Sorry I haven’t gotten on I a while to make a post, I’ve been busy being absorbed my March Madness, which is exactly what’s wrong with the World baseball Classic. Jayson Stark:
What happened to the Americans who should love the WBC most? They aren’t watching. That’s what. Not enough of them are, anyhow. Either they’ve been way too preoccupied with how to handicap Wake Forest-Cleveland State, or the folks locked in on baseball are more focused on their teams. Understandably, too. Why wouldn’t Yankees fans care more about who their center fielder is going to be than who’s going to close for Team USA? Sure, it’s possible to care about both, I guess. But why is baseball so intent on competing against itself? What kind of business sense does that make?
But in the end, here’s what I want to see happen:
I want this event to be everything it should be. I want to see Roy Halladay dueling Johan Santana, with Josh Hamilton at the plate, Ryan Howard on deck and Jonathan Papelbon warming up in the bullpen.
I want the night of the WBC finals to feel like baseball’s version of Super Sunday. I want it to be one of the most momentous nights on the entire sports calendar.
And I want spring training to feel like spring training again — not the background noise for the WBC.
Speaking of which I had Wake Forest in the final four and my bracket is officially busted but that is besides the point. The World Baseball Classic is trying to compete against one of the premier events in all of sports. March Madness falls behind maybe only the Super Bowl in sporting significance in the United States. So why do it then? No one is in shape, everyone is getting hurt, and no one wants to do it. What other time is there to do it you ask?
THE ALL-STAR-WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA
I heard this proposal from the always-incisive Buck Martinez, who managed Team USA in the 2006 WBC. Here’s his idea:
Bag the All Star Game every four years and play the whole WBC during what would otherwise be All Star Week in July.
The sites would be the three metropolises with two ballparks — New York, Chicago and L.A./Anaheim. No off days in each round for any team still alive. Finish the entire tournament in one week in July. And hold the finals on a Sunday, in prime time, when there isn’t another sporting event in America to serve as competition. But, most of all, play this event when “players are ready,” Martinez said.
“In July, players are ready to go,” he said. “Players are in optimum shape. You’d take extra starters, so you’d have one starter start a game and that’s it. And you’d give the rest of baseball a week’s vacation in the middle of the summer. I think it would be a great thing for baseball.
“Then everybody’s in shape. Nobody’s concerned. Then you might get the Roy Halladays and Brandon Webbs and Jon Lesters and Josh Becketts. But if you hold it in March, then I understand why they won’t do it.”
What’s the down side: Excellent idea. But there are two reasons owners would balk: (1) No interest in abandoning tradition by not holding the All-Star Game and (2) forcing half the clubs in baseball to give up a weekend worth of gates in July. To me, the positives take a unanimous decision over the negatives. But it would be a tough sell.
Outside of the United States, the WBC is a huge success. In Japan, TV ratings are said to rival the Super Bowl. Buck Martinez’ plan would be a hit in the United States. The All-Star game is not what it was to earlier generations. No one would mind if they canned it once every three or four years in favor of a tournament that would fall behind only the Olympics and World Cup in sporting significance on this planet.
Per capita, the Dominican Republic may be the best, and internationally Cuba may be the most successful, but no matter how you look at it the United States is the best baseball country in the world and without us on board then the credibility of the tournament becomes drastically diminished.
The length of the tournament could easily be shrunk down to a week. One option would be to have a single elimination tournament which would be over in four days. The other would be to leave it as is in a double elimination format, but take away the championship games for each pool which seem to be very unnecessary. That version would be over within four days. Maybe they could even play the first round in spring training and just send the final eight to the new “Midsummer Classic.”
This would allow us to finally move past the ridiculous rule that the winner of the All-Star game wins home field advantage in the play-offs. It should be whichever league wins the interleague series during the regular season anyway. As for the money issue, last time I checked, Major League Baseball was in no financial danger. And why would a tournament like this not make money. There is nothing else going on around this time. Baseball has a monopoly on the summer. The possibilities are astronomical.