Most of us realize by now that no, you can’t always get what you want. If you try some time, however, you might get Mike Trout versus Shohei Ohtani for all the marbles. That was, indeed, a spectacular finish to what is called the World Baseball Classic, and it was great fun. Now it is Opening Day for Major League Baseball and 2023 promises to be great fun as well. As usual, the consensus among the well fed experts is that an East coast powerhouse team, probably from New York but perhaps from Philadelphia will win it all after all the chalk dust settles. One suspects, however, that Dusty Baker and the Houston Astros might be around at the finish, but let us not get too far ahead of ourselves. I mean it’s not even April Fools Day yet.
Predicting the future is more fun for young people than it is for those of us who are old enough to remember fender skirts and fifteen cent hamburgers, and yours truly has been a member of the latter group for a little while now. So I will refrain from my usual habit of acting like a know it all now that I am what they call long in the tooth (what tooth?). At least, that is, insofar as it pertains to pennant winning. I will venture a few baseball predictions, however, to get us going and here they are. First, Trea Turner, barring injury, will steal 94 bases this year. Shohei Ohtani would match that if he played every day or hit fewer home runs. Second, ballpark sales and consumption of beer and what used to be called snacks but now have apparently become “dining options” will fall off considerably since the pitch clock and other changes are shortening game times so much. This will result in owners chucking all the “new rules” before the season ends. Third, the boring tendency to hire beefy, slow long ball hitters that strike out almost half the time as designated sitters will ultimately trend toward the hiring of speedy runners who make frequent contact with the baseball when they have a bat in their hands as designated sitters. The first and last of those predictions , if accurate, will improve the game.
Let’s get back to the WBC now. The idea of a baseball world cup type tournament is a very good one, and this year was a lot better than previous attempts. Like the rest of the planet, things were still set up largely in favor of the United States, but that’s what glorious empires do. There were some drawbacks, of course. The USA team looked unbeatable, didn’t it? Mexico and Japan were not intimidated though, were they? And it was a bit embarrassing to see US2, US3,and US4 mixed in. Those were Italy, with 24 players born in the USA, Great Britain, with 20 players born in the USA, and Israel, with a whopping 30 USA born players. Still, there were some terrific contests once pool play was completed and there were a lot of heartening , feel good stories. So let’s have more.
Better yet,let us indulge ourselves in a bit of fantasy. What if it became truly a World Series every year? Traditionally, colonial powers extract resources and other forms of wealth from the conquered nations: steelworkers and miners from relatively impoverished nations, for example, or, more recently, baseball players from Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, etc. Would it not be great fun if each of these other nations, including Cuba, had their own Major league teams playing in their own cities? What a boost for all economies that might be! The understanding and acceptance of other cultures could bolster the idea of peaceful international relations and understanding to a level that seems unreachable today except in rhetoric from phony politicians.
Opening Day has always been for optimists. This thought will sustain me for now. Congratulations to Team Japan and their venerable manager Hideki Kuriyama. Thanks to Kazuma Okamoto, Munetaka Murakami, Lars Nootbar and the rest of the champions It was good to see Johnny Cueto, Camilo Doval, Rafael Devers, Wander Franco, Ketel Marte, Manny Machado and Team Dominican Republic do so well.Cuba did well with the help ofYoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Jr., and Moenis Cespedes. I was rooting for Mexico to beat japan in the semi-final with Patrick Sandoval, Taijuan Walker, Austin Barnes, and the Cuban who floated away, Randy Arozarena, but it was good that Japan prevailed because we got that Ohtani- Trout finale. Mexico had edged a very fine Puerto Rico team managed by Yadier Molina with Francisco Lindor, Martin Maldonado, and Alexis Diaz. Diaz was the unfortunate one who was lost for the season with injury and his teammate, Jose Altuve, also was seriously injured. Venezuela’s great team was led by Salvador Perez, Miguel Cabrera, and Ronald Acuna, Jr.
Let’s do this more often!