March 27, 2017
The United States won the World Baseball Classic, but the real winner is the whole sport of professional baseball. The last classic held in 2013 kept the interest moving forward. The sixteen-nation tournament with its elimination format that most of us don’t understand didn’t distract too much. For the even the casual fan to see baseball in February and March is a welcome sight. You even got to see teams from odd locations such as the Netherlands and Israel. Until then, I didn’t know they even played it in those countries.
The WBC was entertaining because you can see the gap in talent from an international standpoint has closed significantly. Baseball is growing in popularity globally just like basketball. The United States has done well in promoting their sports with a lot of money pumped in scouting the world for the best of the best. The best players in baseball still flock to the US A to compete but the WBC allows them to compete for their home countries just like the World Cup in soccer.
I enjoyed seeing the pitching styles of the various teams. Of course, there was a good number of pitchers from the teams that you see in the Major Leagues, but the majority don’t play in the MLB because the eligibility criteria. It was fun to see the Japan team pitch because every one of their pitchers has some kind of deception in their delivery. Every guy they ran out there to pitch had this part in their delivery that would have a slight hesitation. You saw this in some of the other teams as well except for the US team.
The one thing that everybody saw was the joy that most of the players were showing. Rarely did you see demonstrative displays of anger and embarrassing moments of outlandish showmanship. There was good spirit to the games that players showed to each other. The winners were the fans. There was a total of forty games that almost drew a million fans. Not bad for games that weren’t overloaded with name stars.
Baseball is still king in my book even though it has taken its share of hits in popularity in the last fifteen years. With the steroid era a thing of the past, baseball is on the upswing and attendance is up. The salaries are climbing way past the point where a salary cap is needed. Baseball better try to put in a realistic salary structure our they will see the upswing take turn for the worse. But when you eliminate that money albatross, the game is on the rise with the younger fans because it’s still cheaper to see a game than football, basketball and hockey. It is still the game of the summer and sunshine and laziness and slow play. The World Baseball Classic will grow in stature and the stakes will rise. Let’s hope the positive vibes keep the game moving forward.