Brian Carriveau
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January 23 - Waiting Impatiently for the World Baseball Classic

Alex Rodriguez will play for the USA, and Cuba will be allowed to play
according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
  
Now that the World Baseball Classic has gotten its two big dramas out of
the way, we can finally get down to enjoying baseball.

Just like soccer, everyone can now see which nation produces the best
baseball players in the world.  Soccer has been doing things right for
many, many years with the World Cup.  I will readily admit that I’m not
much of a soccer fan.  But it’s interesting to tune in once every four years
to see the absolute best the world has to offer.

To see how the World Baseball Classic compares to the World Cup and where the future may be
headed, we need a brief history lesson:

The World Cup’s formative years were a time when only amateurs could compete in the Olympics.  
So soccer found another outlet to display their professional athletes.  And all was well.

Of course, we must realize that soccer was the first truly international team sport.  Baseball, like
basketball and hockey, are only recently gaining in popularity worldwide.

So as baseball, basketball and hockey were gaining worldwide appeal, the Olympics decided to cash
in and invite professionals to join their ranks.  And for numerous reasons, things have just not
panned out.

At this point the Olympics were the only international competition for baseball with any clout.  But
professional coaches and players were not interested in stopping the Major League Baseball
season for the sake of the Olympics.  So even though the Olympics were willing to have the
professionals compete in a global tournament, the professionals were not fully willing to join the
Olympics.

Even now, in fact, the Olympics have decided to eliminate baseball from its program after the 2008
Games partially due to this discrepancy.

Coming back to the present, an opportunity has presented itself to truly find which country has the
best professional baseball players in the form of the World Baseball Classic.  Rejoice and be glad.

Sure there are detractors.  Many people have a problem with the tournament being held in March.  At
this time of year it won’t interrupt the middle of the MLB season.  And who would be interested in
watching it after the World Series anyhow?  Sure the athletes would be available, but come November
fans are more interested in watching football, basketball, and hockey.  At least in March, the World
Baseball Classic would start the baseball season off with a bang.

Even more people are concerned that pitchers’ arms aren’t in top condition in March.  The World
Baseball Classic has tried to be accommodating by establishing pitch counts and setting the roster
size to 30 players to include more pitchers.  In face of such controversy, this seems to be a fair
compromise.

More people might argue that there are only a handful of countries with a realistic chance of winning it
all.  And they’re right.  Point taken.  But the only way to get countries more competitive and developed
is to get them more interested in baseball.  And a World Cup styled tournament is the best way to do
it.

Look at basketball, for example.  The 1992 Olympics was a joke with no nation so much as being
able to hold a candle to the “Dream Team.”  A little more than a decade later, the United States is no
longer the dominant team it used to be.  Perhaps in a little more than a decade there will be more
international parity in baseball.  Even though the United States might dominate South Africa in the
WBC, the later rounds are sure to be competitive with teams like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela,
and Puerto Rico involved.

Enjoy the WBC for what it is.  It’s the first attempt at a World Cup styled tournament.  Let’s put a little
bit of trust in the baseball powers that be.  Let’s trust them to hammer out the kinks the next time
around.  I’d like to think before I die, the WBC might actually be a big deal the world around like the
World Cup is now.  It is not perfect, and maybe it never will be.  But that doesn’t mean it still won’t be
fun.
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