The World Baseball Classic is in full swing, and for better or worse I love this event. As a soccer fan there is no greater event than watching the players compete for their nations in the World Cup. For those who participate in the WBC, it is clear they have the same passion. Here are my pros and cons of the WBC.
The Concept: I love this competition just for the fact it exists. It just shows how widespread baseball has grown while the US has been focused on the "World Series." South Africa? Australia? Crowning a true world champion is such a great concept, and I will watch as much as I can.
The atmosphere: You want to know how much this event means? Check out the crowds in Tokyo or Puerto Rico. These fans are desperate for their country to win and I think that passion feeds the players.
The underdogs: This year has already treated us to 3 rather impressive upsets with the Netherlands, Australia and Italy all winning games against some good competition. I really hope just one of these teams advance, proving that passion can often offset talent.
The timing: Everyone and their mother has commented on how spring training is a bad time for this event. While some writers suggest playing the final four play over the All-Star break, I have a different option: do it like soccer. Play it in November after the season (in the same warm weather locations) Seriously, instead of players worrying about ruining their upcoming MLB season, they can redeem themselves for the season that was. The only teams that might not be available are the World Series teams, and they will be happy enough as it is. Also, playing in November would avoid the NCAA bowl season and the NFL playoffs.
Missing Athletes: This would go away with my November idea, but it is still ridiculous how many player opted out of this event. What happened to playing for the love of the game?
Switching Nationalities: It bothered me a little when some players who have lived their whole lives in the US played for the Dominican Republic. That's fine. But you should absolutely have to stay with a nationality when you choose one. Who let Alex Rodriguez switch from the US to the Dominicans? Seriously, every international competition from soccer to the Olympics ties you to a nationality once you perform on the world-wide level. Get it together WBC.
Predictions:Well, these are kind of suspect since we are a week into the Classic, but I expect the US, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Japan to make the final 4 this year.(Leaving the Dominican Republic to pick up the pieces) I wouldn't be surprised if Japan repeats, but I will pick Puerto Rico to win because of their national pride and because they have a secret weapon in manager Jose Oquendo.