A Baseball Massacre

Kim Kwang Hyun

In the World Baseball Classic, Korea lost to Japan 14-2. That was brutal. I expected a tight low-scoring game between two very good teams. Korea has had Japan’s number, having won 5 of their last 6 meetings, most recently at the Olympics when they won gold. But this was a massacre. So much so that the mercy rule was implemented and the game ended early at the 7th inning.

Last night, Korea easily dispatched Taiwan 9-0. There was a grand slam in the first inning. The night before, Japan beat China 5-0, in a game which was a lot closer than the score suggests. So I expected Korea to edge Japan.

Numerous excuses could be made for the Korean team. For instance, Japan has home field advantage, since the Pool A games are played in Tokyo. And the Japanese had an extra day of rest, while the Koreans played less than 24 hours after the rout against Taiwan. But those excuses don’t explain a 12 point deficit.

The crazy thing was that the Japanese scored 8 points in the first 2 innings off Kwang Hyun Kim. Kwang Hyun is Korea’s wunderkind. A 20 year old hurler who was the star of the Olympics. His pitches were fast but his repertoire was one dimensional. Basically they were fastballs down the middle. Eventually, good hitters will recognize that and start swinging at the same spot. He’ll need a little more ball movement at his next game.

All is not lost for Korea. All they have to do is beat China tomorrow, which should be easy. Then they have a chance at instant revenge and play Japan again the day after for the Pool A title. Which doesn’t mean anything except for seeding purposes in the next round. And revenge would really only be satisfying if they were able to spank Japan. Because if they win 3-2 say, it wouldn’t erase the embarrassment of having conceded through the mercy rule.

Baseball is serious in East Asia. Officially, the national sport of Korea is Tae Kwon Do, and Japan’s is Sumo. But baseball is king. I find the whole nationalism and sports thing fascinating. It’s a far healthier alternative to warfare. And in an international household like mine, what is the etiquette on rooting interests?

Both T and I try not to openly gloat when one of our national teams beat the other. But clearly men take this way more seriously than women. Once the game is over, T couldn’t care less. As for me, it’ll put me in a bad or good mood for up to a 24 hour cycle.  

It’s amazing, the power of sports.  I remember when a local college football team lost and the whole town was down in the dumps for the weekend.  All over the city, people were glum and defeated, even though it was a rare sunny day.  That reminds me of a funny story…