[SPORTS VIEW]Baseball classic is a great event at a wrong time

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[SPORTS VIEW]Baseball classic is a great event at a wrong time

In a perfect World Baseball Classic, every single player participating would have the blessing of his professional team to play. Injuries or no, salaries at least for this year would be guaranteed.
But the upcoming World Baseball Classic in March is anything but perfect, despite being billed as the baseball world’s pinnacle event. Sixteen teams representing as many nations will compete, with 60 percent of the rosters being filled by players from the American Major Leagues.
Surely, looking at the rosters filled by each country, especially that of the United States and to some extent of other countries such as Costa Rica that have their own fair share of major league players, one cannot help but be impressed.
But played in March, with some notable players such as Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees skipping the event due to injury concerns and pressure from his own team, there will be some missed faces. Besides, coinciding with the spring training of Major League teams, it remains to be seen what the playing mode of the players will be.
Actually, I doubt that we’ll see lots of playoff caliber plays ― players hustling for balls and colliding with the wall while running down a fly ball. Even if we do see it, it won’t be too often.
Players with fat checks from the Major Leagues will pay the same lip service everyone else does ― saying that they are playing for the honor of their country ― but with truck-loads of money at stake, don’t blame Barry Bonds sitting out a game just because he got nicked in the first inning by an opposing pitcher.
This brings us to the question of what to do with the South Korean players who might manage to place within the top three spots of the classic. There is already talk that the players should be given the same benefits as the 2002 World Cup squad, who all received an exemption from the country’s mandatory military service, except for a couple of weeks in boot camp.
My answer is that the classics do not warrant such a free ticket. At least not for now, when the very nature of the event seems to be more of an all-star game rather than a playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the score tied.
The concept is great. The world’s best players pitched against each other for nothing but the honor of their country. But the timing is a problem.
Players will be trying to get rid of the rust gathered during the winter, and they’ll be doing it carefully. Players are not in their midseason form. Players from outside the major leagues will get a chance to go up against the best. For some, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
But that’s how we should view this classic: a nice game loaded with names, but all the famous ones playing at less than full throttle. The classic itself is good for raising the profile of the game but as far as being a true competition such as the World Cup or the Olympics, this it surely is not.
There are still too few places operating professional baseball leagues and the disparity is too great between the American Major Leagues and the rest of the world. And that is why even if South Korea places in the top three spots, those who have not done their military duty should still have to do so ― in time.


by Brian Lee
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