Off Base
International House of Baseball

March 18, 2008

So the world has gone baseball crazy. The Dodgers play two in China, accompanied by some other club, and it's a glorious exhibition of international goodwill toward man.

So what if the boys kicked the ball around like a shu mai dipped in a literally-foreign substance. It was nice little field trip, and the youngsters got to pose for some cool pics, grinning atop the Great Wall of China. Can we get back to the business at hand now, please? There's a championship season to prepare for.

Look, it's not that I'm a total grinch about the institution of international baseball events, "classic" though some of them may be. I'm a grinch, yes; just not a total grinch.

But really, it's more a case of my being indifferent about the whole thing. I just don't care. I don't care about interleague play either, if that tells you something. Bores me to tears. Not a big fan of World Series home field advantage being decided by the All-Star Game either. And tell me the first baseball game ever in China ending in a tie wasn't exactly right. Just perfect.

Can you blame me for being a tad skeptical of just about any idea put forth by Bud Selig? Hasn’t he earned the skepticism? C'mon; isn't the notion that the whole China thing is at least as much about merchandising as it is about the actual presentation of our national pastime to countries so unfortunate to be without?

The Dodgers deserve credit for participating. Fine, the Padres too; as if they had anything better to do. L.A.'s management and players were especially good sports about the whole thing. Splitting Spring Training into two ends of one continent, to play two fake games on another, while breaking in a new manager and coaching staff, is doing something. Like going the extra 15,000 miles.

Baseball just isn't set up to work with the kind of travel required to play international exhibitions. Neither in March nor in November, which are the two times most feasible.

Breaking up the spring takes away from the training. Dividing squads by country, as in the case of the World Baseball Classic, takes away from team. Ramping up the competition in early-March, as is done with the WBC, leads to injury.

Let's get back to the business at hand, the important stuff, like the final ten days of Spring Training. Highlights include the Dodgers versus the Red Sox, March 29, at the Coliseum. Now that is a cool idea.

Luckily for baseball, for every thoroughly-about-money contrivance of the commissioner's, there's a partially-about-money-but-genuinely-about-worthwhile-baseball-history promotion by Los Angeles. The Dodgers return to the Coliseum 50 years after their L.A. debut is such a promotion.

Of course, highlights of the last days of Spring Training also include the disposition of the Juan Pierre situation. And won't that be fun. I still say JP will be traded before Opening Day, opening a roster spot for Jason Repko.

But we'll live if it doesn't come down. Pierre is better than his spring numbers indicate. He's not better than Andre Ethier, but he's better than he's looked this March. If Pierre were taking home $600,000 on a one-year deal, no one would mind his making the club as a fourth outfielder. Unfortunately that's not the case. I have a feeling, that even if he's stuck with Pierre in April, Joe Torre will make the right call, and go with Ethier…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Media Savvy: Once again, we turn to the sage-like words of, for a line about the left field play of the Dodgers Monday: "While Juan Pierre was grounding out in all five of his at-bats, Andre Ethier finished 4-for-5 with a homer, a triple and three RBI against the Astros on Monday. Call us crazy, but Ethier just might be the better player of the two. He's batting .354 with five homers, 13 RBI and a 1/8 K/BB ratio in 48 at-bats."

Rotoworld again, re Brett Tomko: "Brett Tomko struggled through 4 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Friday, allowing six runs -- four earned -- and eight hits. Call us crazy, but we say this is a good thing for the Royals. It figured that the team would suffer through at least 10-12 of his starts this season before realizing that he was a liability. It looks like Luke Hochevar maybe the favorite to take the rotation spot that figured to go to Tomko."

Call me crazy, but I love the guys at Rotoworld.

A ton has been written in the last week about the end of Vero Beach as we know it. A ton. You've no doubt seen the local perspective, via the Los Angeles Times and Daily News. For an out-of-town and more objective point of view, here's a nice piece by Barry Syrluga, of the Washington Post. And in a sour-grapes-like take, an editorial from the TC Palm

Baseball Flicks: Filmmaker Kevin Bender celebrates the 20th anniversary of his fine production, "Ball Talk: Baseball's Voice of Summer," with a DVD re-release, available at Amazon. Famed announcers featured include Mel Allen, Red Barber, Jack Brickhouse, Jack Buck, Curt Gowdy and Ernie Harwell…

Baseball Art: For some of the best you'll ever see, anywhere, you absolutely must check out the Orange Crate Label Series work of Ben Sakoguchi. In particular, The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 100-odd Paintings. Here's an example:

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Quotebook: Years ago, after his return from a trip to China, Jerry Lewis had this to say about the Great Wall: "It's not a great wall. It's a good wall."

Asked whether he'd seen the Parthenon during a visit to Greece, Shaquille O'Neal once said, "I don't remember the names of the clubs we went to."

Poli-Sigh: What if global warming was caused, not by what is now considered to be the prevailing science, decades of abuse of the planet by its inhabitants, but by the dumping of that diner-full-of-goo into the Artic Ocean, at the conclusion of "The Blob"? I'm just saying…

Remember, glove conquers all....







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