The second World Baseball Classic kicks off tomorrow. In some countries, the tourney is a huge deal, but in the United States, plenty of good seats remain for the semis and finals. And with most stars (Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Ryan Howard, Ryan Dempster, and apparently Alex Rodriguez) passing on the games because of insurance issues, the question is why this tourney should return in four years.
The second World Baseball Classic kicks off today. In some countries, the tourney is a huge deal, but in the United States, plenty of good seats remain for the semis and finals. And with most stars (Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Ryan Howard, Ryan Dempster, and apparently Alex Rodriguez) passing on the games because of insurance issues, the question is why this tourney should return in four years.
The short answer, according to the MLB officials putting together the games, is simple: to promote baseball. That’s a defensible position outside the United States. In Japan, huge crowds have shown up to watch the country’s WBC squad practice, and you can expect good attendance numbers overseas.
Closer to home, the WBC is another story. Though MLB touts the fact that 52 All-Stars and eight MVP winnters will be part of the tournament — most notably, Derek Jeter, Carlos Bertran, Carlos Delgado, Curtis Granderson and Adrian Beltre — a more telling detail is that LaTroy Hawkins, who has turned into the very definition of a journeyman reliever, is on the Team USA roster.
And, perhaps more ominously, plenty of good tickets remain for the semis and finals at Dolphin Stadium and Dodger Stadium, the two venues we checked out this morning. Now, part of the issue might be the relatively high ticket prices — $140 for a semifinal match at Dodger Stadium? — and part of it is not knowing what teams are participating. (We’d expect a huge walkup at Dolphin Stadium if Puerto Rico made the second round, though perversely Cuba would play in San Diego in the second round — a sop to political realities, we’re guessing.) MLB officials say ticket sales for the WBC are up when compared to the prior edition.
But this leads us back to the main question: what’s the point? There’s no lack of international competitions out there, and the International Olympic committee will be looking at whether to reinstate baseball for the 2012 games.the argument from baseball is that there’s international competition featuring MLB players. And that brings us back to the real reason for the World Baseball Classic: a tool for marketing MLB players internationally. Nothing wrong with that. But MLB needs to walk away from the assumption that MLB is synomymous with baseball. It’s not.
This story was sent to subscribers to the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter before it was posted to the site. You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.