Shin-Soo Choo might have to join the army

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What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded
on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are
dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans
are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There
are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely
so many counties can’t all be worth dying for
:

Able-bodied South Korean men must serve two years in the military by
the time they turn 30 years old. For the 27-year-old Choo, who turns 28
in July, that deadline is coming up quick.

Choo spent his entire life preparing to become a professional
baseball player, and he refuses to walk away from the game at a point
where he should be entering his prime. He is hoping to get clearance
from the Indians to participate on the South Korean baseball team in
the 2010 Asian Games, which take place in November. If he does, and his
team wins a gold medal, Choo would receive an exemption from the South
Korean government . . . But what if Choo doesn’t get that clearance or the Korean team doesn’t win the gold?

I know that famous people are often exempted from compulsory military service, but having to serve (or not) based on winning the Asian Games seems even more arbitrary than the fame game itself. Of course, a rule that says “win a gold and you’re cool, win a silver and you’re cannon-fodder,” is certainly an effective motivator for winning those Asian games, so kudos to the guy who came up with that one.

According to the article, however, Choo has “a backup plan” for dealing with his military obligation. He won’t yet say what it is.  I can only assume the obvious until told otherwise.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.