Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Man, I could not have been more wrong about the World Baseball Classic. I thought I was going to be into it when it first started, but other than checking in on it from time to time, it turns out that I could really care less.
For one, I have too much other stuff going on as it pertains to the upcoming major league season. Another problem is that I have no idea where to find the games. Are they on ESPN, are they on the MLB Network, where are they? It has been a joke.
The up-and-down play of the United States hasn't helped either. Davey Johnson is not managing to win games, he is trying to make everyone happy. You cannot tell me that Derek Jeter is a better shortstop than Jimmy Rollins. If they are both going to be in the starting lineup anyway, why is Jeter in the field and Rollins DH-ing?
Jeter almost cost Team USA the win on Tuesday with a pair of balls up the middle that he just could not get to. Let's be honest, Betty White goes to her left better than Captain America these days.
As much credit as people love to heap on Jeter, there is no doubt in my mind that he would not have even played on this team had he not been guaranteed a starting spot.
I thought a sustained U.S. run would generate some excitement, but even though it is in the semifinals this weekend, Team USA, for the most part, has been a disappointment.
Proponents of the WBC will direct you to the Netherlands' thrilling win to knock out the Dominican Republic and Team USA's come-from-behind win over Puerto Rico to advance, but outside of a few diehards, nobody watched those games live.
New York Mets third baseman David Wright, who knocked in the winning runs in Tuesday's thriller, said his bloop two-run single down the right field line was the biggest hit of his career. Really, David? You were in an National League Championship Series right? Maybe if he treated the month of September like the WBC, his Mets wouldn't be carrying that "choker" moniker around.
Major League Baseball can spin it anyway it wants, but these games ARE just glorified exhibition games. There is no way you are ever going to change that.
I know this, I won't get suckered into caring about it four years from now.
Either way, there are still some games to play this weekend, so, let's take a look at the two semifinal matchups:
VENEZUELA VS. KOREA: Korea has been as good as anyone in this tournament, going 5-2 with both of its losses coming at the hands of defending champion Japan. Righty Suk Min Yoon, who has yet to allow a run in 9 2/3 innings of this tournament, will get the call for manager In Sik Kim's club on Saturday, as he tries to slow down the potent Venezuelan offense. Venezuela swept its way through Pool 2 play and has lost only one game this tournament. Since its lone loss to the United States, Venezuela has reeled off five straight wins, while outscoring its opponents 30-11. Carlos Silva is expected to toe the rubber for Luis Sojo's club on Saturday.
UNITED STATES VS. JAPAN: Japan is as set up as any team entering this final weekend. It will be able to throw Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is well on his way to his second WBC MVP Award, on Sunday, then come back with 22-year-old righty Yu Darvish in the championship game on Monday should it get there. Japan, though, will be without first baseman Shuichi Murata the rest of the way after he pulled his hamstring in the meaningless win over Korea to wrap Pool 1 play. The U.S., meanwhile, will likely go with Jake Peavy on Sunday. Peavy was bad his last time out, and has pitched to a 14.40 ERA in his two contests. Injuries have ravaged the American team, as Boston's Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, Florida's Matt Lindstrom, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Atlanta's Chipper Jones have all been hampered by various ailments. Tampa Bay's reigning Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria was added to the Team USA roster on Thursday to replace Jones.
I will save you all some time this weekend. When it is all said and done Japan and Korea are going to meet, for the fifth time this tournament, on Monday night in the championship game at Dodgers Stadium. I hate to spoil it for you, but Japan will win and Dice-K will be the MVP.
Can we please get the real season underway now?