Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The World Baseball Not So Classic......

It's been nearly a month now since the World Baseball Classic ended. I bet only a handful of people could tell me who won the championship let alone who was even involved in the tournament. I would bet top dollar that an even smaller group of people actually care.
I'm thinkin' that only the true "base-ballers" know the result of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

The WBC is a brand spankin' new tournament instated in 2006 and is by many opinion possibly the most poorly organized and marketed tournament in the world. This being the second installment of the World Baseball Classic, players who may have showed slight interest in the first go-around have already turned their heads at what has become a tournament to frown upon. There's really no interest amongst MLB players to participate in the Classic, the WBC surely has a long hard road ahead of them if they plan to be anywhere near as successful as the World Cup of Soccer or even the World Cup of Hockey for that matter. The sheer hilarity behind the fact that countries can't land their top players brings the tournament into question right from the get go. Seems that this tournament is not so "Classic" after all.

Being the hardcore baseball junkie that I am, I sat by and cheered my country on for the second time in 3 years, still bitter about our early dismissal in '06 that is. I even cheered Korea on in their eventual loss to Japan in the finals. Come to think about it, it was truly a quite satisfying end to a tournament in which I believe to be a complete farce in terms of tournaments and a joke to the game of baseball. Granted, part of my anguish towards the tournament may be due to the disappointment myself and the rest of the Vottoholics felt when Joey Votto and Team Canada failed to win a game in the round robin. Although a great deal of my dismay is due to the overall organization or rather disorganization of this tournament. I'm not necessarily saying that the tournament isn't good for the game. I do believe capturing the attention of the World and expanding the game is always going to be a good thing. What I'm trying to say is that taking a bunch of players from around the world away from their respective clubs in the middle of spring training when they are trying to get back in the "swing" of things is not my idea of good tournament scheduling. My question to the WBC organizers is....wouldn't we get a much better product if the tournament was at the end of the MLB season sort of like the Pro Bowl in the NFL for instance? You would have 100% player focus and I'm willing to bet you would grab a lot more Major League interest.

Players are being asked to participate on the world stage after being idle for months, in my view this does not exactly make for the product that fans want to see. Why not take players who are in shape and mid season form, schedule this tournament after the World Series.... if nothing else this would at the very least bridge the gap between seasons for the die hard baseball fan. Spring training is a period when players are recovering from injury, getting in game shape, practicing and perfecting certain parts of their game with their respective clubs. I find the WBC takes away from a players ultimate goal which is to win a World Series Championship. Players dream of one day winning the World Series...... I seldom hear of kids playing in their yards shouting out Cuba wins the World Baseball Classic although I don't hang out in Cuban Yards all that often either.

Some of the best in the bizz bowed out or turned down offers from the 2009 Classic, these names include: Josh Hamilton, Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Brandon Webb, Cole Hamels, Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Lidge, Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, and Ben Sheets for the USA alone. Team Canada felt some of the same pain with Jason Bay declining a return to the Classic but the toughest blow was taken by Canuck pitching as Erik Bedard, Ryan Dempster, Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, Eric Gagne and most importantly Bryan Floyd were all out of the mix. This trend carried on throughout the tournament with the majority of "qualified" teams struggling to land their top dogs.

Marketing the World Baseball Classic around the MLB almost seemed unnecessary as some of the largest crowds were brought in by teams such as Japan, Korea, Venezuela... etc. It almost seemed that the teams with little to no Major League talent preformed the best in the tournament. Correct me if I'm wrong but from what i could see two of the best clubs definitely showed up in the finals further proving that the Pro's weren't needed. Japan faced off against Korea in a great bout, Goliath Vs. Goliath. These are clearly some of the most talented players in the world and they showed up in the finals of "America's" game, defying all odds. These two squads were full of heart, great players who just love the game of baseball. They weren't multi-million dollar earners with the exception of 5 of the 56 players involved including Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Seeing these two teams face off in the finals of a tournament which seemed to be heavily in favour of the Americans was justice to me! Lest we forget the round robin of the 2006 World Baseball Classic in which Team Canada and Team USA both had 2 wins a piece. Team Canada defeated the USA for one of their 2 wins but because of some last minute rule book corrections i.e. a little whiteout and a felt tip pen... the USA advanced leaving team Canada out of the tournament. Slightly shady if you ask me.

Japan and Korea should be in the finals of this tournament every year. In fact, they should boot the rest of the world out of the tournament and call it the Asia Classic! This tournament for the most part makes me want to vomit on my chest then take a nap. I have a sneaking suspicion that the World Baseball Classic was created for the USA to win every year as an attempt to rub their "baseball supremacy" in the rest of the worlds face. Turns out that plan backfired! I'd be extremely happy to see these two teams continue to keep that championship out of the USA's hands. Oh HELL YEAH!!!
Peace Out Peeps.

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