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The World Baseball Classic: Why Bother Coming?

Watching MLB players at the Tokyo Dome should be a dream come true. So why does the WBC fall short? Photo by J-phopho.

For the first time all offseason, we finally have good news regarding Jung-Ho Kang. He’s not going to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

That may sound confusing. Shouldn’t this be a punishment?  No. The World Baseball Classic is stupid, unnecessary, uninspired, potentially dangerous and just flat out boring. In fact, it’s so stupid, unnecessary, etc., that I will not be referring to it by it’s given name from now on. Let’s see what else WBC could stand for.

The Why Bother Caring has all the excitement of a Bob Costas Winter Olympics broadcast and the appeal of prolonged exposure to his Olympics pink eye. They somehow take all the thrill of bringing together the best players on earth in an international round robin and ruin it by including Colombia.

It’s underwhelming. Actually, that’s an insult to “whelming” in general. Underwhelming implies there was still some whelming present. You cannot feel whelmed while watching the Wyoming Bacteria Contaminant. The next person to get pumped up to see Israel and Chinese Taipei would be the first. (By the way, that game is on Mar. 7 at 12:30. Set your DVRs for that one.)

Ok, you get the point. This article checks in at just over 1200 words and I spent almost a tenth of it trying to come up with different ways to say it’s dumb. Maybe that was a bit excessive, but it all comes down to one simple question: Are you going to watch it? Do you know anyone who is going to watch it?

After five months of the meaningless void that is known as the offseason, competitive baseball in March should be like the hit of choice to a two day sober junkie. A Winter Booty Call. This is what we all want, right? Or at least it’s the next best thing.

Too bad that there is no appeal to it. The timing is terrible, trying to take on March Madness in the ratings. That may be fine for international markets, but considering the lion’s share of quality players are going from American teams, they need to do better than the current complete apathy.

Can you guess who won last year? It was the Dominican Republic. Team America (World Police) finished sixth out of 16. It’s ok if you forgot. I had to Google it.

Being boring is one thing. Plenty of things are boring. People don’t get up in arms about being boring. It’s why none of your Facebook friends posted endless updates about Martin O’Malley.

But it’s more than just boring: it’s potentially dangerous.  There was a day in baseball history where a pitcher would just throw until his arm fell off and that was that. Now we have 200 million dollar deals, 10 year contracts and insurance policies on ligaments.

Players are precious, especially pitchers. Getting them ready for the season is becoming an exact science. Jameson Taillon will pitch a certain amount of innings in spring training action this year based on his injury history and workload from years past. Gerrit Cole will do the same, but his plan will be different. Why would you take these pitchers out of their routine and jeopardize their health for a publicity stunt?

Ray Searage said pretty much the same thing in an interview with MLB Network Radio this past week.

“In my opinion, I just think that you are speeding up the process, and that you leave yourself open to an injury during the season,” Searage said. “…If any of my pitchers asked me, I’d say no.”

Searage has been burned by William Baldwin’s Career before. Back in 2013, both Jason Grilli and Wandy Rodriguez participated and later went on the DL. Grilli only tossed five competitive innings between his abbreviated spring training and the World Bingo Championship, while most veteran relievers would pitch somewhere between 10-20. Rodriguez gave a six inning outing on Mar. 16 for the Dominican Republic. If he was in a regular spring training, he probably would only go three or four frames tops at that point of the year. Rodriguez had multiple outings and was injury plagued and uneffective the rest of his Pirates career.

Sure, Major League Baseball insists the Wheat Beer Chug is safe, but then again, the NFL is insistent that a dozen hits to the head every Sunday is safe-ish (Safe enough. You can’t prove that it’s not not safe). It’s obviously not fair to compare the two, but you can see how their bottom line may make them a tad untrustworthy. Spring Training just isn’t as profitable as Major League Baseball wants it to be. They can run a publicity stunt like having Will Ferrell play 10 positions for 10 different teams in one day, but that’s nothing compared to getting 42,000 people into the Tokyo Dome.

We’ve seen bad things happen to players after they participated in the Wild Bears Chewing. Sometimes it’s innocent, like Jake Peavy struggling for the first half of the year after pitching in 2006’s tournament. Maybe it’s more serious and hurts the team that year, like when Hanley Ramirez tore a ligament in his thumb that required surgery and made him sit out almost all of April in 2013. Heaven forbid it contributes to a serious injury, like what happened to Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2009. The normally healthy righty pitched less than 60 innings that year and never posted an ERA lower than 4.40 again.

So you’ve seen examples of why this could be bad. Pirate fans, do you love Canada enough to let Taillon pitch for them in this tournament? It’s ok if you say no. They still owe us for getting the better half of Niagara Falls.

Unless you have an irrational hatred for Taillon’s right elbow, you’re probably relieved he is passing on this Wicked Bar Crawl after pitching in 2013. Instead, the Canadian team will turn to Scott Diamond as their number two starter. Diamond is most famous for me saying his name right now. He’s pitched one major league inning since 2014.

Welcome to the Catch-22 on why this When Birds (usually doves) Cry doesn’t work in its current state. People only care if you include the best players. Including the best players increases the likelihood that one of them is going to get hurt. If someone gets hurt, it’s a disaster. If nobody noteworthy plays, it’s a disaster.

The worst part of this is that the concept for Weekend Barista Career is a good idea. We rarely get a look at international players, and it would be fun to be amateur scouts on which Japanese and South Korean players could be the next Ichiro or Kang.

So tweak it. Do what baseball did for years at the Olympics and send minor league and college players instead. Have it either in November and December in place of winter ball or do it in July when it would not have any competition from the other sports. The week of the All-Star break is usually pretty quiet. Sixteen teams could play 15 games (single elimination) and four rounds in that Monday through Thursday stretch before the regular season resumes.

Change it somehow, because right now the only people who care about the Classic aren’t particularly happy with how it is being run.

About Alex Stumpf (57 Articles)
Alex is a Pirates and Duquesne basketball contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Point Park University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Comm. and a minor in English in 2014. Everything can be explained with numbers. If you want to keep up to date on both teams or have a story idea, you can follow or reach him @AlexJStumpf.
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