OBSERVATIONS: WBC is baseball the way it should be played

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching one of the best baseball games I’ve ever seen, the WBC’s Japan-USA game, and I’ve covered more than 7,000 games. This one rivals Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox.

—BASEBALL AT ITS BEST: What the World Baseball Classic did for the game in two weeks is something MLB commissioner Rob Manfraud couldn’t do in a century.

More than 75 million fans around the world watched Tuesday’s final game between the USA and Japan and they watched baseball the way it is supposed to be played. No gimmicks. Just good ol’ fashioned baseball.

It was a shame for USA fans that ‘The Dream Team’ of MLB’s finest players lost. . .but what a game, the 3-2 loss.

The Japanese team had better pitching and it showed. USA’s two runs came on solo home runs. Trea Turner connected in the first inning, his third in two games and fifth of the tournament.

The second was hit into outer space by Middletown native Kyle Schwarber in the eighth inning. . .and what an at bat. The home run came on the 11th pitch of the at bat after he hit two foul ball home runs. The home run needed a pilot and co-pilot for it to make a safe landing in the upper deck.

That cut Japan’s lead to 3-2 and set up a confrontation that only Cecil B. DeMille could conjure. Two outs in the ninth inning. Lo and behold it would be a battle between Los Angeles Angels teammates, pitcher Shohei Ohtani and batter Mike Trout, two MLB mega-stars.

The count went to 3-and-2. . .of course it did. In Cecil B. DeMille’s celluloid world, Trout hits the next pitch into the great beyond to tie it.

In the real world, Ohtani threw an other-worldly slider and The Mighty Trout struck out for the third time. Game over, Japan wins, 3-2.

But what a glorious game.

—QUOTE: From Mike Trout about the WBC: “This is the most fun I’ve ever had on a baseball field.” (He said that before he struck out to end the game, but he also said he wants to play in the next WBC four years from now, “Even if I have to be the DH.”)

—JUNIOR EXECUTIVE: With most of the best hitters in the world on its World Baseball Classic roster, what did Team USA need with a hitting coach?

Nevertheless, they had one of the best. . .Ken Griffey Jr. Asked what he did, he said, “Mostly I play checkers.” And there is nobody in the baseball world who can copy Griffey’s sugar-sweet swing.

Junior is 53 years old and 13 years removed from his last MLB swing. The USA players coaxed him into taking batting practice and, of course, he ripped one out of the park.

Too bad he couldn’t help Mike Trout in the ninth-inning. . .or even pinch-hit for him.

Hey, maybe the Cincinnati Reds should activate him. They are paying him $3.6 million this year on his deferred contract. That’s third highest on the Reds’ projected payroll behind Joey Votto ($25 million) and Wil Myers ($6 million).

—QUOTE: From Ken Griffey Jr.: “You lose, you smile, you come back the next day. You win, you smile, you come back the next day.” (Unfortunately for Team USA, there is no next day.)

—WASH AND DRY: Basketball coach/meanderer Rick Pitino reminds us of one of those old snake oil salesmen that traveled quickly from place-to-place. Pitino’s resume includes the phrase, “Have clipboard and whistle, will travel.”

On the college level, the stickers on his brief case include Boston University, Providence, Kentucky, Louisville, Iona and now St. John’s. He also coached a team in Greece, plus the NBA’s New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.

He was run out of Louisville after a couple of sex scandals and NCAA violations that included an assistant coach negotiating a $100,000 shoe deal to a high school kid. The NCAA sanctioned Pitino for not controlling his program and took away Louisville’s 2013 national championship.

Then he made a quick stop at Iona before landing this week at St. John’s. One of my favorite writers, Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, called Pitino’s layover at Iona, “A reputation rinse.”

For sure, Pitino is always on the rinse cycle.

As for St. John’s, what about Catholic values. It seems there is an 11th commandment at work: “Win at all costs.”

—QUOTE: From Rick Pitino: “Success is determined by your daily choices and habits.” (Does this fall undeer the catogery of do as I say, not as I do?)

—RAPPER/HOOPER: You have two chances to know who Flo’Jae Johnson is. Are you a rap fan? Are you a women’s baskertball fan?

Johnson is a rapper/hooper. She has recorded rap albums, just as her father, Jason (Camouflage) Johnson did. He was shot and killed when he was 21, six months before Flo’Jae was born.

She wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps and took it a few steps farther. She plays basketball, a McDonald’s All-American and four-star recruit. She signed with LSU and quickly became one of the few freshmen to start for the Bayou Bengals.

There’s more. Before she made her first collegiate dribble, she signed a shoe contract with Puma under the NIL (name, image, likeness) umbrella. And at last tally she was making $250,000 in endorsement deals.

—ODDLY SPEAKING: Now that Fairleigh Dickinson is ‘famous’ for basketball, it is time to reveal some bizarre things residing in the school’s sports history.

**The school once had a one-armed fencer.

**The school once had a 46-year-old football player.

**The school once had a 5-foot-8 high jumper.

**The school once had a baseball player who set a national record for getting hit by pitches.

**The school now needs a new basketball coach after Tobin Anderson left to replace Rick Pitino at Iona. Was that a step up for Anderson? Seems more like a lateral move.

Maybe that’s why a Facebook friend calls the school Fairly Ridiculous.

—WRIGHT IS RIGHT: Another classic from deadpan comedian Steve Wright: “They say you never know what you had until it’s gone. I wanted to know what I had, so I got rid of everything.”

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