Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were still the main baseball announcers for ESPN's televised coverage, and it was hard not to notice that while Miller relished pronouncing every "ñ" and "rr" on the Cuban team, Morgan tripped over name after name. Both men are in the Hall of Fame, and listening to them cover the World Baseball Classic, it was no mystery which man was enshrined for his words, and which for his play.
I was much more in tune with baseball in those days. Of course I had more time, too. I didn't know all the players on the Cuban or Japanese WBC squads, but I could probably name the managers and general managers for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. In general, I haven't followed the game as closely as I did in 2006, the Mets' last great season before their '07 and '08 September collapses. I watched almost every game with my mom on the Mets' new cable channel, SNY. It was a good ride: the Mets won their first division since we moved to California in 1989. I even drove to Los Angeles to watch their Game 3 clincher against the Dodgers. The Mets dropped the ALCS to the Cardinals, though, and I started working three jobs that offseason. By June of the following year, I found a new job, one that stuck, one with benefits, and I've been working for them ever since.
I don't really remember much about the second WBC in 2009, though I have vague memories of lots of American players getting hurt and dropping out during the first few games of the tournament. Did we lose a game to the Netherlands? That resonates. I think part of the reason I don't remember much about that second tournament is that I was --- well, I was a bit occupied: working on a promotion (I got it, and still have the "new" job four years later); starting a new relationship (that "new" girlfriend is now my fianceé). Anyway, watching the World Baseball Classic wasn't really on my radar that year as much as the inaugural tournament. I didn't even have TV at home!
This time around I want to really pay attention to the World Baseball Classic. I just read through the rules and jotted down notes. I've got tickets to the championship round games in San Francisco in mid-March, and I'm even planning to shell out for cable so I can record the first and second rounds of play.
Some of the topics I want to investigate before the 2013 WBC gets started include:
- What is the most coveted uniform number for each team? I would guess every Puerto Rican will want to wear 21 (for Roberto Clemente). Are there similar special numbers for other countries?
- Each first round pool features one team playing in its home country (though I'm not sure how the Chinese Taipei/Taiwan thing works, exactly): Japan, Chinese Taipei/Taiwan, Puerto Rico, and USA. Have teams playing in their home countries typically enjoyed a special advantage? I know we're working with a small sample size since there have only been two tournaments, but I'm still curious.
- Which team has the most experienced players? Experience as professionals vs. experience in WBC 1 & 2.
- Games will be played at stadiums around the globe. What are the different stadiums named after? Are they all corporations? What kinds of corporations?
- Where are players born? Are they typically born in the lands they are representing? Or are they playing for the homeland of a parent? Which team is the most "pure" by this standard?
- What is the national ____ of each team? (Fill in the blank with: animal; color; song; film; export; drink; food; car). What, if anything, does this tell us about that team?