Monday, March 20, 2006

The World Baseball Classic?

And so ends the first World Baseball Classic – which is really no more than “Bud Selig’s X-games”. MLB and the commissioner would tell you it was a huge success. Of course he’ll also tell you steroids are not a big problem and he doesn’t sleep in his suits. So did you care? Or did it just seem like an ESPN event? Excuse me -- ESPN-2 event. In the LA TIMES Sports section on Monday even the Lakers came before this story.

Here are some thoughts:

There are a lot of Yankee haters like me who found it hard to even root for the US team. The biggest fans of the WBC have to be the Red Sox Nation because Johnny Damon hurt his shoulder.

Bragging rights are nice but for real incentive, the winning team should replace the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League.

Great that the championship game was held at Petco Park because there’s a huge Cuban and Japanese population in San Diego, California.

Maybe I’m a little bitter because I couldn’t get a job announcing for Finland.

If a Cuban player is missing I would check George Steinbrenner’s house first.

Most of the big All-Stars passed on the event. It’s like putting on Woodstock with Herman’s Hermits as one of the headlining acts.

Canada beat the US team. As comic Elayne Boosler said, “they weren’t even wearing skates”.

Please don’t let the final game of Roger Clemens’ storied career be the US vs. Mexico at Angel Stadium.

My favorite moments were watching managers and umpires yelling at each other in different languages.

All any major league ballplayer had to do to be eligible to play for Bhutan or Cameroon was fly over their countries once.

I’m surprised Pete Rose didn’t try to latch on to some country’s team. Even if it meant defecting TO Cuba.

There were ties in the WBC. That’s sac religious. Crying is allowed in baseball before ties.

There could also be suspensions if the pitching staffs got depleted. It’s the “World Kissing Your Sister” Classic.

And then when they DO have an exciting game -- that kid pitcher from Panama hurling a no-hitter -- they stop it after 7 innings because of the ten run mercy rule they’ve instituted.

There’s an expression that applies here – “Bush League”, meaning small time, inferior thinking. It was inspired by our President.

Here’s a wacky idea: schedule the tournament in January or early February when baseball fans really need a fix, not during March Madness and the return of PRISON BREAK.

Oh, by the way, Japan beat Cuba 10-6. At least there’s a Disneyland in their country to go to.

Let’s now get back to baseball that has some REAL meaning – the Cactus League and Grapefruit League results.

Tomorrow: How we broke stories on CHEERS.


VP81955 said...

And for us luckless Washington Nationals fans, Luis Ayala throws one pitch too many (after Mexico had already been eliminated from the tournament) and is now lost for the entire season. This doesn't happen to the super-wealthy Yankees. This doesn't happen to the Red Sox and their overbearing, pretentious Ivy League fans. But it happens to the Nationals, on top of the ridiculous Soriano affair (for which Jim Bowden should be fired by the new owner, probably Stan Kasten in conjunction with the Lerner family, as soon as he takes over). Life is indeed unfair.

Anonymous said...

I have to largely disagree. I thought the WBC was pretty cool, despite my initial reservations. I think it got such ESPN2ish coverage because everyone thought it would be crap, and it wasn't. Except for the mostly blase, lackadaisical USA team, it was fantastic good fun.

I thought the generally flawless defense, baserunning and textbook execution of Korea and Japan were fascinating to watch. (And if you don't think those guys didn't want to beat each other's brains in...)

I loved seeing fans in Puerto Rico dancing and playing horns and drums. It was fun to see the Cubans play with absolute heart and determination, and get a peek at how good you can be playing with sticks and mops on canefields.

If the USA didn't take it seriously, the rest of the the baseball world sure as hell did, and that was exciting to see.

Sorry there were Yankees on team USA, but they, you know, wanted to show up, unlike lots of other players.

Most of the real issues people raise are logicistic and scheduling issues. Those can be fixed pretty easily. World type events always present these issues, along with injury risks. But ask if any soccer or rugby fan would eliminate their World Cups (both of which started off FAR more paltry than the WBC).

And no, I'm not Bud Selig, I promise. I hates me some Bud Selig, but much as it galls me, the WBC is a good thing that will only get better.

Also, as a broadcaster, you had to know about the widespread and routine amphetamine use (as of THIS YEAR actually tested for). Why do steriods bother you and "go pills" don't?

When you hear steroid remarks it's almost always a not-so-crypto criticism of Barry Bonds (not ever Big Mac, and what happened to the Giambi (an admitted user) hate?).

If they bring Bonds down, I can promise you, he's taking a lot of baseball with him. He'll sue and he'll win. Everyone should be sure they really want all the names named and all sorts of people subject to legal discovery proceedings, because that's what's coming.

Rigorous testing and penalties going forward are the only way to go in my opinion. Let this past lie. Anything else is a nasty box of problems. Steroids were not illegal in baseball until very recently. By what argument could MLB do anything retroactively?

Baseball did everything to encourage steroid use and next to nothing to stop it. Now that Congress(!) has seen fit to protect us all by stepping in, MLB is semi-serious. And everyone is up in arms.

But imagine there's no Barry, only Big Mac. What happens now, with the old records still broken (just not 71)? I'm guessing very little. I think most people motives in this steroid uproar are a lot less pure than they want to admit to themselves.

By Ken Levine said...


Thanks for the terrific and thoughtful comment, even if we disagree on points. Maybe, as you said, if the US team would really put our best representation out on the field not just the major leaguers who felt like it the competition would be more representational. Also, if the tournament were scheduled at a time that didn't compete with spring training and other hurge sporting events they would have a better chance of capturing the general public's imagination. I watched several games. I even listened to several games. But I don't consider myself a casual fan. I watch winter ball playoff games in Spanish just to get a baseball fix in January and I go to college games for the same reason. But for the general public this appeared to be a hyped up television event a la the Goodwill Games.

As for steroids and "go pills" I'm against anything that gives a player an unfair advantage. Especially when records are involved. One of the advantages baseball has over other sports is its heritage. Records mean something, they're cherished. When they're tarnished it really hurts the game. Will MLB do anything about it? Not unless they have to. And you can blame the players union just as much as the commissioner.

Webs said...

First of all, Ayala's arm would have gone whether he was pitching in the WBC or spring training. It's not one pitch that does it, it's the wear and tear of 70 or so games a year, plus the games he warms up for but doesn't enter.

Secondly, there are Washington Nationals fans?

(And yeah, the Soriano fiasco is ridiculous. You'd think that the Nationals would have gotten Soriano's opinion on this before the trade.)

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed it. even while agreeing with most of your critique. i enjoyed it. i am not a fan of the mercy rule (people who expect mercy tend to be crybabies) and ties in baseball are an abomination. my treasure from last night is an autographed baseball from the great sadaharu oh. i think they made a decent start with it. i hope they keep trying.

Anonymous said...

p.s. i wouldn't mind having you back with the pads at all ken.

Hawise said...

Hey vp19, As an now x Montreal Expos fan, I can cry in your beer for you, you Nationals fan, you.
I caught a few of the games and I liked what I saw. So much of modern sports has gotten to be the hype and the paychecks that it is nice to see some people on the field who are still playing the game. I prefer to watch the college and high school kids play and I like to throw things at the parents who take the whole thing too seriously.
The schedule had to be delayed due to the Olympics and its wall to wall coverage. It had a similar feel as the American baseball team got trounced by the boys who still play and the Canadian hockey team got trounced by the nations who take international sport seriously. Also the Japan/Korea game was awesome- just another form of the old Yankees/Red Sox rivalry and you know that blood is going to flow somewhere.

Anonymous said...

NOT ON THE TOPIC - Ken, are you British? Just curious, you always put your periods and commas outside the quotes... I like your blog.

Anonymous said...

VP, I wouldnt exactly call you 'luckless'. You have a major league team - albeit you'll never get a stadium and the attendance will progressively drop.

It was a gift by a corrupt commish.

Enjoy them for a few years.

Go 'Spos


Anonymous said...

Ken wrote:

As for steroids and "go pills" I'm against anything that gives a player an unfair advantage. Especially when records are involved. One of the advantages baseball has over other sports is its heritage."
So why allow protein shakes, or weights, or trainers, or batting gloves, or custom made Louisville Sluggers?

Steroids (which is a pretty broad term) exists and has likely been used in one form or another by many baseball players for a while. Yet, Bonds and a select few others are the only ones who have really put up eye popping numbers. Inexplicably, the media tends to make it seem like all you have to do is inject yourself with some crap and BAM you're going to hit over 40 homers a year, NO WAY.

VP, as someone who has been to Boston many a time, it would be innacurate to refer to most of the Sox fans as "pretentious Ivy League fans".

Anonymous said...

Webs, they were banned from talking to him.

But, then they shouldn't have made the trade.


ps, the post above was mine, too.

Anonymous said...

Ken, Great post, I agree with you 100%. Although I did find one thing refreshing in the WBC - the enthusiasm of some of the non-US teams.

Somewhat unrelated note - would love to read more of your stories from your MLB announcing days.

And I guess my 20 questions really sucked.


VP81955 said...

To anonymous: We in D.C. are indeed getting a stadium (all systems are go, and everything has been approved) that will be built on South Capitol Street near the Navy Yard Metro station. The design was unveiled last week, and I think it's going to be a fun place to watch baseball (it's scheduled to open in 2008, but I sense it will take until midseason, just as Safeco did in 1999). I only hope it's as fan-friendly as the new ballpark in Philadelphia, which was designed quite nicely.

Anonymous said...

You remind me of Johnny Lizard the Musical Wizard.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind words on my comments, Ken. I think I came off a bit more in disagreement than I actually am. Scheduling the end of the WBC against the opening of the NCAA tourney IS truly an odd decision.

And the Barry Bonds lawsuits have begun already, although these aren't the ones I meant. I think he's going to have a difficult time countering Game of Shadows, as you have to imagine the publishers anticipated this and believed they could go ahead with the book.

The lawsuits I think he would win involve stripping records, making him ineligible for the HOF etc. He could make a pretty good selective enforcement case, for one thing - especially since he's never tested positive for steroids.

Anyhow, I am all for preserving the integrity of the game as well, I'm just not so sure we can reach back into the past to do that - and there are past problems that are knotty besides steroids.

(I go to college baseball games as well - luckily I'm two blocks from the stadium of a top five program.)