From the Associated Press :

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig defended the World Baseball Classic on Saturday, dismissing criticism that players put themselves at further risk of injury by participating.

You mean guys don’t get injured in spring training?” Selig said. “Guys get hurt walking down the street. “All the managers, pitching coaches [are] very sensitive. Look, you can always pick at something, but there’s a broader picture, a grander picture.”

I saw a grand picture the other day at Modell’s ; Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez Dominican Republic jerseys for $100. No Rich Harden Netherlands shirts, however, which was quite a disappointment.

Were it not for the various rule changes imposed on the WBC (Vern “Mercy” Ruhle, enforced pitch counts, ties declared after 14 innings, etc.), I’d be more apt to buy into Selig’s global vision. Which isn’t to say the first 3 days of play haven’t been interesting. And the rest of the tournament could well be much, much better.

A caller to Evan Roberts’ WFAN overnight show argued that MLB’s comparisons to the soccer’s World Cup didn’t hold water because “they don’t play the World Cup right before the season starts.” Roberts concurred.

Unless the pair are huge MLS fans, I don’t know what season they’re talking about. The World Cup is played right before the season starts, at least where Europe’s professional clubs are concerned. It would be more accurate to state the World Cup takes place right at the end of league competition and just before it commences again ; there’s not much gap between, say, the FA Cup and the first match of the World Cup, nor is there a ton of breathing room between the end of the World Cup and the first pre-season friendlies for club play.

In short, professional soccer’s clubs have long had to contend with the risk of injury and workload burden represented by International commitments (World Cup, European Championships, Africa Cup Of Nations, etc). In the case of England’s Premiership and Football League, what they’d call “the close season” is far shorter than MLB’s November to March vacation.

Which isn’t to say those clubs above grumbling, however. Claudio Reyna has bailed on playing in friendlies for U.S. Soccer in order to maintain his commitments to paymasters in Scotland and England. Every time the Africa Cup of Nations rolls around, you can count on an English manager to moan and groan about losing one of his best players in the middle of January. But all of that said, clubs are expected to release players for the World Cup and everyone acknowledges that the competition galvanizes attention around the globe.

It might seem ridiculous to compare the World Cup (first time played : 1930) with the WBC (which started, uh, two days ago), but great used car dealerships weren’t built in a day.

I’m sure there is every chance that A-Rod might strain an eyelash during the WBC. Just as footballers have suffered serious injuries in the World Cup, NBA players are at risk in the Summer Olympics, and Dominic Hasek was badly hurt during the recent Winter Olympics hockey competition (in the middle of the NHL season, too). These other sports command greater interest around the globe than baseball and are able to draw from a wider talent pool. Even if the WBC has no appeal to an arrogant creep like George Steinbrenner purely on a commercial level, the game’s evangelists oughta be excited by the prospect of people around the world showing greater interest.

And that, finally, is what I find most discouraging about the WBC’s promo spiel. “They’ll be there for their country, will you be there for yours?” is the same ridiculous come-on as Tommy Lasorda’s insisting that participation is a matter of patriotism. I’d like to hear just one guy involved in this circus speak up and that he’s not doing this for “his” country (Metal Mike?). He’s doing it for baseball.

Taiwan are leading China tonight, 5-0 through 4 innings, former Wisconsin Timber Rattler Yung Chi Chen (above) hit the first grand slam in WBC history off Zheng Xu. “Gilligan’s Island” alumnus Jim Lefebrve has lent the same magic touch to China thus far that marked his tenure with the Chicago Cubs.’s simulcast with the newly created “Eggdome Crazies Cam” was cancelled on account of the entire planet suffering from a gimmick overdose.