Friday, March 17, 2006

Don't Cry For Me Argentina

The WBC lost its biggest draw yesterday. The US was eliminated, meaning that the inaugural champion of the World Baseball Classic will come from either the Caribbean or the Far East. In my opinion this is without a doubt a positive for the WBC. First of all it will make all those players who withdrew from the US team think better of it next time. There's nothing that makes Americans more upset than losing at a game that they supposedly own. Look at what happened in the Olympics. The US basketball team finally lost with the college kids so they sent Michael, Magic and Larry to make sure that didn't happen again. Secondly, if the goal of Classic was to increase the profile of baseball on the worldwide stage (and that is what Bud said he wanted to do), then what better way to accomplish that than to have the US fail to advance to the semi-final. The basketball "Dream Teams" inspired the rest of the world to get better at the game. The rest of the world has gotten so good in fact that the latest incarnation of the basketball "Dream Team" won the bronze medal at the last Olympics. The US not being dominant in the inaugural WBC will only serve to give hope to some of the nations that didn't get out of the first round. Maybe next time Canada will advance to the finals.

The WBC goes a long in proving that baseball is a global game. The majority of the best players in the world may play in the US, but they are not necessarily American. The original basketball "Dream Team" went to the Olympics and destroyed their competition. Most of the players from the other countries were just happy to be on the same court with their heroes. That was not the case in the WBC. Because the major league players were sprinkled throughout the all the rosters, there was no intimidation factor (except for some of the teams in the first round like South Africa). The players did not come to praise the American team, but to bury it.

I think the excitement that surrounds the WBC makes up for all the criticism that was leveled against it before it started. People claimed that the players would treat it like a glorified exhibition, that the crowds would be small and uninterested. Well nothing could be further from the truth. Chipper Jones was even quoted as saying that he thought that playing in the WBC was better than playing in the All-Star Game or the World Series! That is high praise indeed from someone who has done both. I think the WBC is on its way to being an institution and a lot of the credit has to go to Bud Selig. While he has faced his share of criticism about the steroid situation (and rightly so), he got this one right. He had to withstand complaints about the timing, harping from George Steinbrenner, and talking heads on TV talking about how it would fail (I'm talking about you Lupica) and yet he held his course and has come out a winner on the other end. The only issue I would bring up is the umpire situation. It just would not have been that hard to make sure that the umpires were of a different nationality than the teams playing in each game. I wouldn't even want Major League umpires. I know that they are trying to be impartial, but mistakes are made. They are human and removing the element of nationality would help remove the suggestion of impropriety.

I'm really looking forward to the next round of games. The crowds in San Diego should be loud and enthusiastic. There may be some who are disappointed that the US is not represented, but I think that they should look a little deeper. They should look at the flag waving enthusiasm of Dominican fans, or the Korean fans and the sheer joy in the faces of the players on the teams and revel in the fact that they get to watch baseball being played at the highest level. It is after all the WORLD Baseball Classic, not the US baseball Classic.



Blogger Reg said...

I'm impressed with how the WBC has evolved into such a great sports event. I think it should be renamed the "World Series" because it is.

4:48 PM  

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