I was listening to Reuben Frank on 610 WIP-AM last night. He started a discussion about the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and whether anyone should care. Frank is a self admitted “baseball junkie,” yet says he can’t sit through an inning of Baseball’s second World Classic.
“I don’t know how they can improve it,” Frank told me after his show, “I just know I can’t watch it.”
Frank continued, “it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t stand for anything, it doesn’t lead to anything. It’s pointless. Guys should be getting ready for the major-league season, not playing in some meaningless exhibition against teams loaded with players who wouldn’t even make a minor-league roster.”
On the flip-side some cherish the WBC and feel international competition is an important part of baseball. I spoke to Phil Sheridan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sheridan says, “I’ve covered a few Olympics and I see the appeal of true representation of your nation. I was in Clearwater last week and got the impression it really mattered to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino and Derek Jeter. I know from covering these events that it means a lot to athletes from other nations.”
“I’m a sucker for the romantic ideal of the Olympics and would love to see more of that in our day to day sports awareness. Our half-assed Olympic commitment seems lazy and self-serving to me. We lost because we didn’t care as much as everyone else? Please. That’s lame.”
Sheridan acknowledges Franks argument, though, “I know the cynical view is that it’s all for show, and the U.S. approach—the NBA guys on the Dream Team, etc.—has exaggerated that.”
“There’s a wonderful middle ground between jingoism and patriotism and I would hope international sporting events can find that place,” Sheridan says. “I watched the U.S.-Venezuela game Monday night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yeah, I think it’s worth trying to do in order to further international baseball. The timing is tough. The Olympics are impossible for MLB, but this seems to be the best balance of the two interests.”
Sheridan doesn’t think that the event could hurt the Phillies, “I think Rollins and Victorino will be better for this, and I think the Phillies’ season will be unaffected.”
So what can we do to improve the Classic? Frank sees no solution, and Sheridan struggles to find one, “I was disappointed [to see the low attendance in games between bad teams], and I don’t know what the solution is,” Sheridan said. ”Maybe this is a necessary step along the way toward building a World Cup kind of intensity. But it is discouraging.”
Still, Sheridan likes the idea, “The idea is a noble one. I’m no Bud Selig fan, as MLB PR guys will happily attest, but this is something I’d like to see evolve.”
And hopefully it will. It has the potential to turn into a great event.
To me, Frank’s comments made me really think about it. Does it mean anything? Are the days where representing your country is enough reason over? There used to be a day people took such pride in their country and representing it in sporting events. I hope those aren’t over.
I encourage you to use the comment thread for discussions. It could be very interesting.