A Caribbean World Series was played in San Francisco this week as the Dominican Republic overachieved their geopolitical stature to dominate Puerto Rico and take the World Baseball Classic. The game had a palpable latin fiesta flare that made Bob Costas seem strangely miscast in a commentator role that should’ve been provided by ESPN Deportes and Pedro Gomez. The biggest winner of the night was Bud Selig, as future tournaments will have to include American star power to allow a U.S. team to compete to win. The only thing better for Bud Selig would’ve been if the Dominicans had faced Cuba for the championship.
In the final game, Jose Reyes continued to lead his Dominican team in hits, quality at-bats and fielding percentage. The Dominicans certainly played like champions, and both Caribbean-national teams were wearing their islandic national pride on their sleeves. While the inclement weather kept the crowds at bay, the game saw big plays being made, with the Dominicans getting contributions from the top of the lineup, including Erick Ayabar, Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes.
The Dominican Republic strolled one pitcher out after another to completely shut down Puerto Rico, who mustered a mere 3 ineffectual hits that never threatened the Dominicans with a run. Fernando Rodney came in for the save, but the championship was settled far earlier. While Puerto Rico wasn’t totally inept offensively, like so many teams they couldn’t get the big hit when it mattered, going 0-11 with Runners In Scoring Position and leaving 8 men stranded on-base. The 29-year old Twins’ starter, Samuel Deduno got the win with a solid outing walking 3 and striking out 5 over his 5 innings of play. Deduno then handed the game over to 4 successive relievers who each went an inning to preserve the shutout.
The Dominican’s were dancing once they had a 2-run lead because they were understandably confident in their pitching staff and offensive prowess. They seemed to be daring Puerto Rico to score, knowing that they’d respond in kind. The Dominican Republic was a certifiably dominant champion, having gone undefeated in the tournament. Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes are great players and they evidenced strong leadership both on the field and in the clubhouse.
The remarkably high quality of baseball talent evidenced in this tournament should motivate Selig to chase the best American players to participate in four years. If Harold Reynolds’ comments prove prescient, the tournament would immediately swing in favor of the Americans, whose national pasttime produces talent at the highest level and in the kind of quantity expected of its baseball-obsessed populaion.
South American baseball is in a position to dramatically alter the MLB landscape should baseball eclipse soccer as the sport preferred by the majority of young people. More players like Felix Hernandez (Venezuela) might be cultivated in the lower hemisphere if baseball were to take its fair share from soccer. The World Baseball Classic is a visibly successful component of Bud Selig’s quest for world domination.