(Chipper and Youk question the credentials of a guy who allegedly hates baseball)
“What kind of a ‘Classic’ is this from our point of view when the United States outfield consists of Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Shane Victorino, and Curtis Granderson?” asks the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan of the off-and-rolling World Baseball Classic. “And if Albert Pujols is the best player in the world, why isn’t he suiting up for the Dominican Republic?”
Ryan and 100% of his readers already know it’s all about individual players unwilling to risk injury (or their parent clubs protecting said investments), but the columnist’s diss of the WBC takes a wrong turn when he insists on providing his sketchy perspective on soccer’s World Cup.
I guarantee you that despite all the sour economic news that dominates the conversation in every corner of the globe, when that Cup competition gets underway next year in South Africa, those countries fortunate enough to have qualified will be fixated on their national football teams as long as they are alive. Meanwhile, competition for one of those precious 32 spots galvanizes the population, even now.
The World Cup is one competition that works, simply because everyone concerned wants to make it work. Players routinely leave their club teams for national qualifying games, no questions asked. There are no conflicts with any national leagues once the Cup year rolls around. The Cup comes first.
In some mythical proper time and place, with all the very best players involved, that would be a very worthy sporting exercise.
Instead, we have the WBC, which has been padded with no-hopers such as China, Italy, and South Africa to come up with the nice round number of 16. That would be like the NCAA Tournament filling out the final three at-large spots with club teams. So the WBC cannot be taken seriously on that basis alone.
Exactly how many of the national teams that emerge from the World Cup’s qualifying rounds have a legit shot at winning the championship? I think Ryan might find there’s at least 3 squads with no chance in hell every four years and often more than that. As far as the World Cup being treated like a showcase event by the public, media and domestic clubs alike, Ryan fails to mention that at the time of the Cup’s inception, a number of European countries were hesitant to send their national sides. South American participation was limited for the first few World Cups, and England didn’t even send a team until 1950.
Ryan is correct in characterizing the World Cup as a global event of huge import, but it took far longer than 3 years and two tournaments to achieve such status. The Dream Team’s Barcelona squash job is oft cited as an influential moment by overseas hoops fans and players alike ; jersey sales aside, David Stern can take considerable pride in having successfully made one of America’s cooler cultural offerings relevant to the rest of the planet. Those who openly mock the WBC experiment fail to recognize how the tournament is received in the U.S. might be the least important thing about it.
America gave the world Cassavettes, Rakim, The Ramones and Jackson Pollack. It seems awfully greedy (if not a little short-sighted) not to share Tim Lincecum.