The World Baseball Classic has come and gone with little fanfare. To anyone living in this country, that was not really a surprise. The first problem was timing. Spring training, even though it does not draw a big television audience, has been a family pilgrimage for decades. Fans travel for a few weeks to the beach to catch some baseball games under the Florida and Arizona sun. This is the one chance every year that the every-man gets an opportunity to get within arms reach of his favorite players. The same man can allow his son to run down the front of the bleachers to shake his favorite superstar’s hand and get his mitt autographed. This is the fans’ chance to see the big name players without the steel curtain of the forty thousand seat stadium.
Imagine yourself as the father of an eight-year-old baseball fan, someone who has been looking forward to the trip to spring training for some time now. Now tell this young Phillies fan that Chase Utley won’t be there, or tell a young Yankees fan that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriquez won’t be there. Commissioner Bug Selig has stripped the teams of their superstars during the one time of year that they are most approachable. Nice work, Bud, but you don’t have to explain that to your kids, do you?
What’s worse was the USA team not showing up and getting knocked out in the second round. Losing to the likes of Canada and Mexico is a surefire way for the fans in America to lose quickly lose interest in the WBC. Everyone knows that pitching shows up before hitting – it takes hitters a few weeks to get the timing back. The lackluster effort definitely holds the USA players as culpable. However, it was also the way the tournament was billed that was most annoying. The tournament was basically sold that a USA vs. Cuba final was a forgone conclusion. So when does our country came up lame against marginal talent in the first two rounds, no one had any interest in watching the power hitting Dominican’s, ultra-smooth Japanese or the all-around quality team that came north from Cuba.
Once again, MLB’s valiant commissioner came up small with the world watching. Was his bungling of the first World Baseball Classic a shock? Were we as a baseball community surprised? Maybe we should remember how Bud Selig waddled through the steroid issue and gave us the “This one counts” remedy as a response to the All-Star game tie in 2002. It’s possible that no one was surprised of the outcome of the WBC, maybe just ashamed. There were a lot of people looking forward to competitive baseball in March only to be disappointed by Selig yet again.