Wednesday, November 7, 2012
World Baseball Classic Needs Tweaking
By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco
Earlier this summer the schedule for the Third World Baseball Classic was released. As much as I am excited about the fact that the Championship game will be held near my home in California there are some flaws in the approach for the Classic.
For the uninformed the World Baseball Classic is a tournament where theoretically the best players in the world, professional and amateur, are put on teams according to their nationality.
You would think that the United States would romp in this setting, but the fact was in 2006 and 2009 (the tournament is held every three or four years) that a team from Japan comprised of all members of the Japan Professional Baseball League and a few amateurs and Ichiro Suzuki won the whole thing over a team from Cuba.
The United States didn't even make it to the Semi-finals in 2006 thanks to a spirited and easily the most compelling game of the series when Team Mexico beat the USA to keep them from advancing.
One of the flaws of the Classic is that the main part of the tournament is held in March. When everybody is in spring training or supposed to be in Spring Training. So you don't see players at their very best. Pitchers are on short pitch counts. Players are hesitant to run out ground balls or outfielders, as was the case with Ken Griffey Jr. in 2006, are overweight and can't get to flyballs like they should. Junior really had no business playing centerfield that year for Team USA.
I like the fact that the series is held every three or four years and better than one year where it would become mundane or commonplace. But the Classic should be held in the Summer. The professional leagues should shut down for two weeks and let the Classic be played when players are at their optimum performing level....the middle of the natural baseball season.
One of the reasons that Japan had to field a team of almost all Japan League Players in 2006 is that Major League owners were not allowing members of their teams to participate or putting pressure on them not to participate. You can see the reason why...they are protecting their investment.
The owners need to see the big picture here...baseball has a chance to promote itself on the international scene and attract more of an audience. So you let your player (who is heavily insured) go for a couple weeks to promote the game. The dividends in the long run will outweigh the risk of injury to that player. Besides that, the owners are allowing them to play against the best competition in the world. Your player is an advertisement for his pro team too. The benefits are all good.
In 2013 the finals will be held in San Francisco at AT&T Park. Good for me. I am a train ride away. But bad for the rest of the world. I propose that the host country be the country that won it last. In 2009 and again this year it should have been Japan. Besides the fact that Japan has a great fan base who love both Pro Yakyu and Major League Baseball and would pack out Tokyo Dome every game of the Classic, the fact is that it would be in a roofed stadium in March. You only have to go back to the Playoffs this year to see the benefit of that.
You also could go back to the 2006 World Baseball Classic Championship game which was played in a rainstorm at Petco Park in San Diego and delayed a couple of times. That's because despite the sentiments of the 70's song...It actually does rain in California. In March.
Which brings up yet another situation...why are the finals back in California to begin with? Again, I love the fact I can go...it's a short train ride for me. But as long as those games are going to be played in the US, let's share the love and play the games in places like Seattle or Milwaukee or Tampa Bay...places that retractable roofs or permanent roofs where there would be no chance of a rainout or delay.
The World Baseball Classic starts in March 2013. Follow every pitch by linking to audio and video via Bosco Radio Sports powered by ESPN3.com