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Quote of the Day: Undermining The Basis of the WBC Edition

Mar 18, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

World Baseball Classic - Semifinals - Puerto Rico v Japan Getty Images

My thing on the World Baseball Classic is not that it isn’t fun and cool. It is! Having gone to a couple of games and having talked to people involved with it, there’s no denying that it’s fun. Especially this time of year when all of the other baseball being played consists of meaningless exhibitions. There has been genuine electricity and excitement at Chase Field, Marlins Park and AT&T Park over the past week and change.

But I do take issue with those — be they MLB officials or national columnists — who claim that the WBC determines something truly important or tells us something even remotely meaningful about the state of international baseball. For starters, it’s not globalizing baseball in a basic sense, because as Twitter friend @yakyunightowl noted last night:

It may put an official, MLB-led imprimatur on international baseball, complete with marketing and broadcast rights and all of that stuff, but no one involved in these finals is truly introducing baseball to their homelands. It was already there.

But marketing and broadcast rights are part and parcel of the 21st century, so that’s fine. If they want to claim that stuff is significant they won’t get too strong an argument from me. I lost that fight years ago.

That said, anyone who claims that these games tell us something meaningful about the relative baseball power of the countries involved in the tournament will get a strong argument from me. Because as the hero of last night’s game, Alex Rios, noted himself, the best players in the thing are not exactly playing at full strength:

“For us, this is like Spring Training,” Rios said. “We’re still in a preparation phase. We have to understand that we’re not at our maximum. We have to work on our approach and the game and do our job as well as we can. We can’t just be worried about mechanics. It’s just the approach. Thanks to our results, which were favorable tonight, we have done well.”

Good for him and other major leaguers for fighting through all that rust and bad mechanics to play competitive baseball, but please note the rust and bad mechanics. They’re simply not at full speed and skill, and to suggest that we’re seeing the pinacle of baseball right now is like watching Led Zeppelin play Live Aid in 1985 or listened to the Beatles sing “Free as a Bird” and saying you saw the pinnacle of rock and roll.

It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s baseball. It’s just not telling us anything particularly meaningful.

  1. danaking - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    The WBS cannot be considered a true “world championship” until an international governing body organizes a well-conceived process, like is done for hockey, basketball, and soccer. MLB doesn’t want to hear that because it doesn’t want a “world championship” take anything away from the “world champion” it crowns every year, and because it doesn’t want to cede any control of what is, for them, strictly a marketing ploy.

    It’s great people are having fun and some bragging rights are earned, but they’re not playing top-drawer baseball. right now it’s roughly analogous to one of those pre-season college basketball tournaments. The teams there want to win, but not everyone is there and everyone knows the championship everyone really cares about is several months away.

    • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      The WBC wouldn’t take anything away from the WS. Fans of MLB baseball will still consider the team that wins the WS to be champions and it is the championship they will continue to care most about. MLB is where the best players from all over the world come together to play the best baseball. No oddly organized tournament with a single game determining who advances to the finals and who wins is going to replace the WS in importance in the eyes of players or fans.

    • heyblueyoustink - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:21 AM

      I’m totally with you on the organizational part. The fact that it matters so much to these other countries would make you think someone would organize this thing better, time it better, and at worst, make a good bit of coin out of it.

      If MLB has any kind of worries about young US athletes picking other sports over baseball, maybe this would be something MLB could help mold into an event which carries the attention of the youth of the country. Afterall, from an interet point of view, a kid who might have a rooting interest in his MLB team of choice might be apt to stop paying attention when their team is eliminated.

      Put a USA logo and the top US talent out there like in Hockey or Basketball, and then you just might get their attention.

  2. paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    I don’t know Craig. The WBC suggests to me that people from islands are better at baseball from continents. Note that the semi-finals were all island nations: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Japan, and Curaçao

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      Paper, it’s still called Netherlands, of which Curaçao is but one piece, please use it in the future. There are several actual players in that roster that come from Europe. Loek Van Mil for example, was born in a village outside Rotterdam. Others are of dutch descent while being born in Canada, US, DR, etc. Two other players are from Aruba. So, uh no. the semi-finals are NOT all island nations. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a mix, and while obviously Curaçao has the lion’s share, there’s a signifcant chunk (11 players) that don’t come from there.

      I think you’re doing a disservice when you keep insisting on calling the Netherlands team Curaçao. You’re always big on Facts, why do you have so much trouble swallowing this one?

      • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM

        Because Curacao, which is a sovereign country, is carrying that team, and calling it the Netherlands is silly. Athletes from Curacao do not compete for the Netherlands in the Olympics or in soccer, as they have previously been the “Netherlands Antilles” and in London were considered “independent athletes” as the entity lost its Olympic status after its dissolution….but they still do not compete as Dutch….because they aren’t. Puerto Ricans are more American than those from Curacao are Dutch.

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 18, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        Paper it’s not what you want it to be, it’s what it IS. When Curacao decides to field its own team for the WBC we’ll call it that. Meanwhile that roster is representing the entire kingdom because that’s how they decided to compete as. It’s why the WBC has listed them as Netherlands. Kindly respect that.

      • blacksables - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        hey, paper, how come you’re okay with Puerto Rico doing the same thing? It most definitely is not an independent country.

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:28 PM

        Puerto Ricans are more American than those from Curacao are Dutch.

        You’re ignoring the fact that the Dutch colonized the island and contributed to its cultural heritage since 1634. To this day you can observe Dutch architecture in Wilemstad. Being Dutch is very much part of Curacao today which is a reflection of their institutions and history.

        Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony that was forceably taken away by the United States and converted into a dependent territory at the turn of the 20th Century.

        If anything it’s the other way around: Curacao is more Dutch than Puerto Rico is American.

      • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:32 PM

        By that logic, every other Caribbean island should be playing for Spain. There is nothing Dutch about the Curacao culture. It is more “American” than it is Dutch. The entire team is freaking Caribbean. There is one guy in the lineup not born in the Antilles, and he is batting 8th. Make up whatever fantasy you want, but this WBC game (and the finals) will be all-caribbean.

      • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:41 PM

        …and for the record. The Dutch NEVER colonized Curacao. It was a spanish colony/property for nearly 150 years until the Dutch took it by force and used it as a stop as they became leaders in the slave trade

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:52 PM

        Wow, it’s like the more you post the more off you get.

        Because Curacao, which is a sovereign country

        They are as sovereign as the state of California. Foreign Policy and Defense fall under the purview of Kingdom. It is a constituent country of the Kingdom which is a big difference from sovereign. Not that it matters much, just pointing out how off the rails you are getting. This one is on par with people from St. Bart not being French.

        …and for the record. The Dutch NEVER colonized Curacao.

        Yes they did, Colonization doesn’t preclude occupation. Spain landed in 1499, they enslaved the local population relocating a number of them and then lost interest when they couldn’t find gold or any valuables.

        Sure, everything in the Caribbean was “Spaniard” in the 16th and 17th Century. The Dutch claimed the island for their own later in the 1600s, established a city and made hay. You make it sound like they attacked and sacked a Spanish city or something. They took islands and built forts to defend their own trade interests, which inlcuded slavery yes, not sure why you bring that up? I mean they certainly didn’t have a monopoly on it. The rest of the European nations engaged in it quite willingly. Did you include that tidbit to cast them in some unfavorable light? If it’s for completest sake you should mention that all this happened while they fought Spain for their own Independence at the same time.

        Basically when I compare the contributions of the Dutch vs that of Spain, the Dutch had far more impact than Spain. They actually DEVELOPED the place, which is the point of COLONIZATION. Spain could have cared less. It’s the big #1 Reason Guyana is English rather than Spanish. The same thing happened there. It was a nominal territory of Spain. Britain took over and occupied it, and then they settled and colonized the empty areas. By YOUR logic the fine people from Guyana were never Colonized by Britain and were in fact colonized by Spain. But we know that’s not the case.

        Make up whatever fantasy you want

        I’m not making up fantasies. Facts are facts. Curacao is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Fact. The people there are Dutch citizens of the Kingdom. Fact. Although Curacao could have insisted on participating as their own country they are instead participating in the WBC as the Netherlands alongside countrymen from different parts of the Kingdom (Holland/Aruba/Dutch Descendants) Fact.

        If you want to criticize that the Netherlands Teams leans heavily on people from Curacao that’s fine, it doesn’t make it any less Team Netherlands however because that’s the country they are representing in the tournament.

        If anything I’m amused that you have blind spot. It’s like arguing with a young Earth Creationist.

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 18, 2013 at 11:56 PM

        I should clarify that when I referred to Guyana I was talking about the Esequibo Territory which was a source of dispute between Britain and Spain (later Venezuela and Britain). Before that Guyana was actually… wait for it… Dutch! You know, those people who never colonized anything.

  3. heyblueyoustink - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    So why not do like the NHL does with the Winter Olympics? Have it in the middle of the season.

    • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      A couple of reasons: first, they’ll lose a crap ton of profits. Second, any decent or meaningful baseball tournament would require at least 5 game series to advance. A decent international tournament would take at least a month of continuous baseball.

      • heyblueyoustink - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        I dunno, I think they could have some pre-lims during spring training to make the mid summer tourney a bit shorter ( kind of how hockey does it ), and as far as the money goes, since MLB would have to step aside for a couple of weeks, the WBC would have no competition in the middle of the summer from a television point of view.

        That could lead to bigger and better prime time TV money, of which MLB, because of it’s concession, could ask for.

        In other words, money for taking a couple of weeks off. And they could get by with three game series I think or the round robin as it is.

      • chip56 - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:34 AM

        There’s also the television aspect of it. If you put the WBC in the middle of the season then the World Series won’t be played until mid-November where it will be swallowed up by the NFL.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      Because MLB isn’t in the crapper like the NHL was when they decided to allow the players to play in the Olympics for a marketing ploy. If you have a solid sport, with a solid following, then you don’t need any gimmicks like shutting the season down for 3 weeks right in the middle of the year to play in the Olympics. The NBA does it because it is the off-season. MLB likes the WBC more than the Olympics because it can be controlled by MLB and played during the Spring Training.

      If MLB was going to allow their players to play in the Olympics, then they would have done it before letting baseball be eliminated as a sport. Right now, there is no reason whatsoever to allow MLB players to play in the Olympics.

  4. DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    “like watching Led Zeppelin play Live Aid in 1985 or listened to the Beatles sing “Free as a Bird” and saying you saw the pinnacle of rock and roll.”

    Yes. And I’ll add my own musical reference. WBC enthusiasts sorta of remind of the pretentious music aficionados’ of the 80’s “Erasure is the best band in the world – it’s just the people in the U.S. don’t get it!”. If you like the WBC (or Erasure), good for you. The rest of us find it boring – don’t take it personally.

    BTW – Echo & the Bunnyman, they were the best band in the world in the 80’s, people in the U.S. just didn’t get it

    • moe0594 - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Echo & the Bunnyman!!!!

    • 410baltimore - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:27 AM

      And it’s called, “Freebird”

      • gmfw7 - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        two completely different songs, chief. nice try though.

  5. orelmiraculous - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    We get it, it’s a flawed method to determine the best baseball country in the world. Here is an inexhaustive list of sports tournaments that are also terrible at determining “true” champions:

    NCAA Tournament
    NFL Playoffs
    MLB Playoffs
    BCS
    The World Cup
    Any Olympic team sports event

    When a 15 seed beats a 2 seed on Thursday, are you going tweet about the NCAA tournament being a joke because of small sample size?

    I can’t stand the constant need of a certain faction of the baseball media to constantly bitch about the flaws of the WBC, while mostly ignoring everything that is great about it. This is what’s becoming of the American sports media in the internet age: we’d rather bitch and snark about something rather than enjoy it for what it is.

    Craig, you say that the WBC is fun and cool, and yet you guys can hardly be bothered to actually write about the coolest part about it: the games themselves which have been phenomenal. If you can’t complain about it, its not worth your attention.

    • chip56 - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      You’re essentially saying any playoff format is flawed but that a system that doesn’t have a playoff format (BCS) is flawed too?

      So what would work for you – team with the best record at the end of the season is the champion and that’s that?

      • orelmiraculous - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:42 AM

        Essentially, yes. Anything that reduces the sample size is a flawed method of determining a champion. In most sports, that means playoffs that are much shorter than the regular season. In the BCS, that means relying on just 12 regular season games.

        All of these systems are deeply flawed at crowning the true champion. Only the WBC gets constantly degraded for it.

      • chip56 - Mar 19, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Oh, well then that’s stupid.

      • paperlions - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        That isn’t true. Everyone recognizes that the winner of the NCAA tournament is not the best team in the country, they are just the winner of the tournament…people love the tournament because it is fun, because so many people have ties to schools/conferences….and because the tournament takes place at the end of a season in which fans have followed their team the entire time. The WBC just comes out of no where as far as most fans are concerned…..plus, compared to the tournaments you are trying to compare it to, a huge % of the best players choose not to play because there are more important baseball games for them….in contrast, there are no more important games for NCAA basketball players.

  6. chip56 - Mar 18, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Fun but ultimately meaningless – so essentially the WBC is the internet blogger of baseball tournaments.

  7. dwrek5 - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    WBC is such a volatile subject, doesn’t need to be…

  8. unclemosesgreen - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    - Now what song is it you all want to hear?
    – FREEEEEBIIRRRRDDD!!!!

    I swear I’m not making this up, Freebird was my prom song.

    • unclemosesgreen - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Sorry, I just had to let that out. But while we’re here, lets settle something else. “Free as a Bird” is a crappy demo tune that John Lennon wrote and got posthumously remixed and released as a “Beatles” song in a shameless cash grab.

      I just had to get in a Lynyrd Skynyrd reference first.

  9. melogrooves - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    The WBC might suck for a lot of Americans due to the fact that the USA Team has not being able to win the tournament in their 3 tries. Anyways it awsome to see MLB players jump up of excitment everytime their team gets a clutch hit or scores a run. Money, talent long term contacts and good press can take you long ways. You can’t buy passion for the game while representing your country. Lots of Americans take that for granted. When they lose, they make excuses…. The best players were not there, not the right timing (spring training) or the tournament does not matter. Players are high paid professionals, they should be ready if they sign up for these types of events. SMH

  10. seattlenative57 - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    For the record:

    Lynyrd Skynyrd: Freebird

    John Lennon: Free As A Bird

  11. orelmiraculous - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Holy Jesus, I can’t believe I didn’t address this quote yet either:

    “For starters, it’s not globalizing baseball in a basic sense, because as Twitter friend @yakyunightowl noted last night: [the two countries in the semifinals have been playing baseball for a long time].”

    So let me get this straight, Craig. You are arguing that the WBC doesn’t globalize baseball, and your proof of this is that two teams WHO HAVE REACHED THE SEMIS (!) have been playing baseball for a long time? Of course they have! That’s why they were able to reach the semis!

    Your logic, apparently, is that if none of the final four teams in the WBC come from countries where baseball is new, then the tournament is failing to globalize the game. You’re smart enough to realize how flawed that thinking is, I hope.

    Have you considered the impact of the WBC in China? With baseball out of the Olympics, literally the only reason China even has a national baseball program is to compete in the WBC. No WBC, no baseball development in the world’s largest country.

    And hell, lets just look at the Netherlands, even though, as stated above, they’ve been playing baseball since 1911. At the 2009 WBC, do you know how many members of the Dutch media covered the second round after they beat the Dominicans? 1. Do you know how many members of the Dutch media are in San Francisco covering tonight’s game? 14. That’s a direct example of baseball being grown in a country specifically because of the WBC.

    Craig, reading your posts about the WBC is just like reading all the articles by NFL writers about baseball’s declining TV ratings. You know, the ones you bend over backwards to discredit by pointing out that they have an agenda and are ignoring certain metrics to support it. You’ve built your own narrative around the WBC, and you’re cherry picking facts and anecdotes to support it. Its a stunning lack of self-awareness from someone who usually eviscerates that kind of writing.

    • dnc6 - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Thank you orel. The WBC has garnered a hell of a lot more interest in baseball in China and Brazil (anyone disagree that those are two markets that you need to appeal to in the near future?) than there was ten years ago. Thats the measure that matters. Not who exactly makes the finals.

  12. Stiller43 - Mar 18, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    “Especially this time of year when all of the other baseball being played consists of meaningless exhibitions.”

    You mean like the meaningless exhibitions called the WBC?

  13. tc4306 - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    The WBC is like WAR metric theory:
    Both are cool
    Both are fun
    Both are terribly flawed
    Neither tells us anything of importance.
    But there is nothing wrong with things that are cool, fun, flawed and unimportant.
    Here’s lookin’ at you Taylor Swift.

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