Spring seems as far away as the last syllable of each of those titles. But the International Baseball Federation is accommodating. The defunct World Baseball Cup, which ended in 2011 just when Right Off the Bat began (we didn’t kill it, so help me), is now superseded by the World Baseball Classic. I am underwhelmed in reading about Team USA in Sports Illustrated. The best thing I discover has to do with the manager: Joe Torre, he of four New York Yankees World Titles. That’s what they call them in Major League Baseball. Now, Torre will have his chance to add a real one.
But what of Torre’s squad?
Of the Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander has been reported “a maybe”: if his velocity looks good coming out of the winter. Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball. To me, “maybe” says “No way.” Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who enjoyed one of “the most monstrous” rookie seasons ever, is not on the squad. He can’t even complain about age, as gutsy Andy Pettitte, of the aforementioned Yankees, reasonably can. Players recovering from surgery, such as Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, the three likewise of the youth-challenged Yankees, obviously draw byes along with more Hallmark Cards: for speedy recoveries. Sticking with the Yankees, I’m not sure if Robinson Cano is suiting up for his native Dominican Republic, in which case he gains my praise for sheer sportsmanship. First-baseman Mark Teixeira is up for it. But when I see eleven-year veteran J. J. Putz as perhaps the USA closer—oy vey! (This is for a cheap laugh. Putz actually had an elite-closer season in 2011 and a darn good one, statistically, in 2012.) Torre will have his hands full molding this squad, and keeping to the tournament pitch counts so as not to throw out any arms for the approaching (Where is it?) major-league season.
I believe there will be twenty-odd countries and places participating.
Instead of dipping back into The Wing Short Title Catalog (from the “Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700,” edited by one Donald Wing, et al.) on the week-end, I am looking forward to an insider’s tour of Yankee Stadium, courtesy of some exceptionally generous friends. The outdoor field may look more like an ice-hockey arena by then. But it should all keep me out of trouble. Oh yes, I will mail a Hallmark (thank-you) Card.