Don't miss the baseball slugfest highlights !
I guess we won't be seeing Bonds in the games.
Here's a well written article. Nice quote at the end.
www.kansascity.com | 08/18/2008 | First impression not a good impression in Olympic baseball
Posted on Mon, Aug. 18, 2008 09:28 PM
First impression not a good impression in Olympic baseball
By PHIL SHERIDAN
The Philadelphia Inquirer
BEIJING - The worst thing about baseball being dropped from the Olympics after 2008 is that baseball wasn't dropped from the Olympics before 2008.
If you want to understand why it doesn't belong here, look no further than Monday night's game between the United States and China.
The home team on the scoreboard is from the land that invented baseball. The home team in the stands is learning to compete on the international scene as fast as it can. Somehow, what should have been a warm and fuzzy display of what makes the game great devolved into an embarrassing example of why this great game somehow isn't a particularly good sport.
A beanball war broke out. Really. Here was an Olympic game that needed someone to declare an Olympic truce during the competition. And it was all because, while America won't send major-league players to the Games, it happily exports the worst of major-league attitude.
The whole episode would have been comical - ridiculous and pathetic, but comical - if two players hadn't been injured. One of them, Cleveland Indians fans will be thrilled to hear, was Matt LaPorta, the super-prospect the Indians got in return for Cy Young winner CC Sabathia. LaPorta took a fastball to the head from reliever Chen Kun. An MRI showed he had a slight concussion.
"It was unfortunate LaPorta had to go down because of things that went on earlier," said Nate Schierholtz, who plays in the San Francisco Giants' system.
Schierholtz's empathy would be more convincing if the "things that went on earlier" didn't start with his gratuitous and violent tackle of Chinese catcher Wang Wei on a non-play at the plate.
The Americans were leading, 4-0, in the sixth when Schierholtz tagged up at third on a fly ball. The throw was cut off on the way to the catcher, who was posted in front of the plate. Schierholtz didn't realize the ball wasn't coming, but his shoulder-to-ribcage hit was not a clean play.
Especially not in the Olympics. Especially not against the host country's novice team.
"He was blocking the plate," Schierholtz said. "If the ball wasn't cut off, it would have been a bang-bang play and nobody would have said anything."
The only bang-bang was Schierholtz crashing into Wang, who had to leave the game.
It might have ended there. The mostly Chinese crowd, which cheered routine catches of pop-ups and roared at any contact made by Chinese batters, didn't seem to recognize the import of what had happened. Perhaps a Chinese manager would have let the whole thing slide.
But no. The Chinese are managed by former major-league player and manager Jim Lefebvre. So it wasn't a surprise - except to LaPorta, apparently - that the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh was right at his head.
"We do not throw to hit people," Lefebvre said before stomping out of the news conference room in a huff. "We do not teach that in China or in the United States."
Well, they certainly do it in the United States, and it sure looked as if they did it in China, too.
"It was a low blow to throw at his head," Schierholtz said. "I think it was brutal to throw at his head. You can hit guys in other places. That's part of the game."
Ah, the game, with its macho code of honor and vigilante justice.
This sort of thing happens all the time in the majors. The postgame back-and-forth was as familiar as the pop of the ball in the catcher's mitt.
"People get hit at the plate," Lefebvre said. "That's baseball. But you never hit the guy in the chest. That's an illegal slide. The umpire should have ejected him. That's where the game got out of hand."
When the U.S. side started talking about its players getting hit by pitches earlier - Schierholtz reached in the first place by getting hit - you got the distinct impression his Brian Dawkins imitation was retribution.
This sort of thing happens all the time in major-league baseball.
This isn't major-league baseball. This is the Olympics.
In the ninth inning, backup catcher Yang Yang crushed a Blaine Neal pitch into the seats in left for China's only run in a 9-1 loss. Yang, who replaced Wang, pointed his finger into the air as he ran the bases and then stamped on home plate for emphasis. On the final out, Neal, fielded a grounder, ran the baserunner down and then flipped the ball disdainfully at China's dugout.
Classy to the end.
"That's not a typical ballgame," U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "The last one (LaPorta's beaning) really bothered me. I hope (the fans) don't get the wrong impression of the game."
Unfortunately, they got exactly the right impression, which is why this should be the last impression baseball leaves on the Olympics.