Looking into the bleachers of games in Toronto, Tokyo, Mexico City and around the world during this year’s World Baseball Classic, you see more empty seats than people.
As the classic winds down, one must ask if this celebration of the world’s best baseball players is going to survive much longer. For an obsessive baseball fan, the classic is a way to gear up for the 162 game season that lies ahead. But for the average fan that would choose a sub-par National Football League game on Sunday over a Dodgers-Giants rivalry match-up, the Major League Baseball season is too long as it is.
Baseball in the U.S. reached its peak in the 1940s and 50s with players like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Willie Mays who hit the field every day because of their love of the game. Nowadays, the times are different.
Free agents holding out to get an extra $3 million on their contracts, complaining about lack of playing time or lack of media coverage are everyday scenes. And the fans aren’t stupid, either. The apparent “steroid era” continues to shed new faces to the public with fans losing interest in the sport every time an Alex Rodriguez admits his past mistakes. An era of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds has overshadowed the times when baseball was once at its purist form.
Players Have Priorities
The passion athletes have for their country has slowly disappeared over the years, and it’s obvious in this year’s World Baseball Classic. Ryan Dempster signed a four-year, $52 million deal in the off season with the Cubs giving some people the feeling it was the reason he decided not to play for Team Canada. Whether that is true or not, it reflects badly on the World Baseball Classic, MLB and Team Canada. Instead of players lining up to get their shot at representing their country, the overpaid athletes are staying back in Florida or Arizona to spend time playing exhibition games in a vacation like setting.
Whether the World Baseball Classic is around for the next 50 years or four years, there will always be the select group of ball players who want to play for their country and win the gold.
Players like Ryan Braun, Jake Peavy and Dustin Pedroia gave up spring training to try to improve on the embarrassing eighth place finish Team USA went through in 2006. But Braun, Peavy and Perdoia don’t represent the majority of the MLB players.
Money rules the game these days, and most professional athletes don’t want to risk getting injured for a tournament that doesn’t bring them the dough.