There are a lot of naysayers out there that claim the World Baseball Classic (WBC) to be, well, not very classic. On the flip side, there are also many people that love it. Let’s examine both sides, first we look at the camp that argues against the WBC.
Here are the main arguments against the WBC that I hear along with my counter points:
- Not ALL the best players for each country are participating.
To this I ask, is EVERY best player in the U.S. major leagues? The answer is a resounding NO! There are very gifted players in Japan, and many of the Latin American leagues (Cuba), that consist of players that are better than most of the players in the MLB. Does that stop us from watching MLB?
The other rebuttal to this argument is that sure, Ryan Howard turned down his invite, but the large majority of participating teams have all star lineups regardless of holdouts like Howard for the US. I mean just read through the WBC rosters of countries like the US, Venezuela, DR, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, etc. These are some of the BEST teams I have ever seen. If they were given the opportunity to play together for an entire season with a stable coaching staff I have no doubts that many of these teams would be off the Richter scale!
You can still go to a WBC game and see Miguel Cabrera, Johan Santana, Abreu, Zambrano, Ordonez and more do battle with a lineup that includes Peavy, Jeter, Chipper, Braun, and Oswalt. And I guarantee you that the intensity in these matchups far exceeds that of the All-Star game!
- It is too much of an injury risk for players.
This is a valid point, if you look at what happened statistically; to many of the pitchers from the first classic you have some good figures to back this up. There were high profile cases like Jake Peavy, who had a terrible April and sub .500 season for the Padres following his performance in the WBC. I feel that this is one of those things that will be worked out with better scheduling, stricter pitch counts, and expanded rosters to accommodate more pitchers who will throw less innings. Hitters seemed to be fine overall and actually better prepared to start the season having come off of competitive games against MLB caliber pitching. And everyone agrees that you cannot trace all injuries in 2006 to the WBC.
- The rules of the WBC do not make sense.
One of these rules is the timing of the WBC, which many agree should and will be adjusted eventually. But remember that this is a brand spanking new tournament and that it will evolve dramatically in the coming years. They are bound to have many things that they did not do right, but as long as they continue to evaluate and learn from those mistakes these things will work themselves out. MLB did not start off perfect and has evolved and adapted over time too. One of the lame rules that I feel will change eventually is the one that allows players who were not born in a country play for that country, think A-Rod playing for the DR (like they need any more all-stars on their roster!). To me it’s about national pride. It’s OK to be proud of having Dominican roots, but for crying out loud be proud of the country that has raised you and influenced you the most!
- The games are boring; TV viewership was low because no one in the US cares.
Well I will tell you who in the US cares, Jake Peavy cares! He proudly pitched for the US in 2006 and was criticized because he had a terrible season after that. You think that he even debated whether or not to participate this time around, NO! He is proud to be a part of the intensity and pride that is part of the WBC. I’ll tell you who else cares a whole lot, Latin and Latin American fans! People in the US have lost a bit of their baseball soul over the years. In Latin American countries baseball in many ways is still a very pure game, where players play for personal, team, and county pride without a huge pay check as the incentive!
I was fortunate enough to attend the semi-finals and finals at Petco park in 2006. And I can tell you that those were some of the best, most intense, games I have EVER been too. The only exception is a playoff game in which your favorite team is part of. But the foreign fans were great. There were beautiful Latin women dancing, faces painted everywhere, horns, trumpets, guitars, songs, chants, cheers, boos, and overall celebration of the game! It was like one gigantic baseball party. I will tell you that the Latin, and at many times even the Asian fans, made US baseball fans seem like disinterested buttoned-up conservative dorks. We can learn a lot from the foreign fans about how to enjoy a baseball game.
Overall, the league is new and we all have to remember that. Is it perfect in its current state, certainly not. But overall it is a very good thing for baseball and its fans. It contains world class talent no matter what the timing or risk of injury. It provides us with great baseball to watch in March. It expands baseball’s reach globally and fosters national pride. I for one look forward to watching many more World Baseball Classic’s to come along with my kids, and am holding on to all of my souvenirs and memories from the inaugural WBC.