Northside For Life

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Classic Now

The World Baseball Classic has begun, with the Asian teams starting off the tournament. Despite all the jingoism and the commercials proclaiming "For country, for baseball" this tournament smacks of a contrived money grab by Major League baseball. What with the poor timing of the event, a lot of the major stars dropping out, Asian teams wearing uniforms with old English script on the front, and some of the dumb rules set in place (pitch counts, mercy rule) it's really nothing more than a glorified exhibition under the pretense of "globalizing the game of baseball". Never mind that baseball is already quite "globalized", with its intense popularity in the Caribbean and South America, as well as historically strong popularity in Asia. The game did this all by itself without the need of some bs tournament which has the thrown together appearance of the rec leagues I used to play in (only our games weren't televised on ESPN).

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a World Cup-style baseball tournament. Get every country to put together teams of their best players and battle it out to see which country reigns supreme. But if you're going to use major leaguers, do it after the season, in November. The timing of this tournament couldn't be worse. Most players aren't in game shape, and many are dropping out for fear of injury. Not to mention the fact that you're screwing up a few teams' spring trainings by taking away their players for almost an entire month. For instance the Cubs are without their two catchers for the majority of spring training. How much of an effect this will have on the pitching staff is unknown, but it certaintly doesn't help. This most definitely would have played better in November.

But despite all these negatives I've just mentioned I'm still going to watch. And to be honest, I'm kind of excited about the whole thing. Even if the WBC really is contrived, and I've yet to see a real reason why South Africa, the Netherlands, and Italy are in this thing, it's still baseball. And after a long winter, any baseball on TV is great. To me a worldwide tournament featuring major league players is a lot better than watching a spring training game featuring a bunch of guys I've never heard of playing in their batting practice jerseys in a tiny ballpark in the middle of the desert. But that's just me. Even there is nothing really "classic" about the World Baseball Classic it'll still be interesting to see how fast the Domincan team will reach the mercy rule, how well the Cubans will fare, how many Cubans will defect and get immediately signed by the Yankees, and if the Venezuelans can ride their pitching to the title. If nothing else, it's real baseball. Well, sort of. Either way its a lot better than the alternatives in sports television (save for the NCAA's). I'm going to enjoy this.


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