Tuesday, March 3, 2009

World Baseball Classic

Lots of blogers and analysts have made remarks about the WBC, so I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I like it...in a vaccuum. I've always liked seeing professional players compete for their countries in a tournament that will have a team you may want to root for, and lots of games involving other teams that are well worth watching.
    Among others, Hockey does this every once in a while, going back to the days of the Soviet Red Army team against Canada's NHLers in the Canada Cup, and now with the Olympics and World Cup of Hockey. A well diversified league in terms of countries represented should show off their assets in a true international competition.

    Basketball has their World Championships and Olympics, Soccer has its World Cup, and even Tennis has the Davis Cup tournament where players represent their countries in a team setting.

    Baseball is doing this too. And well they should. There is a lot of great talent that comes from many different places. The Olympics just don't satisfy the taste for the great competition, mainly because the top level pros (at least from MLB) don't compete. Baseball will sit out of the next Olympic Games (2012 in London). Enter the World Baseball Classic.

      As an interesting side note, this year, each of the 8 WBC teams training in Florida (sharing a complex with a Grapefruit League team for a couple days) is playing 3 exhibition games against MLB teams (each MLB team playing at least 1 such game). 24 such games over today, tomorrow, and the next day. If I had gone to Florida for this week, this would have been an interesting side trip to try to get around to see different matchups over the 3 days. The Cactus League is hosting 4 teams with similar scheduling now, and the 2 winners from the Japan bracket later in the month.

      Today had Derek Jeter playing against the New York Yankees, Toronto hosting Canada, and later is Albert Pujols sitting while his teams - the Cardinals and Dominican Republic - face off (he decided that he couldn't be on either side for the game).

But it's just not done right. This is the height of competition, and it's being held at a point in time when players are just getting warmed up. The hitters are just getting their eye, and the pitchers, despite their head-start on training camp, are barely at the 3 inning point in a game.

It also takes away from Spring Training. Teams, especially after tweaks, trades, signings and/or new managers picked up during the off season, are trying to find their fit while players are leaving for as much as 3 weeks. If you're like me, who visits Spring Training every March to see the players and get autographs, this takes away from the fan experience. Who am I seeing on the Mets? Not the biggest stars.

Another reason why the WBC is bad in its place (and may never have a real place outside the vaccuum) - there have been a number of players who pulled out of the WBC, for various reasons, in favor of being with their pro team. Most of those reasons have to do with insurance the pro teams have on their biggest named players, or the player just isn't quite ready to be playing at that level.

I love the irony in that - the WBC is a hole in the integrity of Spring Training and what it's about, and Spring Training is a hole in the integrity of the WBC and what it's about.

So when can you have oen of these tournaments? In real life. I don't mean the answer to be in a video game.

  • We see what happens when it's played during Spring Training

  • Play it during the season - are you kidding? Do you stop the season for a month (then cut out about 28 games for each team, cut paychecks, etc.)? Do you play that part of the season with, dare I say it, replacement players? I don't think so!

  • What about playing it after the World Series? Interesting. There have been some MLB All-Star team tours of Japan taking place in November. But to pull together a World Competition may be tough because a lot of players have some sort of surgery or prescribed rest after the season. There's always the risk of injury to pitchers.

  • How about finishing up in late February, where the players of the final 2 teams come a few days late to their pro clubs but are already in shape? Ya, maybe, but you don't have players, or especially pitchers, in regular season form, so it will look a lot like the joke that goes on during Spring Training.

  • Do we try to go some time in December or January, in the middle of the off season? I could make points that are a mix of the arguments against the November and February ideas. But I won't repeat myself.

The only good time to have the WBC is during the next work stoppage, whenever that happens to be.

Share your thoughts.


  1. I think post-World Series is the best bet.

    The other thing that is frustrating about the WBC is the inequities of talent. You have All Stars up to bat against guys who are not even A-ball caliber. It is ridiculous to have these guys who make millions, and whose MLB teams are counting on, risking their lives up at bat against a nervous kid with a live, wild arm.

  2. first, you should vote in the poll on the right side of the page.

    The "true" tournament probably shouldn't have 16 teams, and a larger round-robin first round. the only thing that makes it even somewhat (more) competitive is bending the rules for who can play for which country, so Italian-decent MLB players can play for Italy.