This year marks the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in baseball…
From Time Magazine June 21 1999:
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME PLATE
Over the years, baseball players have devised numerous ways to outsmart umpires: corking the bat, throwing spitballs, using steroids. But amazingly, until last week, no one had tried the fake mustache. The ingenious ploy was hatched by New York Mets manager BOBBY VALENTINE after being thrown out of a game for arguing with the plate umpire. Once ejected, players and managers are forbidden to go back into the dugout, but that’s exactly where a camera spotted Valentine. Even sporting facial hair, shades and a hat, Valentine was recognized by officials, who later suspended him for two games and fined him $5,000. Valentine will appeal the suspension, claiming he was only near the dugout and meant no disrespect. “I did it to lighten up the team,” he said. And it looks as if for two games at least the team will be one manager lighter.
An interesting view on Valentine can be seen in the documentary “The Zen of Bobby V.” A fascinating look at how the country of Japan has embraced Valentine and conversely how he respects the nation and baseball in the country. Also includes interviews with Benny Agbayani who played under Valentine for the Chiba Lotte Marines during their 2005 championship.
As a fan of baseball I’m excited to see how the World Baseball Classic pans out this year. I’m not super pumped about a specific team, but this is a time to see how players might perform this year and what new faces may crop up in the majors at some point. Round 1’s first game is that of China vs. Japan and I have to say the odds are stacked in Japan’s favor.
Japan, not only the current title holder, but a strong baseball nation. The lineup is stacked with some well known major leaguers but also a good deal of experienced professionals. Some players to watch:
Toshiya Sugiuchi – Pitched 10.2 innings in the 2008 Olympics with an ERA of 0.84.
Yu Darvish – Second youngest MVP in the Japan Pacific League, said to have more control than fellow countryman Matsuzaka according to past Met Masato Yoshii
As for China, while I can respect their baseball development…well, I wouldn’t put money on them…then again I wouldn’t have put money on the Rays last year and I always stand on a soft 17. Players to watch for:
Chenhao Li – In 10 innings in Beijeng threw a 1.80 ERA for a modest team.
Fenglian Hou – Batted .381 in the Olympics, the highest by far of team China, many of whom are playing in the WBC
It will be a good battle if only because it means baseball is back and the MLB season will be starting soon, however I’m guessing Japan will take this one quite easily.
Watch “The Zen of Bobby V” (ESPN), or watch Mr. Baseball and say you watched “The Zen of Bobby V”