Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Friday, February 24, 2006

Red, white and boooooooo!

By the headline, you might think I'm writing about the Shani Davis-Chad Hedrick, made-for-TV Olympic saga, but that's not the case. I'm writing about the biggest fiasco to hit Major League Baseball since the All-Star Game tie in 2002.

It's the World Baseball Classic, featuring some of the biggest stars the game has ever seen. Well, maybe by the time it gets underway next week, it won't, but for now, we still have Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez.

But the numbers are going down, fast. Barry Bonds was one of the first to back out, though for defensible reasons. He's coming off knee surgery and needs to devote himself to the Giants in what might be his final season. Hideki Matsui is skipping it for Japan. Dominicans Manny Ramirez (out for the Classic) and Pedro Martinez (skipping the first round) are on the out or uncertain list. Gold Glove center fielder Vernon Wells is injured and might have to back out. Texas Rangers stars Francisco Cordero and David Dellucci have opted not to participate. And you have to believe the list will get bigger as teams gather at Spring Training and evaluate their status.

Remember, this was Bud Selig's plan to promote baseball on a worldwide level. Bring together the best players from around the world, have them represent their countries, or in the case of some, the countries of their ancestors. Have a round-robin format that leads to a championship game and the nationalism will just flow from there.

Well, the concept was good, but as with many things Selig has done, there have been a few flaws in the execution.

First of all, the timing made 30 major league managers cringe. The last thing one of them needs is to have an ace pitcher blow out an elbow or a star hitter pull a hamstring while playing in an exhibition. Second, the tournament is exhausting the better part of Spring Training. Seventeen days on the road, away from the team, has to do wonders for chemistry. Third, baseball isn't on the minds of most sports fans during March, because there's something called the NCAA Basketball Tournament to occupy them.

A better idea would have been to conduct the tournament after the season. Yes, some players might opt out to rest their bodies after 162 games, but it would be more likely Selig would have had the support of the teams. Influential owners such as George Steinbrenner and John Henry have been among the most vocal critics of the Classic. In reality, some teams will show up playing to win; others will show up playing not to get hurt. That doesn't inspire great baseball.

Or, Selig could have thought outside the box, which most would admit isn't his greatest strength. Instead of a three-day All-Star break, have a weeklong break and play a shortened version of the tournament during that period. Instead of 16 teams, have four playing a single-elimination tournament.

The Caribbean could have one team, Central and South America (including Mexico) a second team, the U.S. and Canada a third and the rest of the world a fourth. One semifinal game on Tuesday, another semifinal on Wednesday and the championship on Friday night. No other major sports would be competing for those time slots, so baseball would be on the stage for the world to see. You might not get the nationalism that comes with representing home countries, but you would see quality baseball and most likely you'd have the best players in the world on display.

Just make sure there aren't any tie games.



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