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WBC (Why does Baseball Count?)

March 24, 2009

world-baseball-classicCongratulations Japan. They’ve closed up the World Baseball Classic by defeating Korea in the finals to repeat as World Baseball Championship. And while everyone in Japan is celebrating their two-peat everyone here in America is complaining. In fact America seems to be the only country complaining about the WBC, while the rest of the world seems to be on board on this newest global championship. 

But if baseball is America’s past-time why are we complaining so much? From what I’m hearing there are a few arguments from baseball fans. First, the timing is poor. The World Baseball Classic occurs during our spring training, and right towards the end of most of the Caribbean’s seasons. This gives an advantage to other countries whose players are more ready that ours. Second, the players that are participating are risking their health for their on MLB (or other) team. Many players are getting paid millions of dollars by other clubs, and playing in the WBC they are risking the season for their day-to-day team. Third, (and probably the best argument I’ve heard), no other sport has the pitcher variable. Unlike most sports, the pitcher in baseball is handled like a finely tuned car. Pitch count is extremely important during the season, and it’s turning into an science all itself. Many commentators may point this as the reason Roy Oswalt was left on the mound as he was giving out runs during that fourth inning. His pitch count wasn’t quite at 100 yet, and there supposedly was an agreement that he would get his work in during the game. 

Personally, I don’t think any of these arguments fly. If you love baseball, you should love the WBC. From the responses  I have heard from those who’ve attended the atmosphere is positively electric. I’ve only attended on global sports competition (the World Cup in France in ’98), and it was incredible. Countries from around the globe congregated into a single spot, all in the name of sport. I have blogged a bit about this before, but I see sport as a universal language. And because of this it has the ability to unify the world. 

In response to the arguments: Firstly, there is not really any good time to place the world baseball classic. Baseball is happening around the world, so placing it anytime during the calender year will interfere with one league or another. Granted MLB has more international players than other leagues, so if this was possible then I would say November might be a good time to place it. But in all honesty, to to change the time of the event just for a single country is ridiculous. Also, players should prepare for the world baseball classic like it counts. From my knowledge Roy Oswalt was the only one throwing in December to get ready. I think Peavy should have followed his example. As far as the pitch count is concerned, I think with the emergence of a bull-pen centric strategy, you will see pitchers have a lower pitch count in general. And lastly, the money issue. I think more than anything the WBC exposes the malicious outcome economic practices in baseball (and this is coming from a Yankee fan). I’d be fine with a salary cap in baseball, I think they all get overpaid. But if there was ever a chance to prove to the world that money isn’t everything it’s the World Baseball Classic. It should be about playing for your country, and sharing the sport you love with the world. 

In conclusion, I hope the World Baseball Classic is here to stay. With baseball out of the Olympics, it’s the only chance to share this wonderful game with the world. And you’ve got to love the stories coming out. Netherlands beating a powerhouse Dominican team, the emergence of a new Japanese ace (Yu Darvish, who is hopefully going to the Yankees), and the come from behind win over Puerto Rico by a downed US team. I think the only major change needs to come from the United States players. Sabathia, Lidge, Lincecum, they all need to realize playing for your country and for the love of the game should come before playing for the dollar. And sending that lesson will be worth having the tournament alone.

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