Before we preview Group C of the World Baseball Classic, some thoughts from the weekend…
We were surprised and I guess happy to see Crash win the best picture last night (or this morning when we read about it) at the Academy Awards. We enjoyed the movie, but were surprised to see it win the Best Picture Oscar because frankly, we were surprised that it could have been the best picture of 2005. We didn’t see the other four nominees and hearing what other people had said we figured that one of those films would win. So when we read that Crash won… well we were surprised. Crash is a good movie and we recommend it, but we find it hard to believe that it was the best movie of 2005. But then again, Forrest Gump did win Best Picture in 1994 over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption and Shakespeare in Love won in 1998 over Life Is Beautiful and Titanic won in 1997 over Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential so it’s not like the award has much meaning anyway.
(Forrest Gump winning over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption has to be one of the worst decisions in movie history... I mean please. I once read that Shawshank bombed at the theaters and there was a lot of bad press around the movie going into the Awards. It wasn't until TNT and TBS started playing it 337 times a week that it took off in popularity. So I could understand Gump getting the nod over Shawshank... but Pulp Fiction! You've got to be kidding me. Gump is fine for what it is, it's an enjoyable movie, but by no means is it a great movie. Pulp Fiction is a great movie.)
(Titanic winning over Good Will Hunting and L.A. Confidential doesn’t seem right and din't seem right at the time. I know everyone and their mother’s dead great-grandmother’s half brothers bastard child saw Titanic, and it isn't half bad, but has anyone watched it in the last five years? Anyone? Meanwhile Good Will Hunting (bad haircuts aside) continues to impress and be loved. And I caught L.A. Confidential on TV about six months ago and it’s a great film.)
(I’m not even going to discuss the fact that Shakespeare in Love beat out Life is Beautiful. Seriously, this is the 1985 World Series of the Academy Awards. Shakespeare in Love?!?!?!)
As the news of violence in Iraq seems to improve a bit comes news of more egg in the face for the United States. 14,000 Iraqis have been detained by US and UK forces without trial and some have been held as long as a year. On top of that, there is growing evidence and concern of Iraqi security forces abusing and torturing detainees. We understand the situation in Iraq is bleak and that it is a war zone, yet at the same time, we are being told by the White House and others that Iraq has a government in place and things are going well. That appears to be extremely far from the truth. Sure Iraq has a government, but it’s clear that this government has next to no power and the little authority it does possess is only because of the US military. The fact that thousands of Iraqis are being arrested without trial just goes to show how weak and inefficient the Iraqi government is. The Iraqi government, right now, might as well be a dog and pony show. We realize that it will take months and years to build the necessary ‘authority’ and ‘control’ that a government needs to rule, but lets not kid ourselves. At this moment the United States is in power in Iraq. The elections have done next to nothing in terms of changing who is in charge and how much authority and control the government has.
But the real concern and problem is that the US and UK forces are the ones detaining these people without trial. The White House goes around preaching freedom, justice, liberty, and equality, but their actions say the exact opposite. Today’s news is just another example in a long line of “Do what I say, not what I do” coming from the US in the last three to four years. I’m not sure we fully realize the damage this has done not only to our image abroad, but also our integrity. We say one thing and do the other and look very hypocritical in the process. And I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes a hypocrite.
Now, on to Group C:
Size: 3,514 square miles, or about slightly less than three times the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island.
Population: 3.9 million
Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes: Have a great deal with the US in that they are a commonwealth, West Side Story, Roberto Clemente, always being talked about becoming the 51st state but then always voting it down, rum, the fact that we, and pretty much every American, should know more about the island but doesn't.
Best player: Carlos Beltran with the Mets, we know he's overrated, but he's a better fielder than Delgado
Best Pitcher: Javier Vazquez the newest starter for the White Sox
Why they'll win their group: Hey look, another team with home field advantage! But to be honest, we think they've just more than the Cuban team. The Cuban team is the dark horse in all this since we don't know much about the talent on that team… but we like Puerto Rico in the end.
Best Part of the Team: They've got some good catchers… but we'll give the nod to the outfield in the end.
Rooting Interest: I know they're part of the US, but they don't feel like their part of the US. We don't want them to lose, but we don't care to be honest.
Overall Tournament Outlook: Getting to the semis might be too much to ask for… Vazquez could help them upset either Venezuela or the Dominican in the second round, but we don't like their chances.
Final Random Thoughts: This team is good, but it has some major holes up and down the line up. They have pitching, but not a lot. They've got some good infielders, but not four. They're outfield is missing on more player… I don't like this team all that much. I think they should breeze to the second round of group play, but that's all.
Size: 110,860 square kilometers, or slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Population: 11 million
Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes: Fidel, Fidel, and Fidel. The US blockade, Being communist, Che, the Cuban missile crisis, rum, cigars, the Bay of Pigs, loving baseball, good music, and Fidel
Best player: Yulieski Gourriel so everyone says. I guess this guy has All-Star written all over him
Best Pitcher: ?????
Why they'll win their group: Honestly, they could win this group… we just don't know. But if the guys they've got on their team are half as good as the few players they've sent to the Majors the last few years… well they'll win.
Why they'll finish in second: Because they might not be as good as we thought they are and Fidel might not send his best team to the WBC because of defections. And as I said, we really don't know what they're bringing to the table. So we'll play it safe and have them finishing second but getting to the next round.
Best Part of the Team: Since Gourriel plays third, we'll say the infield. But their pitching might be fantastic. Might… we just don’t know.
Rooting Interest: Not much… we do want to see them play just to see what sort of talent we're missing out on in the Majors.
Overall Tournament Outlook: As we said, we really don't know how good or bad this team is… they should make it to group play. After that? They could upset the Dominicans or Venezuelans and find their way to the Semis. We don't think it will happen, but it's a crapshoot with these guys. But time will tell… as always.
Final Random Thoughts: This is easily the most intriguing team in the tournament. I can't wait to see them play and see what they have to offer. Other than that… we don't have much to say. But seeing how well Contreras, Livan Hernandez, and El Duque have pitched in the post season, the Cubans do seem to have a flair for the moment. They come to play and seem to be clutch. So that’s something to look for… this team won’t buckle under the pressure. That might be enough to get them to the semis. But don't be shocked if Fidel doesn't send the best of the best.
Size: 30,193 square miles, or slightly smaller than South Carolina
Population: 3 million
Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes: The Panama Canal, US Marines invading the country in the late 80s, that Van Halen song, being in Central America
Best player: Carlos Lee who’s with the Brewers
Best Pitcher: Bruce Chen of the O’s
Why they'll win their group: They get a few good pitching performances and Carlos Lee hits 5 home runs.
Why they'll finish in third: Because they don’t have the talent of Cuba or Puerto Rico and we don’t think the Dutch will be much of a problem when they face off.
Best Part of the Team: The outfield… Carlos Lee, is out there.Rooting Interest: Not much… I could careless about this team.
Overall Tournament Outlook: One win and maybe put up a fight against either Cuba or Puerto Rico
Final Random Thoughts: This is the blandest team in the tournament. Doesn’t anyone feel either way about them? They’ve just okay, not bad, but not a threat to make much noise. I have nothing to say about them.
Size: 16,033 square miles, or slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Population: 16.25 million (plus 71,500 in Aruba and 219,000 in the Dutch Antilles).
Most Famous For in VFLOAB eyes: Amsterdam, being really good at soccer but never winning the World Cup and only one Euro Title, wearing orange in sporting events, tulips, wind mills, dikes, wooden shoes, and being cool.
Best player: Andruw Jones
Best Pitcher: Calvin Maduro I guess, but he hasn’t been in the Show since 2002 so who knows.
Why they'll win their group: Fidel pulls Cuba, Puerto Rico’s bus blows up, and they upset Panama.
Why they'll finish in fourth: They don’t have much on this team… Jones is a great player and a top ten talent in the majors, but they just don’t have any pitching.Best Part of the Team: Centerfield.
Rooting Interest: Much, we’re a sucker for Europe, so we would love to see them move on and make some upsets.
Overall Tournament Outlook: They probably won’t win a game, but they’ll be fun to watch… okay we just made that up. It’s not good, they’d be lucky to win one game, but it could happen.
Final Random Thoughts: If they don’t wear orange I’m not going to watch the WBC. Seriously, if there is one thing I’m demanding, it’s that they wear orange. I like the fact that they’re taking part in this tourney. Gives it a little change of pace that feels right, baseball isn’t totally foreign to them and it gets Europe involved. So yay.