The first ever WBC began with Korea beating Chinese Tapei 2-0. Korea and Tapei are just two of the 16 teams that were selected to compete for the title of best baseball country. This whole thing has caused some controversy, some questioning, and some anticipation.
First of all, the concept of a baseball World Cup is a good one, if you ask me. Baseball is more than just an American sport. It is played in South America, Central America, North America, the Carribean, Asia, Australia, and in small pockets in Europe. Many of these countries have great amount of pride in their athletes. Orlando Cabrera, a good but not great MLB short-stop is a hero in Columbia, for example. International competitions such as soccer's World Cup, and Olympic hockey are very fun to watch because national pride is on the line, and the team's are usually All-Star calbre teams.
As far as business decisions go, the WBC is a good one. It is a chance to have a few games on ESPN, sell a few tickets to games, sell some merchandise, and more importantly grow the brand of baseball across the world. Countries like Australia have small but growing groups of fans that spend money on baseball, watch the games on satelite TV, and some eventually become baseball players. Beleive it or not, there are dozens of pro Australian born players in the minor leagues. Australia is just one of the markets across the world that baseball can use to make some money and expand the game of baseball.
Unfortunately, the WBC has been poorly planned out. The timing of it is all wrong. If you want to have a huge event, you don't time it to coincide with the NCAA tournament. If you want to have an event that measures the best of the best in baseball, don't have it during Spring Training when the best of the best are supposed to be getting into baseball shape and pitchers aren't supposed to throw that much. And if you want to have it be the best of the best, don't select the competitors, the competing teams should have to earn their spots. Every team in the soccer World Cup except the host team has to qualify from their region. The qualifiers for Olympic hockey are based on results in previous international competitions. Arbitrarily selecting 16 teams to be in the competition just doesn't hold with the concept the WBC claims to hold to.
Another thing the competition claims to be about is national pride. That doesn't make sense because Mike Piazza and Lenny Dinardo are not Italian, they're Americans with Italian ancestry. And do you think Andruw Jones would go around and call himself Dutch? No. He's Aruban and Aruba happens to be a territory controlled by the Netherlands. Under these standards, Puerto Rico shouldn't have a team because it is a territory controlled by the United States. Yet Puerto Rico has its own team, but Aruba is part of the Dutch team.
Let's look at the venues for the games. Tokyo, and San Juan are both baseball hotbeds. But Orlando, and Phoenix are not. It is screwy that the event is taking place in the US, Puerto Rico, and Japan. That's just weird. It should all be in one country or a region of countries like the World Cup of soccer. And it should be played during the summer so that baseball hotbeds like Chicago, Boston, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Baltimore, and other MLB cities could be used. Don't you think that places like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium should be where the best baseball teams in the world play?
It is too late to save the 2006 WBC, but let's think about what to do for the next one. I'm thinking it should be played entirely in the US, during the summer, and played only in MLB ballparks. The MLB season would stop, just like the NHL season stops for the Olympics. The regular season would start a week earlier and end a week or two later in order to accomodate this. Because it would be played in the middle of the season, pitchers could go deep into games and players would not be seperated from their teams while their teams were still playing and training.
Instead of simply selecting 16 teams, teams would qualify form their own regions. North America, South America, Central America, the Carribean, Asia & Australia, and Europe & Africa would have qualifying rounds to determine the best teams from each region. Like the soccer World Cup, the amount of teams per region would depend on how good those regions are at baseball and how many good teams they can send to the competition. Asia, for example, would be able to field more good teams than North America so Asia would get more slots in the competition.
There'd be a group stage with teams from different regions, not four teams from the same region. This would create more interesting games in the earlier rounds. The top two teams from four groups would move on to elimination series, not one game elimination. Baseball, as we all know, is not a game that can truly be played over 1 game. Series test depth of pitching staffs.
This is just some stuff that has been floating around in my head. It's pretty dull, but I think the WBC has potential to be a great thing and it has been ruined by some of the idiots at Major League Baseball.