Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Replacing the All-Star Game with the World Baseball Classic.

 Shortstop is ready. And get that pitcher some raisins.

The World Baseball Classic is a great idea and a lot of fun. The All-Star game was a good idea but is not anymore and is not fun.

Before television sports relied almost entirely on gate receipts. Fans in American League towns almost never got to see the stars of the National League and vice-versa. Today, obvi, we see the highlights of every game on-demand. More importantly, fans in America have largely fallen out of love with the game of baseball itself. Oh sure, we love going to the new ballparks and scarfing all the ill new food available. We love to root on our own teams towards glory. But there are very few fans who like watching baseball.

Meaning that a Cub fan would watch a Sunday Night game between the Braves and Mets, whereas a Bear fan is likely to peep a Sunday Night game betwixt the Falcons and the Giants. Football fans, college and pro, will watch almost any matchup of teams not their own. Most basket fans are the same. Part of it is tastes changing, after all, it wasn't too long ago that baseball, boxing and horse racing were by far the dominant sports. Part of it is the perception, true or not, that in football and basketball we are watching raw athleticism, that we are getting fast-paced play packed with action highlights whereas baseball is the gentle game concentrated on statistical accumulation.

All of which goes toward saying that the baseball All-Star game, as an exhibition, doesn't offer the viewing public much. Whereas the World Baseball Classic has juice.

There is a misconception that the American sports are not international. In Soccernomics, an otherwise-brilliant book by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper, the authors argue that American insuralism meant that its sports did not spread beyond its borders while British ambition made soccer the global game.

"The American empire's favorite games have been no good at cultural imperialism...few American[s] ever taught baseball or football to [foreigners]."

Bullshit. Putting aside how soccer remains extremely unpopular in all of Britain's former colonies (Canada, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand) , baseball is an established international game. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. I'm comfortable putting that list up against other international sports like cricket or rugby.

All of which goes toward saying that the World Baseball Classic is a legit tournament offering the viewing public serious juice both in terms of the strong teams in it and the appeal of nationalist rooting.

But it doesn't get taken seriously when played in March. So how about this:

Cancel the All-Star Break. Hold a yearly World Baseball Classic. Make the midsummer break 4 or 5 days. Play a final four during that break. Two reps from Asia and two reps from the Americas.

Play the preliminaries in early spring for each of the two regions. So in early spring, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Australia and South Africa, (the latter two not in Asia I know, but closer to there than to the Americas), plays for two spots in the midsummer final four. Meanwhile, the U.S., Mexico, Cuba, P.R., D.R., Panama and Venezuela play for two spots in the midsummer final four. What if the U.S. doesn't make it to the final four? So what? 24 million people in the U.S. just watched the World Cup final between Espana and Los Paises Bajos.

To allay the fears of the Major League clubs, games could be limited to 7 innings and pitchers could go no longer than 4 innings or 70 pitches.

What if the U.S. played Japan for the world baseball championship on t.v. last night instead of a meaningless exhibition? Money over bullshit.


cannatar said...

I think the WBC every year would be too much. I might be down with keeping it at every four years, but switching the semis and finals to July as you propose.

Logistically, they'd have to come up with something different than your East/West split. Japan and Korea wouldn't have any real competition and would be pretty much guaranteed spots in the semis.

Coachie said...

taiwan needs to step its game up.

four years is too long for something so dope.