March 8, 2006


It's America's 'pastime,' but a Latin obsession (GREG COTE, 3/08/06,

Flags waved, whistles blew, horns honked, maracas shook, cowbells clanged and somebody shot high brass notes from a trumpet into a perfect sky. The people who filled the small stadium bobbed and danced and chanted here Tuesday and this was still three hours before the game because, sometimes, when you love it enough, even the anticipation of baseball is plenty.

The map swore this was all happening in the shadow of Walt Disney's Orlando, which is to say Norman Rockwell's America. But it couldn't have been.

This must have been Caracas.

This could have been Santo Domingo.

This might have been heaven, from the vantage of baseball commissioner Bud Selig -- just the right game and just the right atmosphere to launch the controversial, criticized World Baseball Classic in passion and style.

The Dominican Republic would flex its muscles and beat Venezuela 11-5 on a pair of homers each by David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre to offset one (and nearly a second) by the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera. This wasn't so much about the scoreboard, though, especially with both of these Caribbean powers expected to advance to the second round from an Orlando-based pool that includes international baseball weaklings Australia and Italy.

But you weren't going to convince these fans of that. You could argue that no people on Earth hold this game more dearly than do Dominicans and Venezuelans. You can debate whether baseball remains ''America's Pastime.'' You cannot argue it is Latin America's passion. [...]

Dominicans and Venezuelans, more than any other people you can name, are raised on baseball to a degree we no longer are. It is why more than one-third of all players currently in the minor leagues are from those two countries. It is why plenty of people can see a day coming when Major League Baseball's main pipelines begin in the two nations we saw play here Tuesday.

You could say it starts with all of those talented players, but those talented players might argue and say it starts with what you saw and heard in the stands.

''I wasn't surprised at all; that's the way we do it,'' Venezuela pitcher Johan Santana said afterward of the raucous crowd. ``We show today how our passion is for the game. We show today about Latin American baseball.''

The lineups these two teams put on the field and then the one America had out there in the later game were just scary good and because they're actually playing for something it's better than the All-Star Game or World Series.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 8, 2006 11:04 AM

We don't show Latin American besboll.

We show the way out of Hugo's Venezuela.

I hope Floridians remember what "I want to defect" means and know how to hide people.

Posted by: Sandy P. at March 8, 2006 11:20 AM

We don't show Latin American besboll.

We show the way out of Hugo's Venezuela.

I hope Floridians remember what "I want to defect" means and know how to hide people.

Posted by: Sandy P. at March 8, 2006 11:20 AM

Heaven? Maybe it was Iowa. But not in early March.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 8, 2006 11:22 AM

Yes, weren't some of los Cubanos supposed to defect? Was that just wishful thinking on our part?

Posted by: Bryan at March 8, 2006 11:30 AM

As Jim says, look at the calendar. They're playing for nothing. You'll know baseball is serious about this when they put the season on hold for a couple of weeks in July to play the games.

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 12:07 PM

Baseball in July is in no wise superior to that in April or inferior to that in October. it's the game that matters, not the calendar.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:12 PM

'The game' doesn't include enforcing pitch counts--that's 100% due to the calendar. Of course, respect for 'the game' was thrown in the toilet 30+ years ago by the American League owners desperate for more offense, which would lead to more ticket sales.

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 12:23 PM

Letting pitchers bat doesn't demonstrate any particular respect for the game, possibly the contrary.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:29 PM

Official Rules:
1.00 Objectives of the Game
Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 12:38 PM

Yes, there are still nine on the field.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 12:53 PM


If OJ had grown up a Chicago Cub fan, he would agree with you, and we would see the DH accorded the same respect as the automobile around here.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 8, 2006 1:06 PM

As the Winter Olympics showed, it's hard to get Americans jazzed about international competition now that the Soviet Union is gone, and when Sports Illustarted is showing America's top baseball player over the course of the past 20 years, Mr. Bonds, has a drug enhancement regimine that could have put the East Germans to shame. That same apathy isn't there for the Latin American countries, or even for those in the Far East, where there's a better parity in size, a major emotional kick if they can knock off each other and/or the U.S. team, and the lack of an upcoming season where most of these same players will be jumbled together on 29 teams playing in U.S. cities.

Now, if a group of players from some other country who weren't in MLB were to go out in November and defeat the World Series champions, that would get the American public's attention, even during football season, and would make them more interested in international competition the next time around.

Posted by: John at March 8, 2006 1:09 PM

I grew up a Met fan and as good a hitters as Seaver and Koosman were it was painful to watch.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:15 PM

jim: Of course this is a religious issue. OJ's worship of the evil Red Sox is in conflict with my childhood worship of the glorious Cardinals.

A couple of quick questions:

1. What happens if there are 2 pitchers in the game? St. Herzog pulled off a double switch, I believe on more than one occasion, where he brought in Todd Worrell to face a righty, then put him in left field & brought in Ken Dayley to face a lefty, then brought Worrell back to the mound to face the next righty. I think the DH would prevent such managerial brilliance, and hence it is abomination.

2. It seems to me that if Jim Abbott had ever joined an NL team, the Casey Martin precedent would have forced MLB to allow his team to use a designated hitter, because he was unable to bat and the pitcher-must-bat rule is clearly not fundamental to baseball, as the DH is practically universally used on all levels but in the NL.

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 1:19 PM


Yes, the point isn't that non-fanms watch but that this is great baseball.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:21 PM


You'd do the same in the AL if the point was not to lose the pitcher. Even better was when the Mets and Reds had their big brawl in '86 and the Mets ended up with Gary Carter at 3b, Rusty Staub in the OF and both Orosco and McDowell in the game. Davey Johnson not only alternated LH/RH vs. bastters but switched Staub with whichever pitcher was fieling depending on what handed the batter was. There's nothing brilliant about managing with the poitcher's hitting., Any idiot can do it. It just produces bad hitting.

Abbot wasn't a bad hitter. Neither was Pete Gray.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:24 PM

Can anyone name any professional league anywhere, other than the National League, which does not use the Designated Hitter? Just curious to know where pitchers learn to hit these days.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 8, 2006 1:30 PM

oj: Nope.
Official Rules: 6.00 The Batter
"Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game."

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 1:35 PM


Yes, Herzog wasn't using them as DHs either.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 1:38 PM

There's certainly nothing brilliant about managing by sending an immobile behemoth like Mo Vaughn up to the plate every few innings. At any rate, such religious disputes cannot be resolved except by mutual excommunication.

On a side note, those late 80's Mets were among the most evil teams ever. Another favorite moment was the end of the '87 season--the Cards clinched the night before a season-ending series with the Mets, with the Mets in the stadium watching, I believe. HoJo had 99 RBIs, and the Cards pitched around him every time up so that filthy bat-corking cheater wouldn't get the satisfaction of 100...

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 1:48 PM

Another stroke of Johnson genius was to use HoJo & even Kevin Mitchell at ss when El Sid pitched, since he never allowed grounders anyway.

Mo played 1b.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 2:02 PM

AA and AAA affiliates of National League teams bat the pitcher when playing each other (but the DH when playing AL affiliates). That way no call up is likely to bat for the first time in the majors.

Posted by: Kelly at March 8, 2006 4:55 PM


Wow. I guess I just assumed a traditionalist like you would oppose the DH on principle.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 8, 2006 5:47 PM


Seen a pitcher hit lately? seen one bunt? And they don't practice either at all. If they don't take the craft seriously why have them do it?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 5:52 PM

Maybe because they should take the craft seriuosly, or be made to?

Posted by: jdkelly at March 8, 2006 6:17 PM

They get paid too much for pitching to care about hitting. Let a guy who gets paid to hit do it.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 6:24 PM

So it's the money, not the "integrity" of the game?

Posted by: jdkelly at March 8, 2006 8:23 PM

Integrity? where's the integrity in doing something you don't care about doing well?

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 8:32 PM

Might be wrong, but integrity got the job done well at Normandy, Saipan, Okinawa etc.,

Posted by: jdkelly at March 8, 2006 9:11 PM

Integrity? That was just bigger population, better equipment and overextended psychotic foes.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2006 9:29 PM

Meanwhile the USA lost to a team today which fielded a catcher named Maxim St. Pierre.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 8, 2006 10:18 PM


I am very much in agreement with you; I'm an AL guy and I like the DH. I'm just surprised to hear you say it. There's a certain type of baseball fan who hates the DH and you seem like the type.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 8, 2006 10:38 PM

I missed the game today due to work, but my dad tells me Adam Stern had an inside-the-park home run today. Stern played baseball at Nebraska before playing for Canada and the Boston Freakin' Red Sox. I've got a textbook case of mixed feelings.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 8, 2006 10:46 PM

oj: So why not let teams play their best 9 position players in the field, and have a batting order consisting of the best 4 hitters on the roster? That way you'd only see players doing what they were best at...

Posted by: b at March 8, 2006 10:50 PM

For a Mets fan, you have seemingly forgotten Al Weis. Granted, he wasn't a pitcher, but.....

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 9, 2006 1:27 AM

I'd have had Seaver hit and DHed for Weis

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 7:13 AM


They needn't be best, just interested. Pitchers aren't interested in hitting.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 7:19 AM


No, I hate television, the Playoffs, and World Series. I like Spring Training and the radio.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 7:22 AM

Stern's catch today was the heartbreaker.

Posted by: oj at March 9, 2006 7:23 AM


Posted by: David Cohen at March 9, 2006 10:37 AM