World Baseball Classic Not Doing It for Me
I love the idea of the World Baseball Classic (“WBC”), particularly now that baseball is no longer an Olympic sport. However, in practice the WBC leaves me completely cold.
Today’s big brawl between Canada and Mexico is a great example. The WBC is amateur sport, where only national pride (and only for some countries — more on that below) is on the line, and it should represent the ideals of amateur baseball competition.
In major league baseball, a ninth inning bunt for a base hit by a team leading 9-3 is a no-no, and some one is usually going to get plunked. But the WBC is not MLB. Because the teams play so few games in each round (usually one game between countries), runs scored for and against come into play when deciding who advances in the case of tied won-loss records. That’s why Canada was trying to tack on 9th inning runs.
Also, this brawl was a lot more violent than the average MLB scrum. Multiple haymakers were thrown, and the fans got into the act with fights in the stands and a full water bottle hitting Canadian coach Denis Boucher in the face.
Seven players were tossed by the umpires before the game was resumed. If review of television footage shows that the umps got the right seven, they should all be banned for the duration of this year’s WBC and their respective teams barred from replacing them on their rosters. There’s no place for this kind of nonsense in amateur sports, and punishments should be steep to prevent further similar episodes.
Other elements of the WBC also leave me cold. A goodly number of the best players on many of the national teams were not born in nor are they citizens of the teams for which they are playing. Pride in one’s ethnic heritage is all well and good, but it kind of defeats the idea of national teams playing against one another.
Further, the WBC is heavily compromised by the fact that some countries take the WBC extremely seriously (for example, South Korea, Japan, and Cuba) usually because of irrational inferiority complexes or for political purposes having little to do with baseball as such.
For example, South Korea, at least as reflected by the South Korean English-language media reports I saw, was extremely disappointed that its team was eliminated in the first round. The South Korean team actually went 2-1 in the first round and was eliminated only because Taiwan and Netherlands scored a few more runs than they gave up with the same 2-1 records.
What does that prove? Not bloody much. Everyone who follows baseball knows that one-game series don’t prove anything except that one team’s pitcher had a better day than the other team’s pitcher or the bounces went for one team instead of the other.
Everyone also knows that the U.S. would dominate the WBC like the U.S. dominates Olympic basketball if the best U.S. born major league players played on the U.S. team. But they don’t, and everyone understands why — major league teams don’t want their big stars risking injury in games that don’t really matter when they could be getting ready for the games that actually have money and more significant honors on the line.
The fact that many Dominican, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan major league superstars don’t play for their national teams for the same reasons means that the WBC is really nothing more than an interesting diversion and exhibition while everyone in North America and the Caribbean waits for the real baseball season to get under way.
I could go on about the WBC’s silly mercy rule under which, if a team is down by 10 or more runs after seven turns at bat, the game ends prematurely — so much for the game is never over until the last man is out — but what’s the point? The only thing to be said for the WBC is that it’s a little more interesting than Spring Training games and we get glimpses at just how good the best Cuban players are (for example, 26 year old outfielder Alfredo Despaigne, who could well be a better player than Yoenis Cespedis) who we rarely get to see play against the rest of the world’s best.