OK. Here goes with a now-serious commitment to blog every day, Will it work? As they (I?) say, youneverknow …
SEATTLE — So I got into a spirited conversation with Mariners lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith the other day, and, as often happens with me, usually with my wife but occasionally with baseball players, I ended up feeling like an idiot and later apologizing.
Ryan’s Australian, not to mention a great guy, and I had been doing some couch-covering of the World Baseball Classic in March and noticed that the coach of the WBC’s Australian team, Jon Deeble, had spouted off some very strong opinions during the course of the press conferences that had caused several reactions: 1. Laughter; 2. Something along the lines of “Who does this guy think he is? and 3. A mixture of 1 and 2.
Ryan didn’t pitch in the Classic because he dedicated himself to staying in Arizona for Spring Training and preparing for a spot in the Mariners rotation. But he was on the Aussies’ Classic team in 2006 and their Olympic Team that won a silver medal in Athens in 2004. He loves Jon Deeble and credits him for helping his baseball career in enormous ways.
So when I asked Ryan if he thought Deeble was out of line with some of his comments … well, let me reveal those comments before I proceed.
Background info: The Aussies were up against what appeared, on paper, to be a very good Mexico team, with a roster packed with current and former Major League stars including Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu, Oliver Perez, Erubiel Durazo, Scott Hairston, Alfredo Amezaga, Jerry Hairston Jr., Rod Barajas, Joakim Soria, Karim Garcia, Augie Ojeda, Miguel Ojeda, Dennys Reyes, Rodrigo Lopez, Ricardo Rincon, Elmer Dessens and Jorge Campillo.
In other words, going up against this team in the first round, in Mexico City, of all places, was a tough assignment for the Aussies and one in which not many “experts” were giving them a chance.
So naturally the Aussies pounded Perez and the Mexicans, 17-7, mercy-ruling them after eight innings and putting up 22 hits. After the game, Deeble had his first say to the assembled media:
Q. Is this the biggest game in Australia baseball history?
JON DEEBLE: Is it? No.
Q. Which would be the biggest?
JON DEEBLE: No, this is not the biggest game. We won a silver medal in Athens, and we beat the Japanese Olympic team twice in Athens. It’s another game. It’s another game today.
Q. A big possibility is that you have to face Mexico again to try to reach the next round. I know everything went OK today, but what did you learn to face Mexico again?
JON DEEBLE: I’ll answer your question in two parts. There’s a possibility we’ll play Mexico. You guys say that all the time. There’s always been a script written that we’re going to play South Africa tomorrow, so let’s not get the horse in front of the cart, OK?
But we respect Mexico. They’ve got a great baseball team, there’s no doubt about it. We respect them, and tonight we got our heads in front. But we do respect their ballclub. They’ve got a good ballclub, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve just got to play the same as we played tonight if we face them again, if we face Cuba, who knows. The fact that you guys keep writing scripts of where we’re going to play astounds me.
My (stupid) point to Ryan based on these comments was that it was a bit silly of Deeble to treat the Aussies as a team that was not a huge underdog in this game when looking at the rosters.
I mean, what was the media supposed to think going into a game like this, in Mexico City, when the Australian contingent of Major League talent included not a single big-league star and a handful of guys with limited experience in The Show and a bit more experience in the Minor Leagues?
But Ryan’s (smart) point was something along the lines of this: “What’s he supposed to say, then? ‘Yeah, you’re right, we’re not as good as they are?’ Who in their right mind would say that? Plus we had already proven what we could do in international baseball and you don’t realize how disrespectful and annoying it is after a while to have the media constantly telling you that you’re supposed to believe you’re not as good as other teams.”
Only after I re-read what Deeble said did I realize how wrong I was to even insinuate that the Aussie coach was doing anything other that motivating his team and answering to what had to have become the unbelievable chafe of a news media bent on patronizing the Australian team like a bunch of Cinderellas.
Then again, Deeble wasn’t done being defiant. And in my conversation with Ryan, neither was I … in being dumb.
That’s because I also mentioned Deeble’s comments after Australia’s next game, a tough 5-4 loss to (you guessed it) heavily favored Cuba. Here they are:
Q. It was a tough loss tonight. What do you think you’ve proved in this tournament already?
JON DEEBLE: We’ve proven that we can match baseball with anybody in the world, and we knew that before coming in tonight. You know, this is a great ballclub. We’ve got — our country has got great baseball players. We don’t get the respect from everybody. It’s about time that changed, and it starts with you people.
Q. I think it was in the top of the second inning that Cuba batted in an order that was certainly not consistent with what we had as a pre-game lineup, and you seemed to be confused by it. Can you explain from your perspective what happened with that batting change?
JON DEEBLE: I’ll tell you honestly, I’m so disappointed in the Cubans and the disrespect that they showed us by giving us a lineup and bringing out another one. I think it’s disgusting, I think it’s disgraceful, and I think something should be done about it because they continue to do it, they continue to get away with it, and I think it’s totally disrespectful. Something needs to be done because they continue to do it, and nobody ever does anything about it. It just blows my mind. From the manager’s point of view, totally disrespectful.
Q. A player from Mexico, he said in the last game, it only coincidence your victory. How do you say about that? He said that you won only by chance, by accident.
JON DEEBLE: We’ll have another accident tomorrow (laughter). You don’t get 22 hits by accident.
As for the Cuba thing, Ryan assured me that they pull stunts like this all the time in international baseball, which is ludicrous but now believable. I can’t imagine why that would be allowed, but, hey, I’m just a writer. And after reading Deeble’s comments and hearing from Ryan how great of a baseball guy he is, I take back anything I might have said or thought about what I originally believed to be “popping off” during the WBC press conferences.
Unfortunately, the feel-good story ended after that big win over Mexico After the Cuba loss, Mexico beat Australia, 16-1, in the next game to knock the Aussies out of the tournament. But obviously the team from Down Under proved a lot more than the fact that they belong on the field with the best clubs in international ball. Their manager proved he won’t back down from anyone and will support his players 100 percent all the time.
And for Ryan, who played for Deeble and might play for him again in a similar circumstance, it’s easy to see how national pride can turn into Major League passion. All you have to do is watch one heated World Baseball Classic game to figure that out.
After catching up on all of this, I went back to Ryan and apologized for misconstruing Deeble’s comments and coming to the wrong conclusions about them. He laughed and shrugged it off. “No need to apologize, mate.”
I would imagine our conversations will return to less confrontational topics such as my honeymoon in his amazing country Australia, where I spent three luxurious days on the perfect Hayman Island, saw a koala in the wild near the Great Ocean Road, and somehow unknowingly spent $938 on two tickets to an Eagles concert in Melbourne.
And on to today’s top five:
1. Checking the Bonnaroo schedule for the 78th time, knowing I’ll be there in four days
2. The fantastic melody that makes up for the insipid-yet-heartfelt lyric in “Bound By Love” by Gran Bel Fisher (what happened to him, by the way?)
3. Rowan starting to say the word “Happy”
4. Our new, big house (although we’re not moved in and it needs some work)
5. Johnsonville mild Italian sausages on the grill (which will happen tonight)
More blog shenanigans tomorrow, live from San Diego/Newport Beach/Interstate 5 in between as Youneverknow is a one-man traveling band at Strasburg-a-palooza ’09! Dig it!