I don’t know if there is anything I like more than tournaments. The NCAA’s, the NFL playoffs. The schedulers don’t dictate matchups, anything can happen. It’s a controlled chaos. It’s brilliant! Is there any doubt, then, that I would like the idea of the World Baseball Classic?
It’s underway, in case you hadn’t heard, with the Japanese destroying China, which may provoke a nuclear retaliation, and Korea, featuring a lineup with only 5 surnames (4 Lees and 2 Kims, and a Kim pinch hitting for a Kim), defeated Chinese T’aipei, also known as Taiwan, also known as Formosa. I have no idea why these games were on ESPN Deportes.
Nevertheless, the Classic has started in Asia and will start over here within the week. Sure there are a lot of people backing out of it, which is only natural, since these are millionaires who don’t want to have to volunteer for anything. It’s the nature of events like this. But in the end, you end up with guys who are really there to compete for their country. Pride is a much better motivation than money, and it will lead, I think, to better and smarter baseball.
Of course, there are a couple problems with this. First off is the scheduling, which disrupts the spring training schedules of Major League Baseball. Nobody has actually made the point that players in these live action, meaningful games will more than likely be fresher at the beginning of the season, particularly position players who will have already dealt with live pitching. Sure cohesion and team unity may be a little down, but all of the top teams in the league will be at the same disadvantage in that regard.
Also, people talk about guys getting hurt, which leads me to believe people have never followed baseball before. Sure, guys will get hurt, but guys get hurt during spring training too! I’m not sure I follow the logic. What’s the difference?
The biggest problem I see is that it appears that there are really only three teams with a legitimate chance to win this. All of Pool A is screwed. They don’t have a lot of baseball history, aside from Japan, which has been stunted by a lack of serious competition. In Pool B, The U.S. looks to be the only real powerhouse, with Canada and Mexico being a distant, very distant second. South Africa may as well stay in Pretoria.
Pool C is full of teams that will get destroyed in the second round, but all the teams are very interesting. You have Panama, with guys I had no idea were Panamanian, like Carlos Lee or Bruce Chen. Then there are the Netherlands (using Andruw Jones from Curacao and probably Sidney Ponson from Aruba) and Puerto Rico who is the class of Pool C, as they have more than one player on there team. Cuba is a wild card, since they really don’t have much international recognition, and they haven’t competed at a level like this before.
Pool D has the only other teams with a chance outside of the United States, with the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, two hotbeds for international baseball. Italy and Australia were really thrown in there because, well, I think Bud Selig was drunk. Overall, I would suspect a final between the U.S. and the D.R., with Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Japan as the three dark horses.
I’d like to see something like this in the future, perhaps instead played during the winter to avoid the scheduling conflicts. Also, it would be nice to see a little more competition to get into the classic, and to see it run by a different international governing body as opposed to MLB. It’s a good idea, and I’m sure some flaws will get worked out to turn this into a great idea. Now, as for tonight’s game between Korea and China, I’m guessing that someone named Lee will get at least one hit. – Ryan