Monday, March 23, 2009

Baseball Bits and Pieces

Even as the Red Sox look ahead to the upcoming season, including worrying about what effect participation in the World Baseball Classic will have on Sox players, especially Daisuke Matsuzaka, they also look to the past. Curt Schilling has announced his retirement. There are lots of aspects of Schill's personality that have grated in recent years when he either was not pitching or else was not pitching well -- he is, for example, bombastic and mouthy and has never met a microphone he does not love. But no matter what flaws Schill has shown while on the shelf, we'll always have 2004, the year when Schill was unquestionably one of the biggest difference makers on the field, in the bullpen, in the clubhouse and, yes, in front of the media.

Someone asked me to comment on the World Baseball Classic in the last couple of weeks. I love the idea of the WBC. I think it is great for the game and will help grow baseball internationally. But the problem is that it will never mean that much to American fans, not as long as teams and thus fans run the risk of losing some of their best players to injury right before a new season on Major League Baseball, which is where fan loyalties in the United States lie.

The reality is that in international sports, the national team has to inspire the loyalty above all other configurations of their teams in order for that sport to explode as a phenomenon within international competition. Thus in South Africa, the Springboks reign supreme above even Super 12 or Currie Cup competition. Even in England, people place their loyalties to England above their deep and abiding loyalties to their Premiere League teams, which usually ends up in country-wide despair. I wonder if a WBC played in November in the Caribbean or elsewhere where the weather would cooperate would not work better than one played in March. And I simply cannot abide the numerous days off during the WBC. Baseball is played daily, or near so. There is no reason for multiple days off during a torunament such as the WBC. So, I like the idea, but the execution needs some tinkering.

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