Gamesmanship in full swing for baseball
BEIJING (AP) Canada manager Terry Puhl is tired of the gamesmanship going on in international baseball - and it's been in full swing well before Wednesday's first pitch in these Olympics.
"It's little boys," Puhl said, describing some of his colleagues. "Everybody's game-playing."
South Korea manager Kim Kyung-moon won't announce his starter for the team's Olympic opener against the United States, so U.S. skipper Davey Johnson is doing the same and keeping his pitcher a secret.
"No, I don't know. I'm not going to tell you," Kim said to The Associated Press before the Koreans took the practice field for a closed workout Tuesday.
Maybe a hint? Like right-hander or lefty?
"I don't know," he said, smiling and chuckling while walking away.
The Chinese players had no uniform numbers or names on their backs for exhibition games at the Wukesong baseball complex in recent days, including a 7-3 loss to the Americans on Monday in the final tuneup for both teams.
So much for probable pitchers being provided at least several days in advance, as is the norm in the major leagues. This is different by all standards.
Baseball doesn't want to go out this way, either, with managers annoying one another and protecting even the most minor of tidbits about their teams as if classified information.
There is an agreement between managers to provide their starter to the opposing club 1½ hours before game time, yet that can change and often without a legitimate reason as to why. Puhl makes sure to at least ask the other manager why a switch was made, then will consider changing his starting lineup and batting order if need be.
For the Canadians' first game Wednesday against China, Puhl already knows his club will face a left-hander, just not who - and in return has informed Chinese manager Jim Lefebvre he will go with a righty starter.
"That's all I need to know for my lineup," Puhl said after his team's practice.
Yet Puhl and Lefebvre have known each other for years, with Lefebvre playing and working in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and Puhl having spent 15 seasons in the big leagues as an outfielder.
"His book is the only book on hitting I have in my house," Puhl said. "It's been there for over 30 years."
Also Tuesday, the grounds crew worked at a furious pace in the heat and humidity to get everything ready on the two competition fields, including stenciling on the Olympic rings behind home plate on Field 2. Music blared from the sound system and umpires began arriving to get the lay of the land.
For the Beijing Games, there's surely added pressure and a heightened sense of urgency because this is the last Olympic baseball tournament. The sport will come off the program for the 2012 London Games. Officials hope for reinstatement in 2016 but there are no guarantees.
Puhl will have no choice but to put up with what he considers the nonsense during the eight-team event.
"That's why international baseball is what it is. That's why everyone goes to the U.S. to play," he said. "It's child play, that's all it is. It's garbage. They talk about sportsmanship. If that's important, why do they hide what they do? They don't know the game or how to teach the game."