It is fair to say the World Baseball Classic hasn’t quite taken hold of the baseball-watching imagination. Maybe this is just my perception but, for whatever reason, there simply isn’t the level of hype and anticipation surrounding the third edition of the World Baseball Classic. If there is hype and anticipation, I haven’t really seen it or don’t feel the levels are sufficient for an event as exciting as the WBC.
Throw my hands up in the air as I might, the WBC apathy culprit is clear: a distinct lack of American achievement and rules which hamstring the competitiveness. Some of this weekend’s roster announcements might go along way to clearing up the former, it’s the latter we need to worry about.
There is no substitute for winning. The Japanese teams which claimed the first two WBC titles were a treat to watch for baseball aficionados. They played a delightfully old school style and featured good enough pitching to win. The Korean team which fell to Japan in the 2009 final was built on more “modern” style, relying on the long ball and defense to lead them all the way to the final game – an exhilarating game played between two evenly matched teams right up until the moment Ichiro! decided his team should probably win.
The teams built to represent the US of A for each previous WBC were very good, as one would expect. Loaded with big league stars and recognizable names, the Americans haven’t exactly sent their “very best” but the teams were good enough to win, they just didn’t.
Such is the nature of a short tournament in any sport. In a game like baseball, built to maximize advantages over the long haul of a 162 game season, the old “anything can happen” axiom holds true. The US lost their final pool game to Venezuela in 2009, setting up a tough game against Japan, a game the Japanese team won 9-4 (spoiler alert!).
An American team playing for the championship in front of their home fans would really make this event a special one. The American team is taking shape, naming a number of big name stars including R.A. Dickey, Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, David Wright, and Giancarlo MFing Stanton. Mike Trout opted not to partake which is unfortunate but, considering a single outfield containing both Trout and Stanton, probably in the best interests of the world at large.
The rules and pitch counts in the World Baseball Classic remain a stumbling point for the overall competitiveness of the event. While protecting the investments of Major League teams remains important, treating the players like glass figurines causes the tournament to lose luster in the eyes of many.
In every other major sport, players leave their club teams to compete on the international stage. Soccer is the most obvious example, running World Cup or continental tournament qualification concurrent to the regular season schedule nearly every year. The NBA sends its best and brightest to compete in the Olympics every FOUR years and has for twenty years. The NHL halts its season completely to allow the Winter Olympics tournament to take centre stage.
These showcases are good for the game and the risk of injury does not go away. Pitching is different but, then again, maybe it isn’t? Players like Roy Halladay refuse to consider playing in the WBC so not to alter their pre-season preparation. Which is all well and good if that is his perogative.
It is up to the fans to make this an event a player like Roy Halladay wouldn’t dare miss. It is up to the fans and lovers of baseball to invest themselves in this event, to make it a memorable tournament and quadrennial treat that all players would kill for the honor of being included.
If Team USA wins this year, it will bring that dream a lot closer to reality but it isn’t the only way. Fans turning up in numbers, tuning into the games no matter who plays for the title will send a message to the players and sponsors alike.
And the rest
Canada’s pitching looks…shaky for the upcoming tournament. [Your Body is as a Wilnerland]
The Season’s Worst Called Strikes [Fangraphs]
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos gives an extended sitdown interview to Canada’s national broadcaster. [DJF]
The best players to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot after just one year. [Baseball Analytics]
Dave Cameron gets all up in the Mariners business, doling out roles and advice. [U.S.S. Mariner]
“…a shot in the butt that would lubricate and soothe away the aches for three hours despite its side effects (chest pains, headaches, nausea, bloody stool, coughing up blood, vomit that looks like coffee grounds)” My, that must illegal. Surely anyone doing that to their body to play sports is an outcast, cast out of the brotherhood for taking unfair advantagHAHAH nope, just another Sunday in the NFL. [Dan LeBatard]
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