11 March 2009

Ik houd dan honkbal!

That, as near as my computer's translation software can figure, is how to say 'I love baseball' in Dutch.  Why did I bother to learn that phrase?  Because I do love baseball, and I also love underdog stories, and the Netherlands have provided me with both during the early stages of this year's World Baseball Classic.  Those of you out there who are baseball fans but have been ignoring the WBC should be ashamed of yourselves: not only is it a good thing for the game on the international level, but it's been immensely entertaining so far.  Coming into the tournament, the Dominican Republic was thought by many to be one of the top contenders to win it all.  I certainly shared that opinion, and with good reason: their lineup is made up not just of Major League players but of Major League stars.  And yet, here we are reaching the end of the first round and the Dominicans have been eliminated already.  Had you told me prior to the WBC that this would be the case, I would have presumed that they had lost two games at the hands of second-tier Caribbean powers Puerto Rico and Panama, but no: both losses came at the hands of the Dutch, a team with two or maybe three recognizable players, none of which could ever be considered a star by any stretch of the imagination.  Just how big is this upset?  This chart of the odds of winning the tournament should give you some idea:
For those of you that prefer to think in more strictly mathematical terms, the a priori probability of the Dominican Republic winning the WBC was 100 times greater than that for the Netherlands.  Of course, the Dutch are a long way from being able to claim the championship, but those numbers do nicely underscore the magnitude of this upset, which is easily one of the greatest ever in any sport (especially considering that they beat the Dominicans twice.  TWICE!!!).  The Dutch and what they've accomplished so far are exactly the reason I will always proudly say that 'Ik houd dan honkbal.'

Oh, and we shouldn't forget about another lovable underdog that, as I write this, is still alive.  Advance, Australia fair...