CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Setting... (03/06)
<< Previous Column
The Lineup Card: 12 Le... (02/27)
Next Column >>
The Lineup Card: 9 Bet... (03/13)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How Ba... (03/06)

March 6, 2013

The Lineup Card

6 Ways We'd Change the WBC

by Baseball Prospectus

​1. Make it a Four-Day Tournament to Replace the All-Star Game
The World Baseball Classic has tried to copy the World Cup a little too much, especially the part where it lasts most of a month. It makes sense in soccer, because there aren't a lot of domestic club leagues—the major leagues of soccer where the players for the national teams earn their paychecks—that are playing games in June. And that allows the World Cup to have four team round-robin qualifying pools, followed by a Sweet 16 single-elimination tournament with three or four days off between games for each team. Because the WBC insists on having qualifying pools and 16 teams, the only place that it makes sense to play the games is in spring training. The result has been a laundry list of players who have politely declined to play due to the fact that they are coming off of injury, trying to make their major-league team, or just generally not interested.

Why not just make the WBC an eight-team single-elimination tournament? It can be run in July replacing the All-Star break and game, and you'll get to see most of the same players—in midseason form. Pick two different cities on either side of the country to host the quarterfinals and semifinals and to exploit the time zone differential. On Day 1, there are two games at 1:00 and 7:00 in each park (or whatever works for TV). On Day 2, the semifinal games would be played at night. On Day 3, it's a travel day to the city hosting the final on Day 4, in prime time. —Russell A. Carleton

2. Make Qualifying Rounds True Double-Elimination
When Spain beat Israel in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic way back in September, things should have been setting up for a great final game to see who'd advance to the real thing. Israel had beaten Spain 4-2 on the group's third day and after Spain survived South Africa, it beat Israel 9-7. Both teams had a loss, but the matchup between zero-loss Israel and one-loss Spain was considered the championship game in this modified double elimination, whereas in a true double-elimination format like the College World Series, the two now-one-loss teams would have played a legitimate final game.

In all three other qualifying pools, it didn't matter, since the zero-loss team beat the one-loss team in the championship game. So apologies for this sounding like a homer rant. It shouldn't be surprising that a tournament that's ultimately decided on a pair of best-of-1s values expediency over having the best team win, but in the qualifying rounds, they should take the time to play one more game if necessary. —Zachary Levine

3. Make the Best Players Play
There is one very simple way to make the World Baseball Classic better: Make the best players play in it. Major League Baseball should institute a rule for the WBC like it has for the All-Star Game in which a player, unless he has a legitimate injury or personal reason, must participate or face a substantial fine. Considering the Major League Baseball Players Association is partners with MLB in the WBC, the union would likely sign off on such a move. If not, then it’s time to put the WBC on the shelf and classify it as a good idea in theory that just wasn’t practical. —John Perrotto

4. Allow Countries with No Baseball Experience to Participate
The outcome of the WBC doesn’t matter much to most Americans. But the WBC is serious business elsewhere in the world, and that’s something to celebrate. More international interest means more people exposed to the sport, which ultimately leads to a larger talent pool and better big-league baseball.

So I’m pro-WBC, but I’m not much more likely to, well, watch it than I am to tune in to a given game in the Grapefruit League (though I am hoping to see some WBC action on a trip to Arizona this weekend). There’s no easy fix for my apathy. I can’t come up with a solution to raise the stakes—the tournament will always take a backseat to the regular season—but I can think of one way MLB could make me want to watch: permit countries with no professional baseball presence to participate.

Yes, this would lower the quality of play, but that’s precisely the point. We all have plenty of experience watching bad baseball players play each other; most of us have been those players. What we rarely see is bad baseball players playing really good baseball players. That makes it hard to tell how good major leaguers really are, since they’re always squaring off against other major leaguers, or something close to it. Well, I’m sick of seeing supremely talented athletes throw 98-mph fastballs with movement to other, equally gifted athletes who somehow manage to hit them hard. Instead, I want to see someone look like me out there, cowering at the sight of Craig Kimbrel. And that’s something that can happen only if the WBC opens its doors to the cream of the extremely thin crop from countries that have hardly heard of baseball. Micronesia, come on down.

It’s a facetious suggestion, but it would work for me. If you’re still not persuaded, think of it this way: It’s the closest baseball could come to Cool Runnings. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme. Get on up, it’s baseball time. —Ben Lindbergh

5. No More Petty and Shallow Complaints About the Tournament
We get it. Not everybody likes the WBC, including some ballplayers themselves. It happens. But please stop with the minor and petty complaints about the whole process, especially when it comes to the roster selection. Belittling the tournament does no good for anyone, and it may even cause harm to Major League Baseball and its players. Maybe it is better for the Tigers if Justin Verlander doesn't pitch for Team USA, but that doesn't mean it's better for baseball. The tournament, after all, is meant to expand the sport to countries and people who might never have had the chance to know this glorious game otherwise. It's ridiculous to think that the best baseball players in the world all happen to live in the countries where baseball is played. By letting more of the world see great players playing great baseball, we give everyone a chance to experience and love this game. And if you think that offering a tournament where the US roster is filled with players who might make the All-Star team for a 100-loss club is going to do that, you're crazy.

The exposure and spread of baseball is a positive for professional ballplayers, period. It means more leagues to play in and more money to make. Belittling the tournament because it's an "exhibition" and "manufactured" is shooting the sport in the foot. So let's stop. —Larry Granillo

6. Re-Name it the World Honkbal Classic, and Have Vin Scully Call the Action
Like Ben, I am completely apathetic about the World Baseball Classic. The tournament simply never drew my attention. However, I believe there are a couple of factors that might send me to watch the televised games.

First, as Ian Miller expertly pointed out on Tuesday, "honkbal"—the Dutch word for "baseball"—is tremendously awesome. If the tournament's broadcasters were required to mention the word "honkbal" several times per inning, I might tune in. But such a fantastic word deserves a fantastic voice to pronounce it. Thus, I propose that Vin Scully be given full reign of the World Honkbal Classic game-calling duties. Aside from allowing viewers around the world to hear one of the greatest broadcasters of all-time, isn't it fun to imagine the bits of trivia and anecdotes Scully might dig up for countries like Team Israel and Team South Africa? —Stephani Bee

31 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

mblthd

"Belittling the tournament because it's an 'exhibition' and 'manufactured' is shooting the sport in the foot. So let's stop."

I hate the WBC because it makes me sick. Imagine if you were paying a guy $500,000 or $5MM or $17MM to be in training camp starting on February 25 so he can prepare (pursuant to instructions from the coaches and trainers you're paying) to help your team in its first game on April 1 and the 161 games after that. How would you feel if he said, "Thanks for the money, I'll take it, but instead of being in camp getting ready to help your team, I'm going off to play in a manufactured exhibition." I wouldn't think you were being minor or petty if you were not happy about it.

Mar 06, 2013 05:34 AM
rating: 5
 
Richard Bergstrom

In many jobs, you get paid a salary and are still allowed to do things like attend conferences and/or publish papers that might not necessarily be work-related but are related to your industry. Same concept with baseball. Playing in the WBC doesn't directly help their team but it does help the sport and also helps the player grow. It's little different than Apple sending a programmer to an IT conference.

Mar 06, 2013 06:28 AM
rating: 1
 
mblthd

My guess is that Apple sends the programmer to the conference to make the programmer a more productive and valuable employee.

Mar 06, 2013 07:29 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Yeah and if a team bars a player from playing, it may lead to animosity when contract negotiations come up. Meanwhile, if a team lets a player play, it increases their happiness i.e. "job satistication". Besides, teams send players to the WBC for the marketing opportunity which could lead to merchandising and/or future international recruits.

Mar 06, 2013 10:38 AM
rating: -1
 
mblthd

I wouldn't think that marketing opportunity would confer enough of a benefit to outweigh the negatives of not having my players in my camp getting ready to help my team win games, but that's just my perception.

Mar 06, 2013 10:58 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Look at how much the Yankees have profited in terms of merchandising and player acquisition from their international reputation.

Or, consider the Mariners. Though they had a Japanese owner, they didn't get a stream of Japanese players or fans until they signed Ichiro. They didn't sell much international merchandise until Ichiro, etc.

Besides, when the players are training for the WBC they're going through some of the same hitting/pitching/fielding drills and general workouts that they would be doing with their major league teams. Baseball's not like football or basketball built on team rhythm or memorizing formations or the like... So players are still getting ready, they just aren't doing it "with their team".

Mar 06, 2013 11:10 AM
rating: -1
 
mblthd

I'm not dismissing "international reputation" generally, I just wonder if having my players in the WBC is a major factor therein. Ichiro was a Mariner and they surely benefited in many ways from his international stardom, but what role did the WBC play in that? If Ichiro eschewed this year's WBC, would the Yankees see a discernible drop in their brand's international presence?

As to having players in camp, I disagree as to its value. Sure, they don't have to learn a playbook, but if there wasn't any value in it, players would just "get ready" at home and report to the stadium on Opening Day. If I were an owner, I'd want my coaches and trainers calling the shots in my players' preparations and conditioning. I'm paying them salaries, and being in camp is part of the job description as far as I can tell. But I'm not an owner, so WDIK?

Mar 06, 2013 11:23 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

The WBC is still too young to see what the full implications of it are. However, if countries are building stadiums and televising baseball, it makes sense that a kid in those countries could latch onto a favorite player from the WBC and start following their major league career.

Being in camp is part of their job description, but so is public outreach. Signing autographs after games, going to fan conventions, playing in exhibitions in Japan, etc. Again, it's a salary position and it's not like players are not doing team-related activies once the season ends.

Owners and teams do have legitimate concerns, but if the risk outweighed the reward, I'm sure they'd figure out some way to deny all player participation or limit it to just fringe players of their organization. They seem to handle the risks and think there are rewards just like they do for winter ball/Carribbean World Series or the AFL.

Come to think of it, the only big difference between the WBC and winter ball is the timing, right?

Mar 06, 2013 12:06 PM
rating: -1
 
mblthd

I'm not talking about "once the season ends." I'm talking about Feb 26 (or whenever the contractually-obligated reporting date is) through the last game of the season or post-season.

From what I've read they all have a "no jumping out of airplanes" clause (or in Jeff Kent's case, no washing your pick-up truck) governing their off-season activities, but I would think I'd be okay with my players playing in a winter WBC, as long as my pitchers weren't throwing 150 pitches a game or whatever.

So yes, the big difference is the timing.

Mar 06, 2013 12:30 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Actually, Kent's clause was "no riding motorcycles".. but when he broke his wrist riding a motorcyle, that's where he lied and said he was washing his truck.

For a stroll down memory lane... http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1171962-20-most-ridiculous-contract-clauses-and-incentives-in-mlb-history

Mar 06, 2013 12:41 PM
rating: -2
 
mblthd

Right, that's what I was referring to with my "no washing your pick-up-truck" joke.

Mar 06, 2013 13:36 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Here's an article by Ken Rosenthal about some of the ways the WBC is benefitting the teams and baseball in general, especially in the absence of baseball as an Olympic sport.

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/world-baseball-classic-needs-to-be-embraced-by-gms-managers-players-crucial-to-growth-of-game-022813

Mar 06, 2013 11:18 AM
rating: -1
 
mblthd

Rosenthal doesn't even address the key issue, i.e., the obligation of the players to do the job for which they are being paid.

And his last non-single-sentence paragraph is idiotic:

"So really, the U.S. loses on every level when its stars decline to participate. The reluctance of aces such as Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw and David Price is understandable, given the fragile nature of pitching. But position players such as Buster Posey and Prince Fielder? And youngsters such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper? C’mon."

"Fragile nature?" Buster Posey's re-constructed knee is comparatively "durable?"

Mar 06, 2013 12:18 PM
rating: 2
 
DetroitDale

As a claims adjuster I am in fact allowed to take time off from handling claims to attend conferences and seminars because they allow me to earn continuing education credits which keep my license in force. This is not an exact parallel because my attending a conference doesn't impair my ability to perform for my company they way missing spring training does for a pitcher, there's no risk of injury as there is for a pitcher, and the benefits of my attending the conference accrue to my company, not to the general welfare of the insurance industry.

I'm a tigers fan first so I am glad that my favorite player chose my team (and the team that pays him >$20M /year ) over a PR stunt in other countries, and if the writers of BP have an issue with that I need to know now so I can cancel my subscription before the next billing period.

The irony of it is, the thesis is flawed. Non american fans don't care about seeing the best players, they care about seeing their teams beat america. Sending a US super team would make it less competitive and temper interest, not increase it.

Mar 11, 2013 21:34 PM
rating: 0
 
danteswitness

But all baseball is manufactured, so I don't entirely understand why one manifestation of it is inherently more repulsive than another. Professional baseball came about because business leaders in Cincinnati were tired of watching their local team lose all the time, so they went out and bought the best players across the country. That was completely manufactured, yet it ended up leading to something pretty amazing.

Mar 06, 2013 07:21 AM
rating: 1
 
mblthd

I was just referring to the quote in the article re: "manufactured exhibition." Whether MLB can be defined as "manufactured" is beside the point, which is that MLB players leaving their teams' camps to play in the WBC is repulsive to me. But hey, that's just my perception, everybody's got their tastes and preferences, etc.

Mar 06, 2013 07:34 AM
rating: 0
 
robustyoungsoul

Love the WBC - I would watch it even if no MLB players participated.

Mar 06, 2013 05:55 AM
rating: 2
 
mblthd

Roger that - I would be much more inclined to watch it if no MLB players participated. If a Futures Game type team played in it, I'd be all over it.

Mar 06, 2013 06:27 AM
rating: 4
 
krissbeth

Me too. I went to one of the original series in AZ and it was an amazing experience. I think it's one of those things that you have to go see at least once to really appreciate. It's like being a baseball fan and never going to the stadium. You're a fan, but you're missing something important.

Mar 06, 2013 06:28 AM
rating: 1
 
BayCityM

Isn't a diminished WBC infinitely better than no WBC for the growth of the game? That being said I completely understand the economic argument.

Mar 06, 2013 06:29 AM
rating: 1
 
Shaun P.
(676)

I would like to see Ben's idea taken in a different direction, with a hat tip to robustyoungsoul. Instead of changing the talent composition by inviting nations with no baseball experience, or eliminating all major leaguers from the tournament, limit each team to having no more than 10 current major leaguers on their roster.

This gives retired players and career minor leaguers a chance, just like Italy and the Netherlands and Brazil and Australia do. Those teams are the most interesting to me, because they offer the best stories, and I would otherwise never get to see a lot of their players play. But you still allow major leaguers who are incredibly passionate about playing for their home country the chance to play, while removing a lot of grief from the process. I cal it a win-win.

Mar 06, 2013 06:40 AM
rating: 1
 
GreenvilleGent

I really like Mr. Carleton's idea about the four-day tourney to replace the all-star break. I'm 100% on board with that.

Mar 06, 2013 08:09 AM
rating: 2
 
thejimmyc

Ha, I'm going to the Italy v. Angels game today. It's a little weird to see Italy play Baseball and not Soccer, it will be fun. The WBC does need better players though. Why not reward organizations based on how many players they send to the WBC? Mid-late round draft picks, luxury tax relief (although that really only applies to two teams), certain amount of cash for every player they send into the tournament. I'm sure teams would then be trying to get their players into the tournament. Also, have the rewards proportional to the players salary/WARP so teams that send a 25 million player or high WARP player into the tournament, get a bigger piece of the revenue generated by the classic. MLB needs to invest money in trying to get teams to encourage their best players to go, that's it.

Mar 06, 2013 08:42 AM
rating: 1
 
ttt

I agree with Stephani Bee - Vin Scully needs to broadcast some games (at least the finals!)

Mar 06, 2013 10:22 AM
rating: 5
 
Beau Giles

Simplest positive change would be to stream the tournament on the internet without requiring viewers to subscribe to MLB Network to view it. The event is going to be heavily ignored in the US simply because MLB Network has such small market penetration or regular viewership.

Mar 06, 2013 10:42 AM
rating: 8
 
RaysProf

I would pay to watch over the internet, but we do not have that option. Correct?

Mar 06, 2013 11:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Beau Giles

Only way to legally stream it is if you already pay for MLB Network through your cable/satellite provider and that provider is Bright House, Time Warner or DirecTV.

Mar 06, 2013 12:04 PM
rating: 0
 
ddanyc
(837)

The easiest improvement would be cancelling it altogether. Every year, we are witness to a great tournament featuring the finest players from all over the world. You may have heard of it. It's called "Major League Baseball". Silly marketing stunts (yes, I'd kibosh the All-Star Game too) are entirely superfluous.

For those who like the WBC, a simple question. Last year at this time did you really say to yourself "wow, I sure miss having the WBC"?

Mar 06, 2013 14:33 PM
rating: -2
 
Drungo

I missed it. I missed the opportunity to see a bunch of really good players and unique styles of play that I never get to see in MLB. Baseball is worse off for thinking that the only thing that counts is MLB, and that nothing that happens outside of MLB is worthwhile. Too often the powers-that-be in MLB "know" that baseball has to be played a certain way. Other countries often don't suffer from this certainty.

If games from Korea or Japan or Taiwan or the Netherlands were broadcast in the US, I'd rather watch that than a random D'backs-Padres game. I see MLB games all the time, it gives me no new insight into how baseball could be played. The WBC can be new and different and interesting and eye-opening.

Mar 07, 2013 05:41 AM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

Am I the only one to support Zachary Levine's idea? Maybe I, too, am a homer. I had a friend on Team Israel. I streamed all of their games and was shocked to learn that they didn't get a second chance to lose. Severe bummer.

Mar 06, 2013 17:01 PM
rating: 2
 
BayCityM

More Buck and McCarver!!

Mar 08, 2013 09:54 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Setting... (03/06)
<< Previous Column
The Lineup Card: 12 Le... (02/27)
Next Column >>
The Lineup Card: 9 Bet... (03/13)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How Ba... (03/06)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Some Projection Left: Ask The Industry: Seco...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: July 3, 2015
Premium Article Weekly Wrap: July 3, 2015
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: The Variation of All Things
Premium Article What You Need to Know: July 3, 2015
Premium Article Pitching Backward: Manny Happy Returns
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Grandal's Ambitions

MORE FROM MARCH 6, 2013
Premium Article Contractual Matters: The Sinking and the Sun...
Premium Article Scouting the Draft: Baseball Prospectus At t...
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How Baseball Returns Our Inv...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Setting Sail with Sale
Prospectus Hit and Run: The Curious Case of ...
Fantasy Freestyle: Expert-League Auction Val...

MORE BY BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
2013-03-27 - The Lineup Card: 8 Spring Training Stats We ...
2013-03-20 - The Lineup Card: 11 Horribly Wrong Predictio...
2013-03-13 - The Lineup Card: 9 Bets on Vegas Over/Under ...
2013-03-06 - The Lineup Card: 6 Ways We'd Change the WBC
2013-02-27 - The Lineup Card: 12 Least-Favorite Off-Seaso...
2013-02-20 - The Lineup Card: 11 Favorite Off-Season Move...
2013-02-13 - The Lineup Card: 9 Breakout Candidates
More...

MORE THE LINEUP CARD
2013-03-27 - The Lineup Card: 8 Spring Training Stats We ...
2013-03-20 - The Lineup Card: 11 Horribly Wrong Predictio...
2013-03-13 - The Lineup Card: 9 Bets on Vegas Over/Under ...
2013-03-06 - The Lineup Card: 6 Ways We'd Change the WBC
2013-02-27 - The Lineup Card: 12 Least-Favorite Off-Seaso...
2013-02-20 - The Lineup Card: 11 Favorite Off-Season Move...
2013-02-13 - The Lineup Card: 9 Breakout Candidates
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2013-03-14 - Premium Article Covert OPS: How to Make Winning the WBC Wort...