As I watched the World Baseball Classic match-up between Team USA and Team Mexico on Friday evening, something dawned on me – I found myself actually rooting for Team Mexico.
Why? You might ask. Is there something wrong with me? After all, I am about as Red, White and Blue as they come; but deep down inside, I think the Blue has over-powered the Red and White – Dodger Blue, that is.
My loyalty has to do with my Dodger roots and my love for them, and Team USA doesn’t have a single Dodger on their roster, while Team Mexico has Dodger ties all over the place. From Fernando Valenzuela to Karim Garcia, Luis Cruz to Adrian Gonzalez. Team Mexico might as well suit up in Dodger unis because there’s more Dodger Blue with that group than the team with USA across their chests.
Sure, Team USA has several former Dodger coaches, but let’s face it, Larry Bowa is a Phillie, Joe Torre is a Yankee and Greg Maddux is a Brave. With players like David Wright, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Braun, what’s there to root for? I spend the whole year rooting against those guys, why would that change now? It’s not like Kemp and Kershaw are on the team. If they were, I would undoubtedly feel differently.
So as I watched the USA vs. Mexico game on Friday night, I found great enjoyment and satisfaction in seeing our Adrian Gonzalez and our Luis Cruz drive in all five runs for Team Mexico; and as a Dodger fan, how can you not love that? I should probably hope that Team Mexico is quickly eliminated from the WBC so that our guys can get back to spring training camp with the rest of the Dodgers… but I just can’t do that.
I know that Cruz and Gonzalez have worked extra hard to prepare for this WBC tournament, working out together during the off season. They have both really put in a lot of time and effort to get ready for the WBC knowing that it would shorten their spring training time with the Dodgers, but they both want to prove something to the world. How can that type of determination hurt their Dodger seasons as long as they stay free from injury? Cruz lived at Gonzalez’s residence and trained with Adrian and his brother Edgar – these guys are hungry to succeed.
Have you ever seen Adrian Gonzalez as excited as he was after hitting his two-run homer off of R.A. Dickey in the 3rd inning of Friday night’s game? It was classic. Adrian rarely displays emotion on the playing field and he was as exuberant and animated as I have ever seen him. I’d venture to say that he might consider that homer against Team USA as the biggest in his career. I didn’t know Gonzalez had that kind of excitement in him.
Don’t get fooled that this tournament has little meaning; the WBC means a great deal to everybody involved – with the exception of maybe Team USA and Team Canada I would argue. I know it’s pretty early to call things, but again I see a U.S. team as one that isn’t a cohesive group, just like in 2006 and 2009 . They’ve practiced together for only a week and that isn’t enough time for them to bond or gel into a true team with the capability of winning a tournament of this magnitude and talent.
The Dominicans are playing out of their minds and seem to be on a mission. They are definitely the team to beat to win the WBC title and their manager, Tony Pena, laid out the law for them early on: If you’re coming to play this time around, you better come to play all out and play to win. The DR is determined to show the world that they can dominate this game and they showed it earlier this week by blowing out the Phillies and Cole Hamels, and then taking apart the Yankees the next day. Their stellar play has continued into the tournament, as evidenced by their 9-3 pounding of Team Venezuela on Thursday night.
The Netherlands and Italy have surprised just about everybody. Both are playing exciting, selfless baseball. They have succeeded and they deserve it as well.
We’ll see about Team USA, but they are now in serious trouble of early elimination if they don’t turn things around quickly. Can you imagine Team USA not advancing past a team made up of Italian minor leaguers and amateurs? It very well might happen later today.
Crazy stuff folks… just crazy.