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 Post subject: WBC -- Does anybody care?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 12:28 pm 
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What's the general feeling among baseball fans around the country on the WBC? How much coverage has it been getting/will it get when it starts? In my little area of the Midwest, the general feeling is, "Yeah, what's that world thing about again?" The big topic among fellow baseball fans here has centered on potential injuries during WBC play and how they could affect the real season.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 6:36 pm 
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The WBC is just another excuse to sell beer. It's artificial and contrived, if that's not a tautology. When you have pitchers on pitch counts and teams playing under mercy rules, that's not competitive baseball, I'm sorry.

I think most fans in the U.S. are concerned about their teams' stars getting injured and ruining their seasons and/or careers. I for one am glad no Yankees pitchers are participating (I'm hoping Chien-Ming Wang decides not to pitch for Chinese Taipei, and I'm especially glad the Right Arm of God, Mariano Rivera, is not participating).

From what I understand, Latin American fans and players are taking the tournament a bit more seriously than American fans and players.

Has anyone noticed that there are no White Sox participating at all? I heard that a few weeks ago; don't know if it's changed since.

I'm in agreement with a local sports-talk-radio host who said of the WBC that the first big-name player who gets injured during it will cause the whole thing to be canceled that year and forevermore.

I also don't understand the tendency among writers and broadcasters to discount the possibility that position players can be injured during WBC games. Most writers and broadcasters I've seen/heard acknowledge that injuries to pitchers in WBC games are a real risk but downplay the potential for injury to position players.

Why? Derek Jeter slid headfirst into third base in Toronto on Opening Night in 2003, collided with catcher Ken Huckaby and was out for six to eight weeks. Position players can get drilled by pitches, tear hamstrings, run into walls and other fielders and strain rib muscles while swinging, among a smorgasbord of potential mishaps, just as pitchers have their own list of possible maladies.

At the very least, MLB should reschedule the tournament so it takes place in November. That way, the owners won't be cannibalizing their spring training revenue by having their star players absent for nearly all spring training games, and those players who are hurt will have three months to recover.

Nobody in the U.S. is going to care about the WBC anyway, so the argument that its taking place in November will make it too hard to get media coverage amid football, basketball and hockey doesn't wash in my view.

I'm guessing MLB is going to have to give away a lot of tickets for the U.S. WBC games. And even so, you're going to see a loooooooooooot of empty seats, if MLB permits the cameras to scan the stands.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 6:42 pm 
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wordygurdy wrote:
Nobody in the U.S. is going to care about the WBC anyway


We'll find out soon enough, but I think you're dead wrong. Serious baseball fans -- that is, fans of the game as opposed people who are fans of their local team and otherwise don't care -- will care.

The WBC is a great idea, and I'll be watching.

However, its appeal is significantly reduced by the ability of both players and teams to avoid participating.

Teams shouldn't be allowed to withhold their players, and players under contract to MLB teams should be required to either play (upon request of their national team) or pay a steep fine. In truly international sports, it's an honor to be named to your national team, and if MLB players won't take it as an honor, I say twist their arms for the good of the game. Buy them insurance policies if it will stop their whining.

Yeah, players might get injured. Not to be dismissive, but that's life. The World Cup is more important than club soccer, and if baseball wants to gain respect internationally, it needs to set its priorities up the same way.

Even so, most baseball fans I know are intrigued by the WBC as it stands, even if they realize it's been tampered silly in typical MLB fashion.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2006 5:31 pm 
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More WBC ridiculousness (warning: the last graf has so many grammatical mistakes as to make it almost unreadable). To paraphrase Tom Hanks' character in A League of Their Own: There are no ties in baseball! No ties!

As one New York City talk-radio host said yesterday, organizers might have to hire armed guards to keep MLB players from defecting from the WBC, given how many have bowed out and continue to do so daily.

I'm still predicting the demise of the WBC once the first big-name player goes down. There's a huge difference between getting injured in a game in which you're ostensibly trying to win and getting injured in a spring-training game in which you have absolutely no interest in winning.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 12:32 am 
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I find it baffling that the same baseball geeks who sit around in January checking their calendars wistfully for the date pitchers and catchers report are pooh-poohing real, competitive baseball in March just because of the discovery that there are some players and owners out there who don't play for the love of the game (this is news?).

Sure, a lot of things about the WBC could be better. It would be nice if there were no people like George Steinbrenner, Gary Sheffield or Don Fehr in the world. But to suggest that the WBC isn't nevertheless the coolest thing to happen to preseason baseball since spring training itself was invented strikes me as gratuitously cynical.

I'll be watching, and once it hits people that there will be live professional baseball on ESPN a month early, I think I won't be alone.

And if someone gets hurt, BFD. International play is supposed to be the pinnacle of a sport, and if that hurts a club, oh well.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 2:15 am 
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Matthew Grieco wrote:
And if someone gets hurt, BFD. International play is supposed to be the pinnacle of a sport, and if that hurts a club, oh well.


You seem to be in the very small minority in holding this point of view, Matthew. Everything I've read about (in all the NYC/NJ papers) and heard about (on terrestrial and satellite radio) the WBC has indicated fans of teams everywhere are desperately hoping their teams' stars don't get hurt in this sham of an exhibition. How can you as a Yankee fan not reasonably be concerned that the Yankees don't lose, say, Jeter and Rodriguez for half a season each? What if Damon runs into a wall while misjudging a fly ball and is out for three months while the Red Sox lose no one to WBC injuries? I mean, come on! I really don't see how you can't be concerned about the risk for injury.

The WBC will not be the pinnacle, as you put it, of competition in baseball in our lifetimes. The WBC will occur once every four years. How can it be the pinnacle? Baseball for the past 100-plus years has been predicated on which team wins the World Series each year. Players, fans and team executives are all geared toward winning the World Series. The WBC as presently constituted undermines that goal.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 11:33 am 
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I can't get fired up about this at all, for some reason.

I can understand the argument that international competition is important and potentially fascinating. With baseball so strong in so many other countries, the chance to see teams like Venezuela's, Cuba's, the Dominican's, Japan's, Australia's, etc., should be interesting. Also, I feel increasingly foolish referring to the World Series by that name when Toronto is the most exotic place in MLB.

Never got excited about baseball in the Olympics, either. But then, I've been losing interest in the Olympics for years.

Could taking international baseball outside of the Olympics make it better? I don't know.

Still, it's better than pondering Barry Bonds' spring (requiring reporters to sign waivers before asking questions; showing up in drag to "judge" rookies' singing, etc.)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 12:31 pm 
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It's not that I'm "not concerned" about Derek Jeter getting hurt. It's that I care more about baseball than I do about the New York Yankees. I'm a Yankees fan, but that's only because I was raised in NY/NJ and they're the team my Dad took me to see as a kid, and having a rooting interest in a particular team makes the game more interesting. It's the game, ultimately, that I care about. If I'm in a minority, then that's the minority I'm in: the people to whom baseball fandom is only partly connected with a favorite team, or perhaps more broadly, the people to whom baseball fandom is only partly connected with Major League Baseball.

The WBC is good for the game, and I'm excited to watch the captain of my favorite team now play on behalf of my country. I will be sorry if Jeter gets hurt, but not so sorry that I'll regret his participation in the WBC. It's inappropriate for anyone who cares about the sport of baseball in general -- as opposed to just Major League Baseball -- to let worries about injuries to players be a factor. I take a risk of skin cancer every time I step into the sun, and a risk of being in a fatal accident every time I get into a car, but there comes a point when you have to decide how much risk to take in order to make life sufficiently interesting. In that cost-benefit analysis, I rank the fun of a new international baseball tournament above the risk of injury to a handful of players.

If the WBC is a failure, it will be only because the conventional wisdom (or conventional cynicism) never gave it a chance. The reason I don't make much of players getting hurt is that players can get hurt at any time, for any reason, and it's cowardly to let that stop you from pursuing a good idea. Jeter was seriously hurt on Opening Day in Toronto a couple years ago and was out for months. Didn't take a WBC to happen, and he was just as out of commission as he would have been had it happened in a game that "didn't count." (And I reject this "WBC doesn't count" argument, because I reject the proposition that only the 162 games of the MLB season and the playoffs that follow are somehow real, important baseball).

You're right about one thing, wordy:

wordygurdy wrote:
Baseball for the past 100-plus years has been predicated on which team wins the World Series each year. Players, fans and team executives are all geared toward winning the World Series.


It will take a while for the WBC to gain traction. But club soccer has survived the World Cup (and far from trying to avoid service, most players take it as the highest honor to be named to their national teams). The Olympics have a negative effect on the NHL each year, probably, but it's worth it for the thrill of Olympic hockey. There's no reason baseball should be any different -- except that baseball people tend to be a bunch so conservative we could make Newt Gingrich look like Eugene Debs.

It's true that change is involved here: The WBC requires baseball fans, players and owners to adjust to a world in which the MLB season and the World Series are no longer the only things that "count." I concede that this will be a challenge, but I get the impression that you think it's actually a bad thing if that happens.

I don't.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 8:10 pm 
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The AP wrote:
TAMPA, Fla. -- Even before a pitch was thrown Saturday, the New York Yankees apologized to their fans.

The Yankees displayed a sign by the customer service booth on the main concourse, explaining it wasn't their fault Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon and Bernie Williams had departed for the World Baseball Classic.

"Thank you for expressing your concerns," the sign stated. "We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The New York Yankees did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association."


As a Yankees fan, I'm disgusted and embarrassed that the club would "apologize" for its players joining in the WBC. It was fine for George to oppose the tournament, but I can't believe Selig lets teams get away with this sort of undercutting behavior once a matter is decided.

All this negativity reminds me of the old proverb that a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Thank heavens for Derek Jeter. If not for him, it would be hard to find something about the Yankees to focus my rooting on these days.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 4:29 pm 
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I can't believe I'm about to defend Steinbrenner, but here goes: The man is paying $200 million in payroll this year and another $50 million to $60 million in revenue sharing. Think he wants his assets in Tampa rather than in Phoenix? Can't blame him.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2006 4:38 pm 
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That gave Steinbrenner every right to vote against the WBC, which he did. I have no quarrel with that vote (though I wouldn't have cast it). My objection is to MLB permitting an owner to continue to undermine a decision like this once it's been put to a vote and resolved against him. George made his case and he lost. That ought to be the end of the matter. The commissioner has the authority to keep owners in line when their public relations departments contravene MLB as a whole, and he ought to exercise that power here.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:46 pm 
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I wrote:
The commissioner has the authority to keep owners in line when their public relations departments contravene MLB as a whole, and he ought to exercise that power here.


Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com wrote:
Selig was informed of the Yankees sign while taking a walk Saturday, "minding my own business.''

Would he like to comment?

"No, I don't have any comment on it,'' Selig said.

Pause. "The sign is gone,'' he said. "I will just tell you that I'm going to ... any comment that I have will be for the club.''

Did he tell the Yankees to remove it? Pause.

"Well, it didn't disappear by itself,'' said Selig.


Full column


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:29 pm 
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O.K., so as a fan of the game, I have given the WBC a shot over the past week, even watching the opening game, Chinese Taipei vs. Korea (albeit mostly with the sound off), which aired at 2:30 a.m. last Thursday. (I was off on vacation last week.)

I also had some free minutes at work yesterday and caught portions of Venezuela vs. the Dominican Republic and saw Papi hit one about 550 feet. That was a good, well-played game, and the players on both sides seemed to be genuinely interested in winning and seemed to play hard.

And today I watched Cuba vs. Panama, also a great game with seesawing leads, baserunning mistakes, wild pitches and hit batsmen galore. Those teams, too, seemed to be genuinely into it and excited about winning.

I was even smiling today at the possibility of the U.S.'s having the mercy rule invoked against it, as it was losing to Canada 8-0 in the 5th. The score is 8-6 Canada in the 6th as I type.

My take on the whole so far? The WBC has been an intriguing diversion, worth at least a look.

Will I be upset if the U.S. loses in any round? Not in the slightest. It means absolutely nothing. But some of the pitcher-batter matchups are interesting, and they involve players you wouldn't ordinarily get to see (for the most part) on a spring-training TV telecast of an individual team's games.

Too many of the games take place at inconvenient times for viewers in the States. I don't think they should all start at 8 p.m. Eastern, because that's not fair to kids either, but 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. starts cause these games to be mere rumors for most East Coast fans. 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. Eastern would be better.

And I did cringe yesterday when Jeter fouled a ball off his foot, but that truly was something that could have happened in a spring-training game. I'm stlil not giving any credence to the equating of injuries in spring-training games with injuries in WBC games; that is comparing apples with watermelons. Players foul balls off their bodies all the time.

I still have my fingers crossed that no Yankee gets hurt, because the championship season is paramount. But I have been more interested in the WBC than I thought I would be.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 7:43 pm 
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I enjoyed everything about the Canada-USA game (aside from the outcome, of course) immensely. Was I as disappointed by the loss as I would be by a Yankees loss in October? No, of course not. But I was still quite disappointed. And this is certainly the most interesting baseball has ever been in March. The upset by Canada only adds to the drama.

It also appears that the fans in most other participating countries (except, perhaps, South Africa, a nation whose inclusion still baffles me) are more invested in this than we Americans. And is it any wonder? We have 29 of the 30 MLB teams and the world's best players are always over here. For that reason alone, I frankly don't care if the WBC catches on in the States. A global event every four years in which the American professional clubs aren't the end-all and be-all of quality baseball has to be a good thing.

But after an iteration or two, I believe it will catch on in the States. I think any American fan who tunes in will find the WBC entertaining. I still reject your premise that the World Series is the only thing that ought to matter, and that any game not played in pursuit of that goal "means absolutely nothing" -- what defines "meaning" in sport other than "that which is exciting to watch"? -- but even if that were true, this is fun.

And as you noted, we're getting to see different styles of play in the international games. It looks like three or four brackets may be won by teams other than their favorites (one already has been). Yes, this is fun. There's still snow on the ground, and I'm watching baseball that counts.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 9:38 pm 
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There are many problems with this tourney. The first one is the pitch count rule. If this is a serious competitive game, let it be a serious and competitive game. This rule makes it a glorified exhibition, not a competition. Part of the beauty of the World Cup (and to a lesser extent the Rugby World Cup and the Cricket World Cup and the World Basketball Championships) is the entire qualifying process. While we know not every nation stands much of a chance of qualifying, they are all in it: Buhtan, Liechtenstein, Palau, etc...). It is a global event. By the time you whittle the field down to the teams that actually make the trip to the host country, the average fan has been salivating for two years at the prospect the tourney offers. This invitation-only exhibition series does not create that kind of buzz. Anone want to argue that China and South Africa are more entertaining than Nicaragua? Sure, a global qualifying tourney would involve only about 80 nations, give or take, but it would add legitimacy to the teams there. When the players don't care, the rules tie the hands of managers and teams are there giving command performances, it is kind of hard to imagine it capturing the imagination of the masses. So instead, it is all about who gets hurt, what teams have their Spring Training exhibition games disrupted and poor TV ratings. Besides, this is March, all we should be caring about are the NCAA basketball tournaments (GO GW COLONIALS!!!!).


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 08, 2006 9:46 pm 
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Most of what you say is true, larepublica. All I'll say in response is that this is the first World Baseball Classic, and these things take a long time to build. You can't meaningfully compare it to the World Cup, which has been a big deal for nearly a century, or even other international tournaments that have been established for a few iterations. Has any sporting event been a sensation on the first try? I don't think so. Even the World Series had fits at the start, being canceled in what would have been its second year because the owner of the New York Giants considered the infant American League an unworthy adversary. So far, this WBC has amounted to a good start, and that's all anyone was after this year. In a decade or two, it'll be a big deal.

I have never cared for basketball (and college sports in general don't do much for this small-school alumnus), so there's no competition for me this month. It's all about the WBC.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 2:41 pm 
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So as we near the end of Round 1, this thing is going better than even I, an optimist, had hoped. Particularly among the Latin nations represented, fan support has been very high. And here in New York at least (admittedly a more baseball-focused region than most of the United States), I hear people talking about it, asking one another who won what game, etc. And I've yet to hear a Yankees fan fret about injuries other than on this board.

(And seriously, does anyone outside of Florida or Arizona care about spring training games being "disrupted," as larepublica puts it? They aren't played to win and they often don't involve star players anyway. I used to go to spring training games when I lived in Florida, but even if I were still there I'd be home watching the WBC, not going to see spring training. Spring training was only ever interesting from a fan perspective because it represented baseball in March, and now we have real baseball in March.)

I've gone from very interested to fully into it. The players are playing hard and it's obvious to anyone watching that this means more to them than their club games. At first I thought that was only the sentiment of a few players (and MLB's advertising department), but it's clear to me now that all of these guys (the Americans and everyone else) want to win, and badly. How can you not love that? Matt Stairs said that when he got a big hit for Team Canada, it was the first time he'd ever felt any emotion at all in a baseball game. Watching MLB players compete for love of the game and national pride rather than just a paycheck? Can't beat that with a stick.

At first I thought MLB should have done more to compel owner and player participation, but now I realize I don't care so much about that. All of the players in this thing are there because they want to be, and that's exactly what makes it meaningful.

This column captures the mood nicely. Bud Selig did something right.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 3:13 pm 
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Thanks, all four of you, for participating.


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