Saturday, April 1, 2017

World Baseball Classic Needs Tweaking

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

In case you missed it, this year's World Baseball Classic, the fourth edition, was simply the best ever. There were so many compelling games and stories.  It was a real classic in every sense of the word.

The games really had a sense of National Pride and a Post Season Feel.  If you tuned in, you would swear you were listening to the AL or NL Championship Series or The World Series in the Fall, yet this was at the end of winter and beginning of Spring.

Even though I was excited about the fact that the USA came through and won for the first time in four attempts and I got to see the Second Round (San Diego) and Championship Round (Los Angeles) in my backyard of Southern California, I still feel it needs a bit more tweaking to make it an even better event.

For the uninformed,  the World Baseball Classic is a tournament where theoretically the best  baseball players in the world, professional and amateur, are put on teams according to their nationality.

You would think that the United States would always romp in this setting, but the fact is in 2006 (the tournament is held every 3-4 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.  Japan would repeat in 2009 and the Dominican Republic won the 2013 Classic.

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 it is held in March. This is when baseball players are 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 out of shape and can't get to flyballs like they should.  As much as I love him, Junior really had no business playing centerfield that year for Team USA.

I like the fact that the series is held every 3-4 years.  Better than one year where it would become too commonplace and taken for granted.  The Classic should really be held in the Summer.  The professional leagues should shut down for a full week and let the Classic be played when players are at their optimum performing level which is the middle of the natural baseball season.

It should logically be played in place of the All-Star Game every 3-4 years.

One of the reasons that Japan has had to field a team of almost all Japan League Players 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 week 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  almost all good.

This year the finals were held in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. Good for me. I get to go without too much expense since it's in my backyard. But bad for the rest of the world. I propose that the host country be the country that won it last.

This year it should have been The Dominican Republic and the previous years it would have been in Japan.  Both the Dominican Republic and Japan have a great fan base who love both the game of baseball and Major League Baseball and would pack out their venues every game of the Classic.  And of course the next one, under my proposed plan, would be held in the United States.

Which brings up yet another situation.  Why are the semi-finals and the finals always in Southern 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, Miami, or Milwaukee.  In other words, great ball parks with retractable roofs or permanent roofs where there would be no chance of a rainout or delay.  Of course, the venue options would also be better if they moved the Classic to the Summer.  Imagine the World Baseball Classic at Wrigley or Fenway or Camden Yards.

Another point of contention was the accessibility, or lack thereof, of being able to watch the WBC this year.  Unless you ponied up and paid for or had a paid subscription to ESPN Deportes and don't mind listening in Spanish, it was not easy to watch this year's games unless you went to the games in person.  It should really be much easier than that to watch the WBC.

I liked the tie breaker rule in the WBC and MLB really needs to consider it.  This is where, if the game is tied going to the 11th inning, the inning starts with runners on first and second, no outs. The fact is that it wasn't thought out very well.  In almost all situations the fielding team intentionally walks the first batter to set up the force out at any base and instead of just giving the runner the base they actually still throw four wide ones to the batter.  Why not just start the inning with the bases loaded?

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