Why Aren't We Caring About the World Baseball Classic?

Ian FroeseCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

As an old expression goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Sadly, in this day and age, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) is that tree.

As you have all been breathlessly not paying attention to, Major League Baseball is going for their second swing at an international baseball tournament involving players from the majors.

This is just the second time that baseball fans have been presented with the opportunity of watching the pros put on the uniforms of the country they call home!

You would think that the anticipation and the excitement would be tremendous, but that belief is far out to left field. Now, I understand that public interest in the WBC won’t reach the levels of the World Cup of Soccer or the Olympics, but awareness of this event is beyond low.

For Canadians, a simple excuse to not knowing about it could be the windup of the NHL season. Though in the USA, baseball is America’s favourite pastime!

Why is interest in the United States on the same scale as Dr. Phil airings?

There are major problems with the tournament, one of them being the extra weeks added to an already lengthy baseball season while ignoring the postseason.

It is a long grind beginning in April and consisting of 162 games—almost double the 82 games NHL and NBA seasons have—not including the nearly two months spent in spring training commencing in February or the additional week or two required by pitchers and catchers to reach peak performance in their difficult positions.

That is a lot of baseball and the requirement of getting in top condition before a March tournament when players should be getting their groove back is difficult.

In comparison, the World Cup of Soccer is an huge event because it encompasses an entire country while the world watches. That can’t transpire with the WBC because the event is shared in five different countries in seven cities.

As a fan, it’s hard to follow an event spread out across the globe. Hey the tournament is even proceeding in Toronto. Didn’t know that, did you?

Most importantly, the WBC is occurring at the same time as spring training. A handful of all-stars are opting to practice with their team instead of playing for their country.

Blame the little monetary reward for competing in the WBC, the excuse of fear of injury, or the insurance needed to protect the millionaire athletes.

Nevertheless, if the athletes aren’t interested, why should the fans be?

Notable names that have dropped off are Albert Pujols, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard. This is a departure from what happens in the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey where there is no option for the players to say they would rather train than play in a tournament.

Sure, some will make an injury excuse but for everyone else it is a honour to have their country’s name on their uniform. That commitment doesn’t exist in baseball players and it’s a shame.

When even the official website of MLB has trouble prioritizing between their own tournament and Alex Rodriguez’s decision to undergo hip surgery, a problem exists.

Still, it might not be worth the effort because baseball has gone decades without an international tournament and this new idea might never appeal to the players and fans.

Then again, MLB shouldn’t throw in the towel but instead they should amend its formula. Maybe they could play ball in November?