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Richard Griffin on the WBC

Every now and then, I'll post excerpts from articles and post some thoughts on them. It's a good way of keeping tabs on what those in the media have to say (whether we agree is an entirely different matter), and hopefully it'll lead to some good discussion.

In today's edition of the Toronto Star, Griffin acknowledges that the WBC has been a success, but he lists four suggestions that could improve it the next time it's staged:

  • Change the timing. All the best games in the Classic were low-scoring, with the pitchers ahead of the hitters. That's always the case early in the spring and if the games mean something, then the gap between pitching and hitting becomes even wider. Thus, we saw the failure of the powerhouse Dominicans and Americans.

    The middle of the season is not an option. The last week of November and the first week of December, with a 10-day national training pre-camp are the answer. The major leaguers, other than the final four in the playoffs, will have had just six weeks off, while the Caribbean countries are preparing for their winter seasons. There is no huge competition on TV like March Madness. To accomplish this, we also need suggestion No. 2.

  • Choose the rosters far in advance. If countries get commitments from a 40-man roster by mid-August, the players could make sure that at the end of their pro seasons, they are prepared mentally for a mid-November training camp.
  • Schedule the players' union meetings and the winter meetings, with all the trading and free-agent activity, in the same location as the tournament and in the same time frame. That would encourage full media coverage and the presence of all of the game's power brokers.
  • Pay the players a standard fee of 100 grand, invite their families and award a world championship trophy to the winners. National pride has already shone through in the inaugural Classic and, with the Olympics no longer an option to crown baseball's international champ, the world's fans would support it and truly care.

First off, he didn't address one of the most glaring weaknesses of the WBC: the umpiring. As Rob Neyer suggests in one of his recent columns, in order to further promote fairness and objectivity, an umpire should be prohibited from ruling over a game that includes the country from which he (or she, let's hope) is from. Of course, I also had some minor problems with the expansiveness of some of the umpires' strike zones, but overall I'm satisfied with their performance.

His first three suggestions all hinge on the tournament being staged sometime in the fall. Similar opinions have been voiced by many in the media, and while I understand their merits, I don't think the current schedule is that much of a problem. In fact, it's this time of year that I'm most excited about baseball; the weather is slowly becoming more benign, which, to those in cold climates, signals that the dawn of a new and exciting season is upon us. On the other hand, by November, after a long 162-game schedule, I'm perfectly content focusing my attention on the offseason, which seems to be at its most eventful around then.

Additionally, others have mentioned the need for instant replay. To be honest, I'm still undecided on the matter, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it were adopted during the next WBC.

I agree with Griffin that an effort should be made to avoid ratings competition against the NCAA tournament. However, in order to accomplish this, the tournament would only have to be moved back by a mere week or so.

In the end, however, I agree with his main premise that the WBC has been a great success but it could stand to improve in certain important areas. Reaching an agreement on what those areas are, on the other hand, has proven to be rather difficult.