Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Team America Comes Up Short

Puerto Rico is part of America, right? I mean, it can't be "Team USA" because Puerto Rico is not one of the fifty united states, but those guys are American citizens who hold American passports, right? It's not like the Kingdom of the Netherlands fielded Team Holland and Team Curacao. What will happen if Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state? Will they still get a team in the World Baseball Classic? Silly questions, I know, and I mean no disrespect. After all, the notion of a "nation" has little to do with political realities. But imagine a Team America that combined the two rosters--that would have been a tough squad. I enjoyed the WBC despite the fact that a short duration tournament is the antithesis of the marathon summer of ball we all know and love. And I would have preferred a final with Japan, the defending champs, who were clearly the other great team in the field. Puerto Rico had an inspiring run and it was fun watching Angel Pagan's histrionics. I love his lead vocalist-style strutting and preening and his goofy, bug-eyed complaining to the umpire. He's an impressive player and a fine addition to the San Francisco Giants. Harold Reynolds called him "an offensive force." I liked that. But the Dominicans were not to be denied and are deserving winners. That country has an amazing baseball history, as we all know, and it is fitting that they were champs. I don't know how you can run the WBC differently so that MLB players can participate fully--perhaps you can't. There will always be conflicts with contracts and countries, and I'm not sure how I'd feel about Buster Posey busting his balls for Team USA in March. I like him a lot better doing stretches and sprints in Arizona. The WBC is a good opportunity for other, non-superstar players to get a chance to shine, and there was plenty of talent on Team USA, certainly enough for them to make a run at the title. It would have been nice to see more fans in the ballparks, but the WBC is here to stay and I think that's a good thing for baseball. Should be even more fun in 2017.

Back home on the Giants front, the news about Pablo Sandoval and his "chronic bone spur" does not make me happy, but we are, sadly, used to the Panda missing large chunks of the season. Perhaps this year they will rest him more frequently and try to avoid long stints on the DL. Injuries are always the X-factor when thinking about the upcoming season. You know that guys are going to get hurt, all you can hope is that the injuries aren't too severe and that the club has the depth to tough it out when a key player goes down. I'm getting excited about those last couple of roster spots, aren't you?


p.s. Check me out at C70 At The Bat (a Cardinals blog) where I preview the 2013 Giants along with a few other Giants bloggers! The feature is called "Playing Pepper." Thanks to Daniel Shoptaw for the invite and chance to talk baseball with a different audience.


Zo said...

Major League Baseball has done about the best job possible of making sure that the WBC gets as little exposure as possible by getting the broadcast rights. For a good many people, perhaps including those who live in extreme northern California, MLB network may be the only way to watch many of your team's baseball games. That may also be true for the many people who are, for example, displaced Cubs fans. But for many more people in major urban areas, most games are available (for now) on television, so there is little incentive to get MLB network. I was frustrated to hear the Japan semifinal not even start on KNBR until the spring training game had finished. I realize that the future of baseball on television is on pay TV because everything in major league baseball will soon have "pay" attached to it. Still, compeling baseball denied to America. Now of course, you will hear about how most of America wasn't much interested in WBC baseball. Convenient, isn't it?

Brother Bob said...

Santiago Casilla is now a double world champion. He gets bragging rights for life.

Ron said...

I have no big objection to the WBC - because of restrictions on pithces thrown, it functions as a form of Spring Training. I do object to attaching any significance whatsoever to it. That is akin to asserting that the US would have won the 1977 WBC, because Randy Elliott might have been on the team. Performance in March is meaningless.

If you really want to have a somewhat meaningful WBC, do what hockey does. Hold the WBC in October, using all-star teams comprised of players from non-playoff teams. You could stage the big games on playoff off-days or at other hours of the day, so someone would actually watch. At least then you would have players who are performing at 'in-season' levels. Plus, if anyone got injured, they would have months to recover, so their MLB teams would not be as reluctant to allow them to participate.

Roger said...

Ron, This is an excellent idea. It could both increase WBC exposure and result in greater attention to the MLB playoffs. I can see the WBC ending the day before the World Series begins too. This would avoid the WBC taking attention/ratings from the Series.

Ron said...

A couple of more details:

- Like in hockey, guys could join their national teams, once their MLB teams are eliminated from the playoffs.

- Since my proposed WBC would take place in October, most tournaments would probably end up taking place in warm climates (e.g. Venezuela) or domed stadia (e.g. Tokyo Dome).

Other note: WBC games were also televised on Fox Deportes. While also a cable channel, in most areas, it is available as part of different packages than MLB Network. We happen to get both of them. Not that I watched much of the WBC, but I could have, had I wanted to or had time to.

M.C. O'Connor said...

The NHL is not exactly a model I would like to see baseball emulate. Seriously. Sixteen teams (out of 30) made the playoffs last season. It takes at least six fucking weeks to crown a champion. No. Please. No NHL comparisons. I think October baseball is just fine and I would hate to see it messed with. I would be aghast if MLB "squeezed in" the WBC during the post-season. MLB September pennant races and the MLB playoffs are great, best baseball in the world, better than anything the WBC can produce. Please, please, don't fuck with my Octobers.

The WBC works just where it is. If Puerto Rico wants to give more of a shit about the WBC than the USA, bully for them. We all know the big prize is the World Series ring. Everyone of those players wants one. The WBC will bring more international players to the American game and raise more interest in baseball around the world. I like that. That's good. Lets' get some seven foot Dutch guy and some Italians and more Koreans and Japanese and etc. The WBC is plenty "meaningful" to the teams that are in it. It could use some butts in the seats, but it don't need no help from Seligula.

nomisnala said...

The WBC needs to be at a different time so that it does not interfere with Spring training or the major league baseball season. It may have been the Commissioner's baby but it needs to be scheduled at a different time.

SIR said...

We saw most of The Classic on DISH after doing our usual searching of the Guide to see what was on and noticing that MLBTV was now listed. We missed the first few games but enjoyed watching Pagan lead off and get on in all his games! The players may want a choice to play for their nations despite what we see as risks.

Ron said...

Mark, I don't know how you can possibly say that 'the WBC works just where it is' while also saying 'it could use some butts in the seats'. It obviously doesn't work where it is, because almost no one watches on TV &, for the important games, no one showed up. This is because no one really cares.

The only game that I watched in any detail was in a preliminary round back in January, when Brazil eliminated Panama in front of a crowd of horrified Panamanians. However, that is because about 75% of Brazil's team, including virtually their entire pitching staff, was actually from Japan.

If that is the kind of big-time excitement this competition is supposed to generate, well, then, I guess that there is some audience for that. To me, the whole things seems irrelevant, but, mostly because of when it is played.

I, someone who actually enjoys when the US loses at sports from time-to-time, have no doubt that, if a true competition took place, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, & Japan would normally either win or be extremely competitive. Korea & Mexico wouldn't be too shabby either. I imagine that most of the Netherlands team had never actually set foot in the Netherlands. On the other hand, had they been appropriately cast as Caribbean Netherland Islanders, they would have had a pretty strong team anyway.

But, those countries will never be afforded the satisfaction of winning anything genuine, as long as the WBC remains a concocted half-ass off-shoot of Spring Training. And, there is no longer the option of winning an Olympic Gold Medal in baseball.

Zo said...

So the World Baseball Classic should avoid conflicts with MLB? That leaves, what, November, December, and January? Oh, that would work well for baseball games.

Just because some US players (not Ryan Vogelsong) don't bother because they are not making an extra $10 million for appearing in the WBC, and US media doesn't give a fuck because no one named Jeter is in the WBC, don't think that "people" don't care. Cubans, Mexicans, Japanese, Koreans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Venezulans, you better believe they cared, and were probably up and watching at 4 am or whenever they had to to see the games. Ask Japan if they think that their victory over Cuba the last time out was a "half-assed offshoot of spring training." I think you would be rudely surprised at the answer.

I wish I would have known that the WBC was on Deportes. I would have watched, but it was not listed in the Chron. As a San Franciscan, I can tell you that they did a crappy job of advance advertisement until just before the games. As I understand it, the Japanese language station was forbidden to broadcast the games because MLB had the broadcast rights. Never pass up an opportunity to shit on a portion of your fan base, no matter how small it might be!

It's baseball! Exhibition baseball, it's true, but played with pride by everyone who could be bothered to particpate. ATT was quite the carnival, too, from the accounts. It's kind of silly to think that guys with Italian surnames are representing Italy, but that kind of adds to the lighthearted feel to the whole thing, unlike, say, the Olympics where they throw out legitimate sports like wrestling so that the US can up their medal count.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah, I agree with Zo. There is no time that does not conflict with MLB, except the spring. The reason it "feels" like a meaningless exhibition is because it is a young event. Do you think anyone outside of South America cared when Uruguay beat Brazil in the inaugural World Cup in 1930? Like I said, I LIKE the WBC. I hope it grows and gets more fans. And lots of US fans will watch even if Derek Jeter is not a part of it. Team USA this year had plenty of talent and good stories. I wished we could have seen more of the Asia bracket with Japan and Korea, countries with rich baseball cultures. I want to see baseball played everywhere by everybody, AND I want my April to October MLB to continue being awesome and number one in the world.

On a side note, I gave up on the stupid Olympic nonsense years ago, but I must admit to outrage at dropping wrestling. Wrestling is on those goddamn Greek vases for chrissakes! It's absolutely, fundamentally Olympian. OK, I'm over it.

Ron said...

Pardon me for confusing 'interested in the outcome' with 'meaningful'. You're right - there are Countries whose fans were excited & interested & took pride (or the opposite) in the outcome of games.

I want a WBC, but I want it to have competitive meaning. You can never convince me that the current WBC reflects a meaningful assessment of the relative talents of the Countries involved - not when the vast majority of the Players involved are physically in Spring Training mode. If Spring Training proficiency meant anything, there would also be trophies presented for the best records in the Cactus & Grapefruit Leagues - oooh, maybe even a 'Series' between the winners of each league.

And, who mentioned Derek Jeter, anyway? I don't think a US All-Star Team or a US Most Popular Millionaire Team would win a meaningful WBC regularly (&, I consider that to be a good thing).

Shankbone said...

MC - I enjoyed your discussion, thanks for the tip. I also hadn't heard of one of those blogs, so thanks for that as well. After commenting for a long time, I've decided to get my own blog, if you'll allow me to plug for a sec - its and I've been live a week or so. Gimme a link if you like it.

Looking forward to the season starting. Belt is hopefully in mid-season form here.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Awesome! You will get a listing here at RMC. Have fun with the blog--we've certainly had a lot of good times doing this one.

Ron said...

Thank you for cleaning out some of the clutter from the links list. There are still 2 inactive links on the list:

Croix de Candlestick
Give 'em Some Stankeye

While these are snappy blog names, they are not in use anymore.

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