The cuddly Dutch honkballers lost to Venezuela, 3-1, in this afternoon's edition of the World Small Sample Size Bingo Tournament, which means the Netherlands' Cinderella run may soon come to a close. Dank God.
Not to be a wet blanket here, but there's something a little unsettling about the sudden Rudyfication of the Netherlands team - a process that reached its zenith with today's New York Times weepy about the general manager and his late son, who died of cancer six years ago. The Dutch have put up some atrocious numbers so far, hitting as a team like nine Neifi Perezes (.157 with a .385 OPS through five games); on the mound they have more walks than strikeouts. (And not to go all Franz Fanon on you, but considering that 11 of the team's 26 players hail from the old slave-trading outposts in the Dutch Caribbean, doesn't this team belong as much to the West India Company as it does to the Netherlands?)
Team Netherlands is a big honkballing symbol of the major underlying flaw with the WBC, which is that a single baseball game is basically a dice roll and says little about who's actually better. This makes for a lot of delirious fun — witness the Dutch upsets of the Dominican Republic –- but it's also deeply problematic, at least if the tournament's ever going to be anything more than a triennial curio. As Joe Sheehan noted the other day, the WBC desperately needs to add some sort of qualifying round, which would help weed out weaker teams, like the Netherlands. It would also lend some credence to the currently laughable notion that the event is a meeting of "the best baseball-playing nations in the world," as the WBC's site puts it, rather than a crass collection of emerging baseball markets that the MLB hopes one day to exploit (China, come on down!). By allowing so much mediocrity to wreak havoc on its brackets, the WBC is exposing itself as less a sporting event than a trade summit with eyeblack.