Classic delivers great ballgames with passionThe World Baseball Classic must go on! To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the inaugural classic, but after watching game after game I got a strong feeling that what we have here is the best thing that has happened to baseball in a long time. I will be the first to admit that I doubted the intensity of the game. But then I watched Venezuela play the Dominican Republic ― that was passion at full throttle. Not to mention the epic clashes between Korea and Japan. Of course, that doesn’t mean the classic was perfect, but remember that it was being played for the first time, and that problems can be fixed next time.
First, we need qualified umpires. Botched calls took some of the air out of the games, a leak that needs to be patched if the classic hopes to become a truly respected event. Getting more international umpires in to silence conspiracy theories would be a good idea. Setting up the pool in an way that avoids disputes is also be a must. Even a blind man could see whom the organizers wanted to get to the finals.
The format needs to be changed as well, so that nations from other pools play each other. There is also the problem of location: It’s safe to say that the United States and maybe Japan are the only places able to host a tournament of this magnitude due to the availability of quality facilities. Even if only a few countries are able to host a game or two, games should be played out abroad in the participating country, otherwise there will be a limit to its internationalization.
Another problem is how to address the issue of disparity among the participating countries. There were upsets and unexpected wins that added drama to the classic, but I just don’t see how China, for instance, will seriously challenge anyone in the near future. The purpose of the game is to raise international interest at a grass-roots level, so kids will once again pick up baseball gloves. But if you constantly see your country losing and games ended with a mercy rule, I doubt your interest in the game will linger. This is an area that needs research. Fewer countries have baseball leagues as have soccer leagues, so we have to figure out a better way to promote the game.
Another thing that is needed is a real effort by the MLB and the tournament’s broadcaster (this time it was ESPN) to spread interest in the tournament in the United States ― it seems that Americans are somewhat indifferent to national games compared with their professional leagues’ championships. Even games involving the United States were on tape delay this time ― not the way to get people excited.
Globally, there was no shortage of passion for the game. Players watched the game from the top step of the dugout; star players like Ichiro screamed in frustration; national news channels looked like sports channels both here and in Japan, while the number of baseball gloves sold was two to three times more than usual. Nevertheless, the question of timing still remains. Coinciding with spring training for major league teams, we missed some faces and the blessing of greedy team owners who were only concerned about their investment. What to do about that?
Such questions as these will remain but that does not call in to question the success of the classic. It was a smash hit, and can only get better.
by Brian Lee