Comment of the Day: Shin-Soo Choo's plight is no laughing matter

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Ron Rollins is probably my oldest commenter, having now followed me to three different blogs in the past three years.  He’s a baseball blogger himself. We often disagree with one another — he doesn’t much go for the steroids and other trivia in which I often delve, and his threshold for sabermetrics is not as high as my own — but when he talks I always listen because there’s 0% bullshit about the guy.  Oh, and he’s retired from a military career that took him all over the world, and unlike a lot of soldiers, he paid attention and learned an awful lot about the local culture wherever he was. Between him and Old Gator, I get the feeling I could get a recommendation for a great restaurant on six continents.

Anyway, Ron weighed in on the Shin-Soo Choo post this morning, and it’s definitely worth a read:

A lot of people are laughing about this, but it really isn’t funny. It’s the law in South Korea, and people take it seriously.

Remember, they are still in a state of war, and there are live fire incidencens in the DMZ on a regular basis. The North Korean army is the 4th largest in the world, and 75% of it is on the South Korean border.

The South Korean people revere their military. They have television shows specifically for their soldiers, and not serving is a serious crime.

Choo could face jail time, or loss of his citizenship. Which means he can never go home. And just because that might happen doesn’t mean he’s free and clear. If he loses citizenship, where does he go? That situation doesn’t qualify for political asylum. He becomes a man without a country.

How would you guys feel if you were stripped of citizenship while in a different country, faced certain jail time, and knew you could never visit home again to visit your family?

If you’re a Democrat, remember all the fuss you kicked up about Dan Quayle and George Bush getting out of Vietnam because of political influence? If you’re a Republican, remember all the fuss you kicked up becaus Bill Clinton protested and stood by while the flag was burned? That’s nothing compared to what Choo will face at home.

There is zero tolerance with serving in South Korea. The speaker of the House of Representatives had twin sons who were attending the most prestigious university in the country. It was front page news they day they were inducted.

The government decided to award an exemption to athletes for a gold medal performance, because supposedly that brings glory to the country. No one remembers silver or bronze athletes. It sounds like a nice idea, but it isn’t exactly the most populare idea among military age males in South Korea, who don’t have the ability to play sports at a high level.

Roger Staubach and Willie Mays did their duty. Ted Williams did it twice. You guys might think it’s a joke, but I’ll bet you Choo doesn’t.

I thought of it as a jokeworthy story this morning, but after reading Ron’s comment, I can’t help but wonder if this situation will weigh on Choo this season.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.