When talk of the World Baseball Classic began in 2005, I remember being ridiculously excited. I’m always a sucker for competition featuring international teams (World Cup, Olympics, etc.), so of course I thought this was a great idea.
I watched most of the games of the first WBC in 2006, and was even able to write some localized stories in the Cullman Times for it.
Of course, the USA team completely tanked that first tournament, which put a damper on my enthusiasm. Still, the Final Four was pretty interesting with Japan going on to beat Cuba for the championship. I thought the best part was the South Korean government waiving the mandatory military commitment for the national squad after they made the finals.
The tournament came back in 2009, and this time I wasn’t as excited. I think a big part of it was how weak the USA squad was, especially the pitching.
I’m not going to lie, I probably only watched like three games of that WBC. Granted, I was a lot busier that summer, but still, I didn’t consider it must-see TV.
This year’s WBC started earlier in the week, and I really have no interest. That’s depressing for me, because the basic concept for the WBC is awesome. However, the execution of the event is downright awful.
There are several reasons for this:
• Holding it during spring training isn’t an ideal time. I get that the options are limited for the timing, but I think it zaps a lot of the energy out having it in March.
• Because it is in the spring, all pitchers are on a pitch count. This is my biggest complaint. Pitching is the most important part of baseball, yet that entire aspect of the game is being limited.
• The USA team usually stinks. The Asian and Latin American squads are always gung-ho about the WBC. That’s pretty obvious by the quality of the teams, as well as the TV ratings overseas. Did you know the two WBC finals are the highest rated sporting events in Japanese history?
Yet for some reason, there isn’t that excitement among the USA players. The pitching staff ends up being god awful (check out this year’s roster) and the line-up feels like it is missing some marquee names.
With those three major flaws, I don’t see how the WBC is going to ever be considered a major event.
So how can it be fixed? Here are my ideas:
• Pay the players. Look, sometimes you have to spend money to make money, and I think that’s what needs to happen here. MLB players are always looking for extra cash and would be more willing to participate if they received some to play in the WBC.
Are you telling me you think Mike Trout and Bryce Harper would skip out if they were making an extra 100K for playing? Hell, they would have been first in line.
• Reduce the number of teams. I get that you want to get more countries involved. But that’s what preliminary rounds are for. Wouldn’t it be a lot better if the actual WBC started with 8-10 teams instead of 16?
• Adjust the schedule. You could still hold the first round or two in spring training. However, the Final Four should be moved to the All-Star break.
This makes sense for couple reasons. There are no other major sports going on, so the TV ratings would be a lot higher. Also, since it would be during the season, pitching limitations would not be needed.
How about this for a new schedule during the All-Star break: WBC semifinals on Monday, All-Star game on Tuesday, and WBC finals on Wednesday. That would be an awesome three days and do extremely well in ratings (ratings=more money!).
Would we really miss not having the Home Run Derby every four years? I doubt it. Personally, I think it has gotten as stale as the Slam Dunk contest.
Of course I doubt any of these things happen, mostly because they are logical and baseball does absolutely nothing logical.
Do you agree? How would you fix the WBC?
• I think the Dominicans have an awesome line-up, but I won’t be shocked to see Japan win the WBC title again this year. Another flaw with the tournament – Japan’s squad is used to playing together, which is a huge advantage.
• My fantasy baseball starts on Monday. I’m all set and ready to draft another Evil Empire championship squad.
• NFL free agency starts on Monday and it could be pretty unpredictable. I swear, if Chicago doesn’t sign at least one legitimate offensive tackle, I’m going to fly up there and strangle the GM myself!
• Is Chris Berman a real life George Costanzia? Judging by his wallet, it appears so. Another interesting tidbit from the upcoming interview – he has never sent an email! NEVER! How is that possible???
• Hillary the presidential favorite in 2016? One poll says yes, and I don’t find that surprising at all.
• My little girl made me so happy this morning with eight magic words: “I want to listen to more Bon Jovi.” Like daddy, like daughter.
Bear Down and Keep the Faith!