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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Take Me Out to the Brawl Game

The World Baseball Classic is in full swing (get it?).  The WBC, of course, is the baseball world's quadrennial attempt to inject the sport with the international appeal of soccer.  And while not yet managing to capture the thrill of the 0-0 tie decided by penalty kicks, the tournament has at least reached a level of respectability where top-tier major leaguers are willing to take part--which is more than can be said for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, so that's something.

Yesterday, however, the tournament was sullied by a bench-clearing brawl between the Canadian and Mexican national teams.  Tempers flared when a Canadian batter bunted for a base hit in the ninth inning, despite the fact that Canada was ahead by six runs.  According to baseball's famous unwritten rules, bunting for a base hit in this situation is considered poor form--piling on runs for no particular purpose.  At the WBC, however, the strategy makes sense: "Run differential" is a factor used in deciding which teams advance in the tournament in the event of ties in the final standings, so teams understandably want to score as many runs--even "meaningless" runs--as possible.

Despite this reasonable explanation for the strategy, the Mexican pitcher seemed to take offense: He hit the next batter with a pitch, which led to small onfield riot. Even fans got into the act, throwing water bottles and baseballs at players and coaches.  Whether this will prove to be a black eye for the WBC remains to be seen.  Indeed, some commentators speculate that this could be good in the long run, as it provides evidence to uninterested American fans (and players) that this tournament is something that players take seriously.

The deeper significance, though, may be a move toward elminating the inanity of Daylight Savings Time: After all, if springing forward makes Canadians cranky, imagine the effect it must have on the rest of us.

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