Thursday, March 02, 2006

World Baseball Classic Begins Today!

Major League Baseball is traditionally the most short-sighted of the professional sports leagues, but now, it is the people who cover the sport that have failed to embrace an idea that is long past overdue. It’s hard to believe the following statement, but baseball should learn from hockey.

The World Baseball Classic is not only a good idea, but the media, fans and baseball officials should not only be supporting this year’s inaugural tournament, they should realize that the right thing to do would be shutting down the regular season for two weeks once ever four years to continually stage the event. Why? Well, for one it’s good for the sport to have an international stage. And secondly, as the history of baseball shows, every great innovation in the sport was mocked when it first became a reality.

While Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are always given credit for “saving” baseball following the 1994-95 strike, it’s revisionist history not to remember that the sport’s popularity soared following the last work stoppage also due in large part to the advent of the three-division, wild-card format in 1995. The arrival of interleague play shortly thereafter has also been a rousing success. The wild card wasn’t the death of pennant race baseball, and the World Series has in no way been diminished by a three-game mid-summer series between teams such as the Yankees and Braves. In fact, one could argue that the Yankees-Mets Subway Series of 2000 began with added anticipation due to the Mike Piazza beaning incident of earlier that year.

As the World Baseball Classic gets underway, the National Hockey League is beginning the second half of its season following the Olympic break. Now granted, in no way are the audiences between baseball and hockey comparable, but the NHL gains a lot of viewers during the Olympics that would not otherwise watch the league. And there doesn’t seem to be any bad public relation fallout despite injuries in the Olympics to some of the league’s brightest stars. The Olympic tournament was thrilling and the games were passionately played. While it’s true a serious injury did not occur, that is the risk you take in order to grow your game and reach a larger audience.

The World Baseball Classic has flaws, because new ideas always have flaws. Pitchers won’t be ready to go all out, and a pitch count essentially means the games are not true baseball contests in which a great starting pitcher could dominate a game, or even a whole tournament.

But even with its flaws, the WBC is good for the game of baseball, and that’s all that really matters. Now, about that World Series home-field being decided by the All-Star Game…

- Scott Silversten


Blogger Tony Park said...

As timely as it may be to compare MLB-WBC to NHL-Olympics, MLB should probably be looking to model their global presence and regime after FIFA, not the NHL.

The question is whether MLB wants to/can establish a stage grander than the so-called 'World' Series. Perhaps they can start by naming the WBC winners as "World Champions" and the winners of the "MLB Championship Series" as "MLB Champions".

Thursday, March 02, 2006  

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