World Baseball? Classic!

I’m still holding out hope that I’ll get to do a meaningful Pacers column before too long, but for now, I’m totally stoked for the WBC to get rolling.  The tournament starts tomorrow in the Far East, and the US plays Canada (and Joey Votto) on Saturday at 2 pm on ESPN.

I’m a huge fan of the WBC on principle.  It combines baseball, which I love, with international competition, which I can’t turn off.  For those who don’t understand the appeal of the tournament, let me try to explain why you need to embrace the event.

1.  The FIFA World Cup in Soccer is the greatest sporting event in the world.  Listen, the Olympics are great and all, and are massive in scope, but the Mundial (World Cup for you ‘no habla espanol-ers’) elicits more pure passion and excitement than any other sporting event.  The world’s most popular sport forcibly takes all the best players from their pro teams and pits them against each other in epic nation versus nation show-downs.  The format is wonderful, and baseball and basketball are figuring that out.  Watching guys play for their flag is gripping television, and it’s potentially a work of genius to recognize that and capitalize on it. 

2.  Your country is more important than your team
The World Cup championship is the most prestigious title in the world for a
soccer player.  For other sports like baseball and basketball this is
hard to accept.  In sports where most players don’t play in their home country, the chance to reunite the best players to wear the home the colors creates a powerful bond.  Imagine that Derek Jeter played in Japan, or that Hank Aaron had spent most of his career in Italy.   The chance to bring the superstars together to play for the USA would couldn’t be missed. 

In baseball, we are spoiled because we get to see those players in our stadiums all summer, but we never get to see them play together for sheer pride.  We joke about ‘rooting for laundry’, in sports.  In the era of free agency, where players jump freely from team to team and city to city, it’s nice to see your favorites play together under one flag in a way that lets you root for them without qualification.

3.  What’s best for your team financially is that baseball grows across the world.
Shortsighted teams will complain that they invest too much money in players to risk them in a tourney that doesn’t count in the regular season standings.  But in the end, money is precisely the reason why teams should ENCOURAGE their best and brightest to play.  Spreading baseball and increasing its popularity not only opens new markets to sell the game, but even more importantly insures that there will always be a huge talent pool to choose from.  In any given year, you might lose a shortstop for a few weeks because he pulled a hammy, but in 10 years that same club might reap the benefits from a whole crop of players from other countries.  More available labor will keep the costs lower for teams.  You just have to have a long term goal.

4.  Just because it’s Bud Selig’s idea doesn’t make it wrong.
No explanation necessary.

5.  Latin American teams are awesome, and the fans rule.
Get a few thousand people together singing in Spanish and waving flags, and good times are sure to follow.  Trust me on this.

6.  The other countries are taking it seriously
Ichiro had a great quote last time about Japan wanting to humiliate the rest of the world so badly that they wouldn’t expect to have even a chance of winning the title for 20 years.  Everyone is gunning for the States.  They are gunning for each other.  South Korea and Japan hate each other.  Puerto Rico and the Dominican can’t wait to throw down.  And seriously, the US is playing freaking Canada.  It’s time to avenge those two titles the Blue Jays won!

7.  It’s a chance to get a jump on the Fantasy draft.
If you watch, you just might pick up some useful info on key players and/or injuries.  My league is drafting in less than a month, and winning it is one of my yearly priorities (along with keeping my kids alive, and finishing my book).  I’ll take any edge I can get!
So do yourself a favor and check out some games.  This is an idea that could really take off, and produce epic results in 20 years.  Root for the Red, White and Blue, and generally celebrate the return of baseball for 2009.

Brandon Phillips makes me sad.   Apparently, he’s been chatting up Dusty too much.
Brandon Phillips says the words that will absolutely make sabermetricians cringe.
don’t believe in that on-base percentage (stuff). That’s overrated to
me. If you get hits, you’ll be on base. That’s what it’s about.”
Phillips’ numbers reflect that attitude. He walked a career-high 39 times last year in 609 plate appearances.

Kuharsky wants input on what you would change about the Colts.  I love how he threw in
“A bit more transparency about how things work and why?”
Uh, Paul…no one cares about that but media guys.  Frankly, I wouldn’t change anything.  The team is well constructed, and if it can just avoid a season full of devastating injuries for once, it should be ok.

Remember the “Name our baby” contest?  Congrats to my buddy Andy and his wife Beth on the birth of Silas Henry.  They raised almost enough money to cover one of their two $4000 deductibles.  Thanks for everyone who helped them out!

More Marv to Philly talk.  Courtesy of PFT