For those of you traveling down to either Florida or Arizona to see your favorite players playing in spring training for your local MLB franchise in March or April, they will be missing from the team. You wonder why they aren't at spring training. You wonder, where is Dustin Pedroia, where is Derek Jeter, where are Ichiro and Manny Ramirez?
You're still puzzled why they aren't there, but then you look up to see a TV on the concourse of the spring training stadium, and on it is a baseball game between Japan and the United States in California. You wonder what is going on, and then you see the World Baseball Classic logo on the Field, and you learn that teams from all over the World have been playing in it.
Then you wonder why they are playing this at all. All you care about, like most baseball fans, is your local team, and you don't want to see your favorite players get injured in some crummy tournament.
To the average sports fan, this is the sentiment about the World Baseball Classic: Get rid of it. It is pointless, and it makes American baseball players look pathetic. We did invent the sport, didn't we, so we should be the best at it.
Major League Baseball has put this out there for the wrong reasons. For starters, it's in the winter when players aren't even close to their peak yet. Second, the only people who care about the crummy event are immigrants from those countries participating getting to see their team beat up on a crummy C-quality American team. Third, the American team isn't even made up of the best players from our country.
Here are my solutions to the problem.
1. For starters, MLB, don't half-ass this; either go all the way or throw it out. Make it a truly international event by giving every country in the world who wants in and hold a qualifying tournament to get to the final round. Don't just invite the countries you want in it. Give everyone a chance. If the Little League World Series can hold a truly international tournament, I'm sure you can.
2. Second, hold the tournament every four years in the middle of the season. Hold a four-week break each year for qualifying games along with the actual tournament. To do this you will have to shorten the season by say 30 games, along with the All-Star game.
You know pitchers' arms burn out and will allow injured players to recover, and your sport will be front and center to the entire world every four years. This allows everyone in the entire country the opportunity to see games so fans from Boston, New York, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, some of the best baseball fans in the country, can see it.
Let's be honest, the final is at Dodger Stadium, so the crowd will show up in the third or fourth inning, and they will be gone after the seventh to beat traffic. Not much of a playoff game atmosphere that you are looking for.
3. The United States can't always be the host and this having games in Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, and then the rest of the Tournament in the USA. Pick one country to host the entire event. It will spread the sport of Baseball throughout the world—and isn't that the point of the WBC?
4. Finally, USA baseball fans, you should care that the US didn't win the first one and don't look like they will the next one. This is embarrassing. Go ask USA basketball. They were humiliated, and that is what USA baseball is looking like. Why would a great pitcher like Dice K want to come over and play for the Red Sox if he didn't think that this was the best country at the sport they invented?
Bud, fix this mess, or your legacy just won't include steroids. It will also include the humiliation of the nation that invented the game of baseball on a world stage.