March 18, 2006

Cuba in the Semifinals

Congratulations to the Cuban baseball team for overcoming a slow start and making it to the semifinals of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Four teams left in a 16-team series. Two semifinal games today. One final game next Tuesday. One winner. Although we all win when the world plays baseball, and this series has allowed me to rediscover a great game in which anything can happen.

To get here, the Cuban team played six games and won four. The loss to Puerto Rico (in what will be remembered as the March 10 slaughter) was particularly painful because… it was my fault.

I confess. I fell asleep just before the game began and didn’t wake up until the 5th inning. I had been up early that day, and my batteries were in need of a recharge. I could have set my alarm clock. I could have asked a friend to call and make sure I was awake. Instead I relied on caffeine in large doses. And on this day caffeine failed.

This immature and irresponsible abuse of personal energy resources cursed the Cuban National Team. They lost 12-2 (that’s almost a football score) in seven innings under the mercy rule. Cuba had never lost under the mercy rule before.

Overall, however, the Cuban team has done well. In six games (and four wins) Cuba has outscored their opponents 35 to 32; giving Cuba a +3 runs advantage. The average score for the six games is 5.83 to 5.33, going to Cuba with a .50-run advantage.

However, if we forget the slaughter of March 10 and look at the stats for the last 5 games of the series, things look less… hair-splitting.

In the last 5 games Cuba scored 33 runs, to their opponents’ 20. That’s a +13-run advantage, with the average score of 6.6 to 4.

Getting ready to watch the first game of the semifinals at PETCO Park, I recall my heroic days as a ten-year-old Cuban ballplayer… I played with others from my street, and I was a good first-baseman… I could make the throw to third if I had to. But I couldn’t hit a watermelon with an ironing board. It didn’t diminish my appreciation for the game.

Shortly after arriving in the U.S., I lost my desire for baseball and developed an interest in basketball and football, and rarely played baseball again. Whatever else happens in the series (the Dominicans are heavily favored) I’m glad Cuba got a chance to play, and it seems that the game of baseball is much more interesting when the world is involved.



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