Of course I bow down to my North American friends when it comes to a thorough knowledge and grounding in the world of baseball. But I bow down to no-one (in fact I insist that they bow down to me) when it comes to knowledge of how an international sports tournament should work. I’m from Europe I grew up on them!
The World Baseball Classic is a good idea. It can work, but it needs to be changed. Here a few exceptionally good ideas that can save Mr Selig and the rest of the baseball uber-strata a few million dollars in research papers.
1) It has to be at the end of the season-all this substitute for Spring training nonsense has to stop, the only way that players will give everything and not worry about injuries is if they know they have a Winter of rest to follow.
2) In the year of the World Baseball Classic the regular season should end earlier-I don’t really care how this is done, start a week earlier, play fewer games (one week of inter-league games won’t be missed) or, my choice, scrap the All-Star game for that year. In fact, I would replace the All-Star game every year with international matches, but that is for another time.
3) Limit each group game to 9 innings- at the end of a season nobody wants 14 innings games, so the group tables should be decided on points i.e. 3 points for a win 1 point for a tie. I know it’s an anathema but believe me, seeing a pitcher pitch for a valuable tie is as exciting as seeing him pitch for a save.
4) Make the final a final- I mean one game to decide the whole thing, that way it becomes an event (hopefully worldwide).
5) Play it all in one country- initially this means the USA, but eventually it could travel around to Japan or Korea wherever, imagine how great it would be to see the USA winning the world championship in another country.Imagine visiting another country!
6) Make it last a short a time as possible- obviously international soccer tournaments go on for weeks and weeks but that is because the viewing appetite is there. Baseball needs to rope the international fans in before it milks them for every cent that they have.The quicker the early tournaments are the more likely people are to maintain an interest.
7) Change the name to the Baseball World Cup-then everybody knows what it is.
So there we have it, problem solved. For those of you who who are still not convinced by the idea remember that international rivalry in sport has enabled me to make instant pronouncements on the character of every nationality regardless of creed or colour. So you too could build up hatred of previously unthought of countries but (and this is the good thing) you will have a spurious reason.
Baseball is also the only American sport that has this kind of reach. Basketball is limited to a few European countries, Ice Hockey to Eastern Europe, and the NFL? Well, to quote Dave Barry "the Superbowl is the biggest sporting event in the world (if you don’t count the rest of the world)". The time is right for Bud Selig’s plan for world domination to come to fruition, he just has to listen to me.
Enjoy the game.