Running around to Give you the Reacharound
Fixin' the World Baseball Classic
1. Due to the timing, many of the best players sit out of competition.
Sure, someone like a Gary Sheffield ("if they ain't payin' me, i'm not playin" -2006) or Barry Bonds would never play in something like this; but, when stars like Albert Pujols and Johan Santana elect to sit this one out due to (very legitimate) concerns about how it will effect their readiness for the upcoming season, it kind of undermines the whole "world's best" mentality. Add in behind-the-scenes grumblings (like the Braves' supposed balking at a deal with Japaneese ace Kenshin Kawakami until he agreed not to play in the WBC), and the point is driven home further: MLB front offices don't like this thing. Not sure this problem can be fixed, at least until the WBC gains some Olympic-esque cache.
2. Teams can cherry pick players who've never lived in their country.
This seems less common this year, but why the hell should Nomar Garciaparra (born in California) be allowed to play for Mexico as he did in 2006? Maybe I'm sounding old-fashoined here, but you rep where you from. And A-Rod, born n' raised in Miami, is not from the Dominican Republic (though that seems like less of an issue now). Look at Italy's roster! It's like they let any scrub major leaguer whose name ends in a vowel on the team. I'd bet half that roster has never set foot in The Boot before. This rule needs to go...both here, and in the Olympics. Ben Gordon playing for England my ass.
3. Some of these teams should not be in the WBC, period.
Sorry, Selig, baseball ain't soccer. It's not a worldwide, beloved sport. They don't play world-class baseball in Europe. Ditto for South Africa. Peep this list of where every major league player ever has been born. Click the European countries. None of them have produced a major leaguer since the days when our Presidents wore monocles. Therefore, Italy and South Africa, be gone.
Taiwan and South Korea are new to the game and are already sending their best to the bigs, so they can stay.
China gets a pass too, since it's impossible to do anything global nowadays without including them. Plus, pretty soon they'll be genetically engeneering baseball players and forcing four-year-olds to undergo Tommy John surgery, so we may as well go ahead and jump the gun on this one.
Australia can stay as well, as they have proven quite adept at pumping out end-of-the-bench type talents.
Netherlands, you can hold your spot by default, but you have to change your name to Dutch Antillies, to better represent where your baseball bread is buttered.
Replace Italy and South Africa with Columbia (let Edgar Rentaria and Orlando Cabrera fight to the death for the starting SS spot) and Nicaragua, countries that play baseball year-round and have actually produced major-leaguers this century. Hopefully, this can mean the end of the mercy rule (yes, there really is one) in the WBC.
So there you have it...a tournament consisting of teams made up of players actually from the countries they're representing, in which baseball is actually played. A novel concept, I know, but one juuust obvious enough for Selig to miss the boat. And while we're at it, let's keep holding this thing every three years (after this year, it will be held every four years), just to give it some history and intrigue. This could help with problem #1, as national pride might be enough to bring out the biggest stars in the game.
Tomorrow: Sue's WBC predictions.
Saturday: USA's Game 1 liveblog. C'mon, it's early March, and I'm not feelin like talking about how the Hawks are quietly collapsing, so what else do ya want from us?