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World Baseball Classic is a Fraud
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 2/7/2006 3:52:00 PM
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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.


While I agree with your overall point, I have a couple of quibbles.

1) You shouldn't act like the World Baseball Classic is the first international competition to play with such liberal rules for who-competes-for-which-country. I remember a bunch of American ballplayers on the Greek team in the Athens Olympics (a team which, I believe, was organized by Peter Angelos)... and America's most successful male marathoner of the last decade or so, Meb Keflezghi, was born in Eritrea.

2) Not for nothing... all professional sports competition is, on some levels, about making money. International basketball is just better established. (You're saying that the NBA speaks a language other than money?!?)

I don't fault MLB for the concept, which I think is interesting. I just think the execution is shoddy.
Posted by czegers at 2/7/2006 4:47:00 PM
While we're at it, can someone explain to me why Puerto Rico competes as a separate team from the United States in international competition?

Isn't that more or less the same as, say, Delaware having its own squad?
Posted by czegers at 2/7/2006 4:48:00 PM
For your first question, I am just as critical of other international competitions playing fast and loose with the eligibility rules. But here I was just talking about the WBC. Second, As I said, making money is wonderful. Profit motive is part of made American the economic dynamo it is. I take issue with the manipulation that is going on. Trying to gin up interest in an "internationa" competition when it is anything but international. Your second post speaks to the manipulation that is going on.
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 2/7/2006 5:14:00 PM
that manipulation is called "marketing". Just about every commercial on TV is mainpulation. Does drinking light beer get you hot chicks? Is it really that much fun to drive a SUV? Will some hicks really race me if my truck has a "hemi"? If a commercial makes people laugh, are they more likely to buy the product? Believe it or not, yes. Isn't that manipulation? Yes, but in the real world it's also called marketing.

If MLB comes out with a statement saying that these games are absolutely meaningless and are just a marketing tool to game more fans gloabaly, would that make you happy? Actually, I'm pretty sure it would, but then it's less likely that they will get more fans. So they make it seem like that games have meaning just in case there is a Giancarlo in Italy who will buy a Mike Piazza jersey. It's called marketing.
Posted by herbilk at 2/8/2006 5:51:00 AM
To follow up on the eligibility question, then...

Why should the WBC be held to a higher standard than, say, the Olympics?
Posted by czegers at 2/8/2006 6:53:00 AM
My favorite part is that, even given the transparant profit-motive for the WBC, they still completely screwed the pooch by sandwiching it between the Winter Olympics and March Madness... oh yeah, perfect timing for a sports competition, Bud. I'm sure the ratings will be through the roof.
Posted by ESiegrist at 2/8/2006 7:36:00 AM
I do agree with you though that the MLB classic is a fraud and completely there just for money making purposes. Some of the rules they put in, like the mercy rules, are just terrible.
Posted by herbilk at 2/8/2006 8:31:00 AM
I’ll agree with Jason on one point ... this first edition of the World Baseball Classic has the potential to be very unsatisfying. As a result of being played in March, the pitch count rules for the WBC hurt in two ways: they drastically reduce the impact a star pitcher can have in a short tourney, but at the same time they set maximum exposure limits that managers will almost certainly make some pitchers meet, leading to workloads far in excess of what they normally face in March. Someone’s bound to get hurt. Then there’s the never-ending wave of defections, which will certainly impact some teams’ chances of winning the thing. With Nomar Garciaparra out, it’s now Canada, and not Mexico, who’s a favorite to advance to Round Two out of the Arizona pool along with the US (it never looks good for a team that’ll have to hit Vinny Castilla cleanup).
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/8/2006 5:53:00 PM
(continuing from previous post)
With Mo Rivera out for Panama (the development that started this whole string), the Netherlands now might be able to advance out of the San Juan pool along with Puerto Rico. (Cuba? They’ll be severely outclassed.) And, with Wednesday’s news that the Devil Rays will pull Carl Crawford (wrist) out of the WBC, Team USA’s starting outfield now looks like Ken Griffey, Johnny Damon and Vernon Wells, with Randy Winn as the fourth outfielder. That’s how deep the defections have gone for the Americans.
However … many major sports competitions have had rough circumstances surrounding their inaugural event, and have gone on to over come those difficult beginnings. Consider the following:

Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/8/2006 5:56:00 PM
(continuing from previous post)When the first soccer World Cup took place in 1930, six of the seven best teams in Europe (England, Scotland, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria) all passed up the chance to take part, saying that the long boat trip across the Atlantic to Uruguay (host for the first Cup) would be too taxing for their players. (The seventh team in that group, France, wanted to pass as well, but with FIFA headquartered in France, it was kinda tough for them to back out.) Look at the World Cup now; indeed, by the mid-fifties, it was clearly the world’s second-biggest sporting event.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/8/2006 5:57:00 PM
(continuing from previous post) When the sport of rugby started their own World Cup in 1987, they took two years to decide whether South Africa (whose government practiced apartheid at the time) could take part in the first tournament, then didn’t settle that question until just a couple of months before the Cup started. Meanwhile, many erstwhile starters from the UK squads backed out of the first Cup because it ran too close to the start of that year’s Five Nations championship. (Substitute Cuba for South Africa, and it sounds as if we’re talking about the WBC, right?) By 1999, however, the Rugby World Cup final was drawing a larger worldwide TV audience than either the Super Bowl or the European soccer championships. And, just like soccer’s World Cup, every country wants in, and every player who’s got the chance finds a way to play.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/8/2006 5:59:00 PM
(continuing from previous post) Oh, speaking of the Super Bowl … the first game was played in front of around thirty thousand empty seats at the L.A. Coliseum. And, as recently as the Friday before SB III, Pete Rozelle was still wondering publicly if the game, in its NFL-versus-AFL format, was still worth having, because everybody knew that, structurally, the game was a mismatch and always would be. Of course, Joe Namath started quelling those fears two days later, and the game’s a pretty big deal now.
So … this World Baseball Classic may not be much to look at. (And, for the concept to really succeed, I would think it has to be played at a different time of year; November works for me.) By the time WBC III or WBC IV rolls around, however, I get the feeling we’ll wonder how we ever got along without it. In the meantime, I’ll take the Dominican Republic in the final over Japan for WBC one.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/8/2006 5:59:00 PM
Completely agree about the timing of the event. Until that changes, this can't be more than a glorified exhibition. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but at the same time (and you'll see more on this with the next installment of Charging the Mound between Chris & I), I'm having a hard time getting worked up about it. This, despite XM putting a lot of resources into broadcasting the games.
Posted by Erickson at 2/8/2006 6:31:00 PM
I'm not a soccer guy... so my understanding of the various club championships is limited to say the least...

But what if the WBC adopted that sort of format? Throw representative teams from the AL and NL, the Japanese League, the Mexican League... etc. and have them play a tournament?

My first impulse is to say that Yankees vs. Tokyo Giants and Astros vs. Mexico City might have a little more juice than this format... though I expect the MLB teams would severely outclass the competition, at least initially.

Are there enough leagues and teams, internationally, to make it work? Or is there too much overlap between MLB and say, the Caribbean leagues for this to be an option?
Posted by czegers at 2/9/2006 8:54:00 AM
That's a cool idea Charlie. The problem with any WBC (why not just call it the World Cup of baseball?) is scheduling. The season is so long and the offseason is so short. When is the right time? Next time at least avoid a Winter Olympics year.
Posted by flutiefan at 2/10/2006 2:43:00 PM
I know it's been a couple of days, but just to close the loop ... (1) MLB has already said they want to hold the next WBC in 2009 and then every four years afterwards, so that would take the WBC out of a cycle that competes with the Olympics and soccer's World Cup. (2) There's already an amateur tourney called the World Cup, and evidently IBAF hasn't released the name to MLB yet (and might never do so). (3) As far as a world clup championship, getting the Caribbean leagues in it wouldn't work since they use many MLB players, but there isn't much stopping MLB and Japan from getting their champs together if both sides really wanted to. Putting the Korean, Taiwanese and European champs in that competition, however, might be a real stretch from a fairness standpoint.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/14/2006 7:19:00 AM

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