My thing on the World Baseball Classic is not that it isn’t fun and cool. It is! Having gone to a couple of games and having talked to people involved with it, there’s no denying that it’s fun. Especially this time of year when all of the other baseball being played consists of meaningless exhibitions. There has been genuine electricity and excitement at Chase Field, Marlins Park and AT&T Park over the past week and change.
But I do take issue with those — be they MLB officials or national columnists — who claim that the WBC determines something truly important or tells us something even remotely meaningful about the state of international baseball. For starters, it’s not globalizing baseball in a basic sense, because as Twitter friend @yakyunightowl noted last night:
Tomorrow’s WBC game features an island that played baseball since the late 1800s and Europeans that began in 1911. It’s already global, Bud.
— Yakyu Night Owl (@yakyunightowl) March 18, 2013
It may put an official, MLB-led imprimatur on international baseball, complete with marketing and broadcast rights and all of that stuff, but no one involved in these finals is truly introducing baseball to their homelands. It was already there.
But marketing and broadcast rights are part and parcel of the 21st century, so that’s fine. If they want to claim that stuff is significant they won’t get too strong an argument from me. I lost that fight years ago.
That said, anyone who claims that these games tell us something meaningful about the relative baseball power of the countries involved in the tournament will get a strong argument from me. Because as the hero of last night’s game, Alex Rios, noted himself, the best players in the thing are not exactly playing at full strength:
“For us, this is like Spring Training,” Rios said. “We’re still in a preparation phase. We have to understand that we’re not at our maximum. We have to work on our approach and the game and do our job as well as we can. We can’t just be worried about mechanics. It’s just the approach. Thanks to our results, which were favorable tonight, we have done well.”
Good for him and other major leaguers for fighting through all that rust and bad mechanics to play competitive baseball, but please note the rust and bad mechanics. They’re simply not at full speed and skill, and to suggest that we’re seeing the pinacle of baseball right now is like watching Led Zeppelin play Live Aid in 1985 or listened to the Beatles sing “Free as a Bird” and saying you saw the pinnacle of rock and roll.
It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s baseball. It’s just not telling us anything particularly meaningful.