Quote of the Day: Undermining The Basis of the WBC Edition

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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:

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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.