The Misnomer of the World Baseball Classic

Let’s take the words of Adam Dunn from The Late Show (with David Letterman)’s Top Ten Reasons to Watch the World Baseball Classic…

You’ll be part of a cherished baseball tradition dating all the way back to 2006.

Thank you Mr. Dunn.  I hope that he delivers at the plate for the Expos — oops, team in Washington, DC — as well as he delivered that line.

But Adam is correct.  The “Classic” is a glorious tournament that does date back all the way…to……..2006?  I agree with Crumb, what is up with the “Classic” in World Baseball Classic?

Yes, there already exist a Baseball World Cup.  And the World Series is another misnomer already appropriated by Major League Baseball.  They could have utilized World Baseball Championship, similar to the FIBA-sanctioned World Basketball Championship…but “Classic,” I suppose, harkens to the historic game that has been played for over a century in baseball hotspots like the United States, Japan and…China?  South Africa?

So we have sixteen teams and…they qualify how?  They really don’t.  They are simple selected.  It is predetermined.  What is this — the BCS?  Well, I suppose the teams have to be choosen (the same 16 this year is the same 16 from 2006) because it is not a dominant sport in many parts of the world.  [While basketball might not be as popular as soccer, there are plenty of basketball leagues throughout the world; not necessarily the same with baseball].  But no real qualifying for this “Classic.”  Hell, even cricket has qualifying for its World Cup, even though it is primarily a Commonwealth sport and you know in the end the finalists will include India and Pakistan, as well as the Aussies and Brits.

Let’s call this what it is — The World Baseball Marketing Tool!  Or, to not be so cynical — the World Baseball Invitational.

—————–

OTHER OBSERVATIONS FROM THE WBI:

  • The Dutch Antilles — errrrrrr…The Netherlands — beating the Dominican Republic, then holding their own against Puerto Rico was a shock.  Australia’s offensive explosion against Mexico was surprising.  Italy knocking out Canada was a “wow!” moment.  China actually winning needed a double-take.  All of this points to the fact that perhaps Bud Selig’s plan to further internationalize baseball is working.  At least to some degree. Think of the 1996 and 2000 Olympics men’s basketball tournaments.  While the 1992 US team was far and away the dominant team, the gap was closed a bit in 1996 and significantly closed in 2000.  While there was no one dominant team in the 2006 WBI, there was a clear gap between the first tier and second tier.  That seems to have closed significantly in the past three years.  Granted, Italy has players who are U.S.ians but with Italian heritage, and the Dutch team is carried by Caribbean players, but inroads have been made.  And while South Africa still lags behind (despite MLB teams developing players there), other countries have stepped up.
  • China’s improvement is noteworthy.  They were destroyed in 2006.  But in the 2008 Olympics and this year’s WBI, China has displayed that they can play with the big boys…at least a bit.  Sure, Korea killed them, but they played very well against defending champ Japan, and outplayed Taiwan to gain the victory.  I did not watch the China-Japan game, but I caught most of the China-Taiwan game.  China’s game was fundamentally sound.  They did the little things well — defense and pitching.  Timely hits from ABC Ray Chang and China looked decent.  Perhaps it is coming around for them.
  • And Taiwan was hurt not only by the absence of MLB’ers Wang Chien-Ming and Kuo Hong-Chih, but also by the fact that the Chinese Professional League did not release many of their players.  Countries like the U.S. can manage if some players are not released, but Taiwan needed those home-grown players.  Without them, Taiwan looked very amateur and were perhaps the worst team in the WBI.
  • Yu Darvish is nice.  I still am not sure if I believe him when he claimed that he wants to stay in Japan.  It is hard not to believe that he wants to test himself against MLB’ers.  He already has a Japan Series title.  It would be interesting to see what happens with him in the future.  That stated, I do not even think he is the best pitcher on the Japanese staff — or at least not the one most likely to jump to the MLB (soon).  That is either Sugiuchi Toshiya of the SoftBank Hawks, or Tanaka Masahiro of the Ratuken Golden Eagles.  [Although, Saito Kazumi and Wada Tsuyoshi are also very good pitchers not on the Japan roster — both, are actually teammates of Sugiuchi.  I think one of those could jump soon].
  • The U.S. team looked dominant.  But certainly beatable.  I like the team mix — good combination of speed, power, role players and leaders.  But I still think Korea and Cuba are the favorites (even though both are in the same second-round pool).
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