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World Baseball Classic: The Perfect Plan Friday, March 20, 2009

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
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Today, ESPN’s Jayson “Why is there an insufferable ‘y’ in my name” Stark published an article where he outlined a few possible plans for future World Baseball Classics.  I’d like to begin by saying that this man is a dolt and that the plan that I will outline here is better by far.

Why a new way?  Because there are some problems, mainly here in the United States.  Normally, I’d say forget the U.S. (especially with millions of international fans clamoring for more WBC), but as it’s an MLB-run event, I’ll give in.  The problem mainly involves Spring Training.  Currently, the WBC is set to coincide with spring events every four years.  

This is a two-fold problem:  First, the wimpy American players aren’t ready yet (Japan and Cuba and others play year-round).  I’m sick and tired of journalists whining that the American and other MLB players aren’t at full potential during this tournament, so it’s not a true battle of the best.  As annoying as those statemens have become, there’s a legitimate piece to it.  If we want this tourney to be a true test, everyone needs to be at full potential.  And despite Bud Selig’s insistence that March is the only time to do this tournament, he’s wrong.

And speaking of wrong, Stark’s idiotic plan is to run a play-in tournament and then a final during the All-Star break in July.  When does he want to run the play-in? “Want to play it in October? November? February? March? Whatever works best for all concerned.”  What???!  That doesn’t even address the primary issue of why this tournament isn’t working!  But getting back on track…

The second reason this isn’t working is because MLB teams (and the players) don’t want the players rushing themselves into competitive play that soon before April.  Thus the reason for bizarre pitch count rules and forcing some of the best arms to wait days at a time before they’re eligible to pitch again.  Does anyone remember the 2001 World Series?  Two pitchers, Johnson and Schilling, carried the Diamondbacks to victory on their own!  Pitching back to back and in surprise relief made it one of the most exciting series of all time.  

We need that for the WBC.  We need pitchers to be able to pull off a Dice-K-like high school championship performance (He threw 148  pitches to shut out one game, threw 250 pitches in 17 innings to win the next, took a day off in the one after that to play left field and still pitch relief to get the win, and pitched a no-hitter in the final!).

So what is my brilliant solution?  How can we make this tournament a truly international success?  Here’s the plan:

It’s quite simple, really.  Move spring training up once every four years.  Arizona and Florida are still sunny and warm in February, right?  Let spring training happen as usual.  We only need to adjust 3 weeks to clear room for this tournament.  Which means starting first thing in February.  Do the catchers and pitchers really need that much time to prep before games start?  Please.  These are professional athletes we’re talking about here.  If they aren’t keeping their million-dollar bodies in shape in the off-season, then screw ’em.

As for holding this in July in some sort of massive week of baseball as Stark suggests… are you serious?  We all know the All-Star game sucks, but c’mon.  This tournament is about more than American baseball.  I don’t really think interrupting multiple international league seasons is really the best way to go.  Instead, if we’re moving up spring training, let’s move up the baseball season, too.  March Madness be damned!  So now, every four years, the season starts in the second week of March.  That’s not such a big deal, is it?  Or maybe it’s even easier to just move up the season every year.

And as for the WBC, when does that fit in?  At the end of the season, of course.  The way it’s scheduled this year, if we play a game 7 in the World Series, it will take place in November, which is already ridiculous.  So for those of you who say that football will interfere with the WBC if we play it in the fall, guess what?  We already do!  There’s no way around it.

As for the actual layout of the now mid-October 2013 WBC tournament, let me suggest one thing:  We expand the number of teams to 32, with the 8 that got into round two in the previous tournament getting an automatic bid.  That means that this year, only Japan, Korea, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, United States, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands get to sit out the first few days of the tournament.  The other 24 teams would have to compete in a play-in style to take place over the course of just a few days.  This might include doubleheaders to continue to fit in the successful double elimination method of this year’s Classic.  Once those 24 teams become 8, they play against the already seeded teams from 2009 in the same way we played 16 teams this year (which only took 17 days), with the winners of round one guaranteeing themselves a spot in the 2017 tourney.  Beautiful, right?  But what’s even better is that we drop all rules as to pitch counts.  If one team happens to have a Yu Darvish/Dice-K combination, they can use them all they want.  With no teams worried about players interfering with the regular MLB season development model, all bets are off.

So why doesn’t Selig want to do this tournament that late in the year?  Because he doesn’t want it to seem bigger than the World Series.  Despite how much time he spends touting the merits of the WBC, he doesn’t really want it to be the end-all of baseball competition.  Which basically means, one single man is holding back what could be one of the greatest international sporting events of all-time.  A sporting event that could even eclipse the World Cup!  Give it up, Bud.  This is the future of baseball.  This is the plan that will make the World Baseball Classic a better tournament.

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