Ichiro helped the Japanese team win its second consecutive World Baseball Classic championship Monday. The win sent its players into a joyous celebration and lifted the spirits of entire country.
It also became painfully clear that the United States will never win the WBC, as long as the competition hangs around. The reason is simple:
We could care less.
The U.S. players view the WBC as a glorified exhibition, while American fans probably take an even dimmer view.
Monday's championship game between Japan and Korea drew 50,000 rabid fans to Dodger Stadium, but the semifinal contest between the U.S. and Japan registered a blase 20,000, and you don't have to guess whom the majority of the fans were rooting for.
While Japan, Korea, Cuba, and Dominican Republic view the WBC as an opportunity to prove to the world their baseball superiority, and play with the passion and intensity required to live up to those goals, Americans will always hold the view that no one is better than us—after all, we invented the game.
For whatever reason—self-preservation, team interference, or player indifference, the U.S. will never have its full complement of players on a WBC squad, and who can blame those who decide to pass?
Are they getting paid to play the role of patriot? No. Their job is to be ready to roll when opening day comes around, and grabbing a few innings here and there under the questionable decision-making of an out-of-touch skipper, isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for playing in the WBC.
To their credit, the players who were on the U.S. squad said all the right things, and I'm sure they relished the opportunity of playing for their country.
But there was certainly an undercurrent of second-guessing, as some questioned playing time and the way they were used. Now, those players who didn't see a lot of action must hurry back to their spring training camp and play catch-up—always a risky proposition.
In theory, the WBC is a cool idea, but as most things overseen by Bud Selig tend to wind up, it has been badly mismanaged, leading to hard feelings by players from all countries,and a general disinterest here in the United States.
Winning the WBC isn't even an option for the U.S. when the tournament returns in 2013—getting players to even sign up will be hard enough.