In about an hour, the final World Baseball Classic rosters will be announced. Unfortunately, the bigger news is going to be who isn’t playing, rather than who is.
Johan Santana isn’t pitching for Venezuela. Albert Pujols isn’t playing for the Dominican Republic. Josh Hamilton isn’t playing for the U.S.A. Canada has to go forward without Rich Harden or Erik Bedard. Even lesser players, such as Ryan Rowland-Smith (Australia), Jose Mijares (Venezuela), Joel Pineiro (Puerto Rico), and Juan Rincon (Venezuela) have opted to decline invitations as well.
The finalized rosters aren’t going to look much like the provisional ones released earlier this year, as scores of players are opting to train with their teams this spring rather than represent their countries. I’m sure they all feel they are making the correct choice, and I’m not here to pass judgment one way or another. There’s certainly positives and negatives to be gained from participating in the WBC, and that’s heightened by the timing of the event.
I know there’s no perfect time to have this tournament, but the middle of spring training simply doesn’t appear feasible. There are too many conflicts of interest between what is good for the player, their MLB organization, and their country to have the event during March. There has to be a better time to do this.
So, here’s my suggestion. Cancel the All-Star Game, turn the three day break into a seven day break, and have a single elimination tournament that lasts a week. The top two teams would play four games, and everyone else less than that, so you’re simply not adding significant strain to the pitchers selected to compete. It’s a normal turn in the rotation for the four starters selected. They take the hill in mid-season form, because it actually is mid-season.
The whole point of the All-Star game has been to watch the best of the best compete against each other, and recently, MLB has tried to give it some meaning as more than an exhibition game. Just rename the thing the All-Star Tournament, and now, you have the best of the best playing against each for something that actually does matter.
The pointless All-Star game goes away, and the WBC gets to live out the dream of having international competition on a big stage with the best players in the world. We’ll get Johan vs Pujols. We’ll get 15 dramatic winner-take-all contests with all the drama of March Madness and all the talent of the World Series. It would be a ratings bonanza and a pretty huge cash cow.
MLB, WBC, make this happen please. The current situation just isn’t working for anyone.
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