Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Midsummer (World Baseball) Classic

That's Big Mo. He's as bald as our nation's tearful eagles that soar free for freedom.

Tonight! Live! From that steep-tiered 31-year old "cathedral" in the Bronx, it's the All-Star Game! Corey "Allegory" Hart digging in against Cliff "Curse of Chief Wahoo" Lee! Chase "Boo?Fuck You!" Utley against Joakim "You'll be" Soria!!!!! WHEEEEEE!!!

Yeah, not really feeling the All-Star game. Judging by the flat ratings not many of you are either. There was a time in this country when people genuinely enjoyed watching the game of baseball. People, children and adults, played the game. In the days when the two leagues were almost-independent fiefdoms fans were eager to see stars face off against each other.

These days, factors such as interleague play, a fading in rivalry between players of each league, the same umps for all games, fantasy baseball, and highlight saturation have robbed the midbummer classic game of much of its appeal.

Most importantly, and this is just a hunch, despite record attendance figures, people do not enjoy watching the game itself. Oh sure, people will watch their own team play, but I think the main reason that national regular season broadcasts, such as Espn's Sunday Night Baseball, don't do very well is because people's tolerance for the sport does not extend beyond their own teams, no matter how marquee the Sunday night matchup may be. As an aside, and this is a topic for the future, I think the main reason for record attendance figures in recent years is the rash of new ballparks and their 'beer garden' atmospheres.

Anyhoo, the All-Star game is outdated and lacks any juice to make it must-watch TV. My only memory in recent years is Larry Walker batting right-handed against Randy Johnson. Zany!!

The All-Star highlight of the past 10 years?
What follows is not my original idea, but is an idea worthy of consideration, why not stage the Final Four of the World Baseball Classic in lieu of the All-Star game? The lesser countries, such as China, Italy, Canada, and the United States, could battle it out over the winter in qualifiers, while the top four, Japan, Cuba, D.R. and South Korea, could receive byes until the last eight perhaps. The last eight could be narrowed down to four in two days during the first week of spring training, and then the semifinals could be played during the current All-star break.

It's quite likely that the U.S. wouldn't make it to the final four, but I'd still rather see Japan taking on the D.R. tonight than the A.L. take on the N.L. in a glorified exhibition. Judging by the large crowds and healthy ratings for the inaugural WBC final four in 2006, which the U.S. did not partake in because they were terrible, I think many would agree.

Of course, owners and players would howl about playing these games in the middle of the season. It's a fair argument, but it would only be two games and the pitchers would be on pitch counts. For comparison's sake, World Cup qualifiers are played during the club footy season, as are all manner of friendlies. If anything, it's healthier to play such games in the middle of a season than at the very beginning of spring training, when their bodies are not warmed up to the daily grind of baseball.
And if the U.S. were to somehow make it into the final four, why, there'd be more juice than the Kool-Aid Man taking a wicked pissah. "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" is a far catchier chant than "Jun-ior Cir-cuit! clap! clap! clapclapclap!" And besides why should we fight amongst ourselves on A.L.-N.L. fault lines when we can fight the rest of the world? We're used it in real life anyways.

1 comment:

Latanya said...

Good words.