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Now that the World Baseball Classic’s second tournament is finished, we can reflect on what has worked about it and changes that should be made to improve it.
I have noted my issues with it in the past, but thanks to four days in Florida at an uncle’s place with nothing to do at night, I did watch some of the tournament. Amazingly, it vindicated some of my criticisms. After all, I think we all know that the Dominican Republic is more talented than the Netherlands, but given the small sample of two games, the Netherlands team was able to pull off two big upsets.
For a lot of foreign countries, the games were very popular and the nations showed pride in the results. However, American fans were largely ambivalent and the games did not sell a lot of tickets. Furthermore, a large amount of players either got injured or hid injuries to play and worsened said injuries (see Cano, Robinson and Youkilis, Kevin).
On Team USA we saw Davey Johnson feel the need to try and have no manager hate him and so he tried to get every player in, even though it might have hurt his team’s chances of winning. Furthermore, while the first round was very good at using stadiums around the world, all successive games took place in the US. Yes, the US does have the most amount of professional baseball stadiums and is the originator of the commercialized version of the game, but if this is a truly world event, then the world should be better represented.
So if we are to fix it, how should it be fixed?
Well if the players care as strongly as NHL players do for representing their country, then they should bargain for it to be mid-season, when their bodies are fully warmed up and when the weather is more encouraging of people coming out to stadiums.
Second, they should take a clue from the MLB stadium building trend and go with smaller stadiums, seating capacity wise. Use Fenway or Wrigley, so that the smaller crowds feel more packed. Or maybe to show off the strength of the sport, negotiate to use the stadium of one of the independent league teams, like the Newark Bears.
The tournament should show off how baseball has become a multicultural unifier and the integration with our society. Use the MLB Network and do previews for the teams and go into the countries represented and get local views of the games. Maybe even get footage of some of the unknown players to show fans.
Otherwise, if the committee fails to make changes, I think it should be abolished. I’m happy that other nations are proud of their representation, but the format is flawed and basically is structured so that we don’t get to see the best in action. Mariano Rivera will never have played in one, but I think we can agree that he should’ve been on Panama and we should’ve seen his cutter mowing down some of his current teammates like Jeter and Cano and how that could’ve been a fun twist.
The tournament should not come off as a cheap attempt at profiting off of other countries wanting to show their pride. It should be a full blown effort to truly grow the game and expose Americans to how other cultures see it. Michael Kay’s ignorance was showed in not understanding how some players felt winning a game for their country was more important than winning the World Series. Let’s not let the rest of America fall into Kay’s hole.