Moderator: Matt Meyers chats live from the WBC in Orlando at 4 p.m. ET.
Bobby Digital from Staten Island asks: With
so much negative press surrounding this event, describe the atmosphere
in Orlando. It was clear that the fans at the game were into this
series on TV, but once you get outside the park, is there a buzz, or is
it just another spring training exhibition?
Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for this World Baseball Classic
chat. I am sitting in the press section in right field watching
Venezuela take batting practice as they prepare for Italy.
Had to take this one from my boy Bobby Digital. As Method Man once
said, “Can’t forget Bobby, if I did I’d feel gypped, Like my sandwich
ain’t a sandwich without Miracle Whip.”
Matt Meyers: To answer your question, there is a lot of
atmosphere throughout the Disney complex which has done a good job of
promoting awareness for the event. Walking up to the ballpark does have
an exciting feel that certainly exceeds your typical spring training.
Lots of vendors, lots of WBC garb and lots of meddia. However, when you
drive around Orlando it does not feel as though the local community is
really fired up about it. But then again, it is hard to compete with
Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios. I mean, have you ever
been on Back to the Future, the Ride?
Mick from Chicago asks: Will
Australia ever produce talent on a regular basis? The number of players
signing in MLB seems to have shrunk significantly in recent years?
Mick, it is hard to tell at this point. The Aussies were extremely
disappointed after last night’s debacle. They all truly believed they
could win, so to lose like that was a major hit for them. At the same
time, it is just one game and should not be seen as evidence they won’t
produce big leaguers. Glenn Williams could finally be on the verge of
making it to the big leagues full time and Justin Huber should be there
soon. The Twins, who are excellent judges of amateur talent, seem to
think there is talent there, so I will trust their judgement and give
some of the younger guys like Mildren and Oeltjen time to develop.
Fidel Castro from Havana asks: Could my team truly be overrated?
At this rate, the U.S. will never see the best team in the world!
Are you surprised we didn’t show up against Panama today?
From what I see, the Cubans have rallied to tie the game at 4 so they
have shown up, even if it was late. I will wait until the tourney is
over to evaluate Cuba. They are in a tough group and Panama has been
competitive with Cuba at recent international events, and now they also
have the likes of Carlos Lee, Bruce Chen and some other big leaguers.
To me, Cuba not making it out of group play does not mean they are
overrated as long as they compete. If they get blown out, I might
J.P. Whatley from Spray, Oregon asks: So
what’s your take on the controversial no-homer by Venezeula yesterday?
Was it the right call, or should it have been ruled a home run?
JP, from my seat in right it looked like the right call. The bottom
line is that it simply did not go over the fence. However, part of me
wishes it was ruled a home run just to make the game even more
exciting. In some MLB parks they have yellow lines at the top of the
wall and if it hits the yellow line it is a home run. There is no
yellow line here, so no homer. But if there were a yellow line here, it
would have been one. Good job by the umps conferring and getting it
pete from nyc asks: Did Canada really need a 9th inning rally to be South Africa?
Yes, they did. That was shocking and combined with Italy giving Team
USA a run for their money, the teams that were initially given no
chance should now have some hope. Hopefully, it will give Italy some
confidence tonight because a victory for them would really blow this
tourney open and give March its first huge upset.
Todd from Boston asks: It
sounds like a lot of the non-participating players said they’d be a lot
more willing to do it if the WBC took place during a 2-week hiatus
around the All-Star break. Do you think Bud Selig will consider this
for the next tourney?
Todd, I can’t read Selig’s mind (though that would be cool) but If this
year’s WBC makes money, I think it will remain the same the next time
they do it. If it loses money, we will either never see it again, or
they will consider changing the timing of it. I think a midseason break
for the WBC would be amazing, but if it meant fewer MLB games that
season, forget about it. The owners don’t want to lose home dates. As
Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg taught us, it’s all about the Hamiltons
Caitlin from Schenectady, New York asks: Hey,
Matt! Of all the players on Cuba’s team who is the best in your opinion
and how many of their players would you like to see defect and play
ball in the United States?
I was going to say Yulieski Gourriel even before he just homered to
give Cuba a 6-4 lead, so I think that seals it. That kid can play
though because of his family, it is apparently unlikely that the
21-year-old will defect. I would love to see more of their players
defect, but I would never want them to do it unless they were sure they
wanted to. The separation from their familiesfriends must be horrible.
Other guys I would want to see face big leaguers (and will this week)
are Eduardo Paret, Pedro Luis Lazo and Yunieski Maya.
Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks: Are Al Leiter, Matt Holliday, Dan Wheeler, Todd Jones, and Gary Majewski really the best America has to offer?
No, they aren’t. Though if you want a deep relief staff Wheeler should
be in the discussion. That being said, it doesn’t really matter to me.
I would rather watch guys who want to be there over better players who
are indifferent. What makes international competition so exciting is
that the players are there for pride, not money. Chad Cordero stopped
taking his asthma medication before spring training because it is a
substance banned by the WBC and if he kept taking it, he would have
failed a WBC drug test. That is the kind of attitude I like to see.
Grady Sizemore from Winter Haven, Fla. asks: Any idea why Team USA passed me over on this year’s WBC USA roster?
Not really, but it looks like they deferred to veterans when possible
so at least they were consistent. As a result, centerfielders like
Damon, Griffey and Wells go the nod first. If there is another WBC in
four years, I would be surprised if Sizemore is not the center fielder
for Team USA.
Kyle Tarr from Springfield, IL asks: How would you handicap Italy’s chances of advancing into the 2nd round?
It will be a tall order, but I think it comes down to tonight’s game. A
win tonight and Venezuela cannot advance which would all but clinch it
for Italy. Thanks to great pitching last night, they only had to use
one reliver so they have almost their entire staff.
More than anything, they need to execute in the field and not give
Venezuela extra outs or extra bases. They have some big league caliber
hitters and they will need a contribution from them. Does Piazza have
some magic left in his bat? We will see tonight, but after seeing South
Africa compete with Canada, I am more convinced then ever that Italy
can pull off the upset tonight.
Matt Meyers: For me, the
Italian team is a great story because even though most of them are not
Italian-born, they all have a great deal of Italian pride. Playing in
this event gives them a chance to show that pride and they are eager to
do so. In last night’s press conference, Piazza spoke poignantly about
his grandfather, a welder from Sicily and how honored he was to
represent Italy because of him. The attitude of the Italian team seems
to be, “nationality goes beyond a passport.”
Elena from Boston asks: Is there anyone cheering for the Cubans? I would have to imagine there can’t be many defectors who would cheer for them right?
I don’t think defectors are cheering for them, but I think a lot of
baseball fans want to see them advance because they would love to see
them play against the Dominican Republic and possibly the United
States. Team USA vs. Cuba would be the greatest international match
since Rocky vs. Drago. Though in this case I think the communists would
be the underdogs.
lee from houston asks: don’t
you think the U.S. could work something out with Cuba like how Yao Ming
got permission to play in the U.S.? Obviously there’s an embargo, but
as long as Cuba doesn’t profit I don’t see a conflict. In fact a player
like Gurriel would put Cuba on the map no?
Putting the embargo aside, I think it is a different situation than Yao
Ming because Cuba has such pride in baseball. Castro would not want to
endorse one of his prize players coming to help American baseball teams
make money. The United States has not had a problem with players
defecting (see Hernandez, Livan and Contreras, Jose), it is really all
Sean from Brea, CA asks: How
would you handicap these countries if they played a full season? It
would seem the depth of Team USA, especially on the mound, would give
them a big advantage.
I think your analysis is dead on, particularly if every country had all
of their best players, particularly pitchers. From starters to
relievers, the United States is far deeper than any of the other
countries. But in a short tournament, who knows?
R Nitelight from NJ asks: So how many of these Cubans will Omar be bringing back to New York with him?
Matt Meyers: 9?
I saw Omar on Quite Franklin with good old Stephen A. Smith when asked
about Cuba, he said that the Mets will be heavily scouting them. But I
think most teams will be doing so as well. There is talent there, so
teams will always be on the lookout. That being said, if there is a
bidding war for a Cuban player, it would not surprise me if the Mets
got involved. Then again, their first dive into the Cuban market got
them Rey Ordonez, and I don’t think Mets remember him too fondly. They
now have Cuban prospect Alay Soler, and I know the righthander got lit
up the other day. So far, the Mets and Cuba have not mixed well.
Todd from The O.C. asks: Were
you surprised that more teams didn’t follow Cuba’s lead and offer their
profits to help victims of hurricane Katrina? It seems like this could
have been a great way to raise more money for the cause.
Todd, it does not surprise me, but Cuba is in a different boat then the
other participants. They are not interested in profits, and donating
the money to Katrina victims was both generous and a savvy political
Matt Meyers: Alright folks, that is all I have time
for this evening. Thanks for joining me and I hope you are all enjoying
the Classic as much as I am. Tonight’s game should be a doozy. I wanted
to end the chat on a Kirby Puckett note because I know he is in the
thoughts of all baseball fans and is still beloved despite some alleged
indiscretions after his playing days.
Everyone talks about how much Minnesota fans adored Kirby and it is
true. My favorite example is from my college roommate who is from the
Twin Cities. Two summers ago (years after Kirby’s career ended), he was
on a softball team with a bunch of buddies and they got t-shirts made
up with the team name on the front and on the back they all wore the
same number, 34.