I'm glad to see Mariano Rivera won't participate in the World Baseball Classic. I'm glad because the World Baseball Classic is a fraud and one less star participating the better.
Let's be honest. All this is is one big marketing gimmick for Major League Baseball. This isn't about nationalism or international baseball or about "coming together" to celebrate baseball. It's about selling ballcaps in Tokyo, Rome and Mexico City.
If MLB wants to promote its game internationally, a legitimate aim, then let it follow the lead of the NBA, which didn't resort to gimmicky faux-competitions, but rather established overseas operations to promote basketball in specific grassroots ways. That course is harder, costlier and takes more time, but it's honest.
MLB is looking for a shortcut. In doing so, -- and this is the fraudulent part -- it keeps insisting on something we know isn't true: that this is an "international competition." How international is it when 29 of the 60 Italian players are Americans and the team trains in Lakeland, Fla.?
MLB says the WBC will feature "the best players in the world competing for their home countries." Yet, its eligibility rules allow players to play for the country in which a parent was born, regardless of the player's actual "home country."
Winning this "competition" will mean absolutely nothing. All MLB has done is give its best players new jerseys and put them on different teams.
Michael Young, who is playing for the U.S., says, "Everybody is proud of their American citizenship and they want to do the best they can to represent that."
Well, not everybody. Mike Piazza, born in Norristown, Penn., is not playing for his country. He's playing for Italy. David Aardsma, born in Denver, is not playing for his country. He's playing for Netherlands. Adrian Gonzalez, born in San Diego, is not playing for his country. He's playing for Mexico. Eduardo Perez, born in Cincinnati, isn't. He's playing for Puerto Rico. Chris Reitsma, born in Minneapolis, isn't. He's playing for Canada.
And why? Well, for one, to make international teams competitive. But more important, so little Guiseppe in Venice will take a liking to Mike Piazza and take a liking to Major League Baseball. Maybe he'll even buy a Padres cap.
MLB is using an international competition to market its stars under the guise of some Olympic-like ideal about baseball botherhood. Puke. "I speak the language of baseball" goes the WBC commercials.
No, MLB speaks only one language. The language of money. There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but don't resort to manipulation. Don't pretend you're doing anything but trying to sell t-shirts in Sydney and Seoul, laying the groundwork for eventual international expansion of Major League Baseball.
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 2/7/2006 3:52:00 PM