Deep Into Sports: The World Baseball Classic: Hey, At Least We Improved Mar26

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Deep Into Sports: The World Baseball Classic: Hey, At Least We Improved


a blogumn by Nate Barlow

Sunday night Japan eliminated Team USA in the Semi-Finals of the second World Baseball Classic by a score of 9-4.

wbc09Finishing third was a huge step up for the United States, which finished a woeful eighth three years ago in the augural Classic, barely making it out of the first round.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?  One would that the United States, birthplace of the sport, would fare better on the world stage.  Say it ain’t so, Joe!

But it is.  And for one glaring reason: the US is not fielding the best team possible, especially in regards to pitching.

Although Major League Baseball created and sponsors the World Baseball Classic to spark more interest in the sport across the world, the individual major league teams are not keen on their players (and particularly pitchers) partaking in the event.  A lot of this has to do with the timing of the Classic taking place during Spring Training.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t a better time: after the World Series is too late, before Spring Training too early, and during the season a complete no-no.

Although the players involved are working out and getting into regular season shape by playing the Classic games, it is not the normal conditioning schedule to which they are accustomed.  Pitchers are especially susceptible to such disruptions.  Davey Johnson, Team USA’s manager, has even commented on the decisions he had to make to give everybody enough playing time.

That’s not to mention the potential injury factor.  Numerous Team USA players had to drop out with injuries, a situation that must have the major league ballclubs shuddering in horror. 

For the other countries involved in the WBC, proving themselves on such a stage is of paramount importance, even if it means sacrificing part of their “regular” baseball seasons.  That sense of urgency hasn’t caught on in the US yet.  To be sure, many of these other nations have players on the American big league clubs’ rosters that do play in the classic, but those same players are more willing to go against their employer’s wishes because of how much importance their home countries put on WBC success.  American players are less likely to do so because the emphasis simply isn’t there.

Furthermore, since countries such as Japan and South Korea have plenty of talent that could play in the American majors if they decided to do so, their WBC squads are loaded with the best of their best even in the roster slots not taken up by major leaguers.

Until the individual major league teams are willing to release the handcuffs binding both the selection process and the game-time managerial decisions of Team USA, we in the States will always see an inferior team.  In the meantime, while the World Baseball Classic may be achieving some of the success that Major League Baseball had hoped for across the world, MLB’s own teams will continue to hamper the event’s growth here at home.

Won’t stop me from enjoying it, however–it’s some exciting ball!


Now I know nothing about sports, but lately at bars and parties I’ve been able to pretend that I sorta of know about all kinds of sports because I read Nate’s “Deep Into Sports” regularly. Check it out here