As anyone who watched today’s semifinal matchup between Korea and Venezuela knows, the Korean national baseball team is good. Ridiculously good. Korea utterly dismantled a Venezuelan team chock-full of major league superstars, putting on a show of power, patience, good pitching and outstanding defense.
Meanwhile Venezuela cracked under the pressure, making 5 errors including an unconscionable dropped fly ball by Bobby Abreu, a sight with which Angel fans will soon be far more familiar than they want to be.
Many people have been talking about how Korea is the surprise of the tournament, but these people obviously have no idea what they are talking about, as Korean baseball has been on the rise for almost a decade now.
Korea first served notice to the world way back in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics, when they stunned a Japanese team loaded with stars to take the bronze medal, handing Japan its first medal-less Olympics ever. Korea then finished second at the Intercontinental Cup in 2002 and in the Baseball World Cup in 2005, and actually outplayed almost everyone in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, going 6-0 to sweep through the opening rounds only to be knocked out in the semifinals in their only loss of the tournament. Korea then promptly rebounded in 2008 by sweeping through the Beijing Olympics to take the gold medal.
Korea is definitely my favorite team to watch in the WBC. What I love about them is that they have the total package. They put their best players on the field, play outstanding ball in all phases of the game – defense, batting, and pitching, and their players seem to be running their absolute hardest on every single play. Team Japan plays hard too, but they still do stupid small-ball stuff like an idiotic attempt to bunt Ichiro over with one out late in a game earlier in this tournament while down 1-0.
I won’t guarantee that Korea is going to win Monday night’s championship game. After all, baseball is virtually a .500 game. But I’ve already seen more than enough to say that they are the best baseball team on the planet, outside of perhaps the American League All-Star team.