngsters asked players to autograph a baseball. One youngster was asked if he knew what hockey team the players were with and he shook his head no.

There were giggles, guffaws and zingers.

"Hey Morneau," infielder Matt Rogelstad yelled at Morneau, a goalie in his hockey days, "we're going to go with Jim Baba (Baseball Canada director) in the second game, you looked weak to the glove side."

"Look, Paul Quantrill does NOT run like he's 89 years old," yelled a teammate as Quantrill busted in off the wing.

A number of Canadians were rightly accused of cherry picking by the opposition.

"It's the new NHL -- free-wheeling," Stubby Clapp shot back at a detractor.

Reliever Chris Reitsma, with the Skins, had No. 99 in black marker on his back.

When Radmanovich scored the winner -- first team to five wins -- on Clapp in the second game, the Shirts stormed the court and hugged.

The losers? They tossed their hockey sticks, purchased at the Sports Authority by Pete Laforest and Morneau, on the pavement in mock anger like six-year-olds.

Coach Tim Leiper then presented the homemade Stanley Cup (11 beer cars wrapped in aluminum foil with a silver sugar dish on top) to Stairs, who sipped beer from the cup.

The teams shook hands with right-hander Steve Green saying: "Good luck in the next round guys."

Outfielder Sebastien Boucher then announced the three stars in both official languages as picked by the Hockey Afternoon in Dunedin crew:

The third star: lefty Adam Loewen, of the Skins, who ran out and circled as they do Saturday nights on TV.

Second star: Stern, of the Shirts. He did an in-game TV interview proclaiming how "hard they'd worked to get to this point," how "they would not sit on a 3-1 lead," and how much respect "they had for the opposition."

And the "premier etoile" the goalie, pitching coach Dennis Boucher of the Shirts, once again continuing Quebec dominance in goal.

There were as many disputes as any street hockey game, but no one had to yell "CAR!" Since the replay cameras were not working, a disputed goal was settled with Loewen taking a penalty shot. Boucher stopped him cold.

"In all my years with the Jays I have never seen this many guys getting along and having this much fun," said former Jays trainer Tommy Craig. "Do you think this type of camaraderie could put this team over the top?"

The answers will begin to come tomorrow when Team Canada starts its three-games-in-three-days routine: Loewen pitches against South Africa; Eric Bedard faces Team USA and Jeff Francis, who did not play hockey, faces Mexico.

Fortunately for the free-spirited Canadians the worst injury to report was a red welt on the chest of Morneau, the Skins goalie.

Now, this band of ex-hockey players will get back to baseball.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I Remember Math

Why this is noteworthy, I don't know

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!