Monday, March 9, 2009

So far, so good

Team USA impressed this weekend as they went 2-0 against some of the better competition in the World Baseball Classic. As it appears now, the players are buying into the team first concept. If you couple that, with the supreme talent that they have on their roster, Team USA could have what it takes to win the WBC in 2009.

Adam Dunn is the personification of Team USA so far. The slugger known as "The Big Donkey" dropped everything a week or two ago when he got the call to replace Brad "Hup" Hawpe for Team USA and has put his heart and soul into this tournament. In game 1 against Canada, Dunn unloaded for a 2 run home run that put the US in the lead for good. He was also seen checking his pulse in the dugout in the last inning as USA closed out a narrow victory. Is he into this or what? Having never been a part of the MLB Playoffs, Dunn remarked that the WBC "is my playoffs". He looks like a kid out there, playing to win and playing for country rather than for self. This is exactly the kind of guy that you want on your team and he is paying big dividends for Team USA. Thank god Brad Hawpe got injured.

As far as talent is concerned, Team USA really showed the importance of having a strong bullpen against team Venezuela. Venezuela was leading the US 3-2 when Armando Galarraga was lifted on Sunday night due to the 70 pitch maximum rule. After that, the Venezuelan bullpen proceeded to give up 13 runs, including 8 in one inning, and the impromptu mamba, samba, salsa and line dancing in the Rogers Centre by the Venezuelan fans was abruptly halted. Meanwhile, the US bullpen went 5 and 1/3 innings giving up only 3 runs. With these pitch maximums in place a good bullpen is crucial; and with all the live arms that the US has in their bullpen even without Joe Nathan and B.J. Ryan, I like their chances against anyone. If Peavy and Oswalt can bounce back in the next round too, we got it made in the shade.

There are still several dangerous teams out there. The Dominican Republic, or Dominica as I call them, came back with a vengeance after a shocking loss to the Netherlands. Cuba and Puerto Rico look mighty strong, and you never know what to expect from those wacky teams from the Orient. Team USA can certainly hang with all of them though. Who knows, The Big Donkey himself might just carry Team USA all the way to the gold on his back.