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View from the Couch – Baseball Season

The View from the Couch – by Gavin McDougald!

Mar 3rd, 2009 – As the Groin Pulls

It’s one of the annual traditions of spring training. Writers may wax poetic on the green grass, the bluer than blue skies and the endless possibilities each team may have for the upcoming season– but what baseball in March is really all about are hip-adductors, namely the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, gracilis, and pectineusmuscles tearing, as out of shape ball players try to run from here to there.

In short – it’s all about the groin pull.

If you don’t believe me, do a Google news search* on groin pull – and you will find that nine of the top ten stories are on baseball players out for the spring with groinal related injuries. Quick aside: The other one, weirdly enough, is about the “Amazing Race” and the old guy Mel who is struggling keeping up. Just goes to show you – reality TV is a sporting event – according to Google anyway.

But back to baseball.

It’s been understood for years that spring training goes on far too long. Since most players train all year the regular hitters, after they can once again walk upright, need just a few weeks to work out the kinks. Pitchers are even less needy as they are ready to go after just a few starts. For them, what this month long exercise in, well, exercise, is really about is holding back airing it out until the actual season gets going.

So – why does baseball do this? First off, because there are a whole bunch of mystery players trying to make the team and it takes that long to check them out in game-like situations. That, and the month in sun also makes the owners a whole pile of money.

For most fans however, unless they can nip off to Florida or Arizona for a few games, a month of learning about guys they’ve never heard of before or getting the latest groin injury update gets old, fast.

This year however, it’s different.

With the Olympics kicking baseball to the gutter, in an attempt to put baseball back on the map internationally, in 2005 Major League Baseball announced the creation of something they audaciously named the “World Baseball Classic.” It would be their attempt to confront other international sporting extravaganzas, like those nasty Olympics or soccer’s World Cup, head on.

The first one went off reasonably well. Behind Dice-K’s pitching, Japanshocked the world winningitall 3 years ago. Don’t remember? It was a thriller, for those in the stands and in Japan and Cuba (who lost the final 10-6) anyway. For the rest of the world, once the home country was eliminated, the novelty act went by mostly unnoticed.

Now here’s the big question baseball has to answer: Can something that’s two earn that title, “Classic” Answer: Could be…

…depending on who is playing.

No offence to Japan or Cuba, but back in 2006 a final between those two played in San Diego was certain to draw little interest from the locals, or the American TV audience.

This year the finals are being held in Miami. Co-inky-dink you think, considering that Miami is about 35% Cuban? Major League Baseball knows the only way to build this thing up is to build the excitement in the ballparks themselves. MLB was very smart in the way they worked out the details. (Yes – “MLB” and “smart” in the same sentence. It’s a whole new world!)

China, Japan, Chinese Tapei, and Korea play their first round games at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. South Africa, Cuba, Australia, and Mexico are in Mexico City. Canada, USA, Italy, and Venezuela will play their games in Toronto. And finally, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Panama and Puerto play in San Juan.

Sixteen countries playing internationally, with the second rounds and the finals back in the States – and based on how things fall, the chances are good that the home team, U.S.A which is heavily favored, will have a nice path to Miami. On the other hand the other favorites, Japan and Cuba will spend some time beating the crap out of one another 14 time zones away, and then travel to the States for the playoffs.

Team U.S.A. will need every advantage they can get. Cuba has long been the standard in international baseball. And despite Japan’s exhaustion handicap, they’ve been practicing together since mid-February drawing huge crowds and tons of media. Team star Ichiro Suzuki let the New York Times know he and his teammates are taking this sucker seriously. “I feel a responsibility to help nurture this tournament into an important piece of baseball’s fabric for future generations.”

Conversely, American players appear to be feigning interest and didn’t get together until just this week – five days before their first game against Canada on Saturday.

Regardless, as the snow finally melts, it’ll be a refreshing change to have actual meaningful baseball to watch. Instead of focusing on far too many men’s groins.

Cheers – Gavin McDougald – AKA Couch

* Make sure it’s a Google “news” search on groin pulls. Just a regular search on that topic may just yield you a whole bunch of stuff you might not be that into. Final Safety Tip: No matter what – don’t hit “images!”



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  1. Unless you live in Florida or Arizona or plan a late winter visit , Spring training baseball is hard to get excited about, and even then it is just an excuse to hang out at the park and drink a few beers. At least the “World Baseball Classic” has some competitive angle to it. I find it a great diversion for the true baseball junkie looking for some early season action on the field. Maybe over the next few years it will grow in popularity, especially since baseball is no longer part of the Olympics.