Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The "real" World Series

I'm a little bit late with this, but life happens. I thought I would go ahead and add my opinion to the subject of a season-ending 'World Series' between the American major leagues and the Japanese major leagues. And contrary to what most people might expect, I'm dead against it and don't think it's a good idea.

I'm not really sure I understand the reasoning for this, especially with Bud pushing it. He's never cared much for the international game, and hasn't done anything to promote it before. It might be a marketing ploy, but that doesn't make sense either. Any merchandise featuring Japanese players are going to sell well regardless of any international series. Even if there is an upturn in sales, it doesn't figure to be enough to offset the cost of staging the games.

Unless he's looking to get some other names out there beyond the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers/Mariners, or the the individual Japanese players. Sure, they could sell a lot of Pujols jerseys, but you have to assume the Cardinals will win the series (they will). Or the Giants to get Lincecum's name out there, or the Brewers or Rays to get their players some notice. Good idea, but not enough to make this thing go.

The idea of playing for national pride doesn't work either, because Bud hasn't figured out yet that the major leagues have become international, and the 'teams' aren't American. Yeah, they play in American cities (with respect to Toronto), in front of American fans, but the teams aren't really American.

In the last World Series, the Yankees had players from the United States, Puerto Rico (hey, I don't agree, but they claim it), the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Panama and Taiwan on their roster last season, while the Phillies had players from the United States, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, South Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Canada. That doesn't really make for a lot of national pride in a series like this. Even the Japanese teams are international, featuring Americans, South Koreans, Taiwanese, Mexicans, and Dominicans, at a minimum.

These guys aren't playing for their country, they're just playing for their team in the city it resides in. The American public, as a whole, isn't going to care about this all that much. Which brings up the next bit of confusion. Is the idea that the fans of the particular team playing in the series is going to pull the weight to make it worthwhile? Again, if you have the Yankees, or Dodgers, (please apply East Coast/West Coast bias here), or teams that or a team such as the Cardinals that routinely draw over 3 millions fans a year, maybe. But what happens when you have the Rockies or the Twins win the series, and then go on to represent MLB? The fanbase just isn't there. That doesn't mean the fans of those particular teams wouldn't watch, but there wouldn't be enough to justify this as a reason for the series.

Then look at the players. I don't see the union allowing this, at least not without some major concessions in the next CBA. Plus, I don't imagine a lot of the players are going to really care about this all that much. If there is a Japanese player on the team playing, he might care. But why would the rest of them? After spring training, a 162-game season, two rounds of playoffs and the World Series, I can't see most players really wanting to do this. And why would they?

Money. Some of them will do it because they will get compensated for it, and there will some sort of winner's share. But is that why we want these guys to play this series? For a paycheck? When you know the Japanese team will be going all out to knock off the American team and prove they are just as good. I can't imagine most of the players wouldn't look at this as anything more than just an exhibition series.

And what happens when the star players sit out because of fatigue or worry of injury. Sure, guys like Jeter and Swisher and Rollins and Stairs would play, and give it there all. But Rodriguez had hip surgery, and Sabathia had thrown a lot of innings and Ruiz had caught a lot of games and Lidge was ineffective. Would those guys play? And if not, who takes their spot? A minor leaguer with a couple of call-ups during the season, or a player deemed not good enough to make the post-season roster? And if the stars aren't playing, hasn't the entire thing lost it's luster?

For the reasons listed above, it has to be done at the conclusion of the two seasons, and not before spring training the next year. There is too much turn over with the rosters during the off-season, and it wouldn't be the same team competing.

I just don't see any reason why this series needs to take place, and why Bud even wants it beyond making more money for the league. That's probably enough reason for Bud, but it won't carry with the fans. If Bud really wants to have an international series, this isn't the answer. Because they already have a good one.

It's called the World Baseball Classic, and the players have an incentive to play. Because it's for their country and national pride. And the fans (outside the United States) like and watch the classic.

Note to Bud: if the best American players in the game can't win an international competition, why do you want international players trying to win glory for an American team?

It doesn't make sense, Bud. Scrap this thing and put your efforts into the WBC, and getting the American team to actually be competitive.

The WBC is working. You just haven't figured it out yet.

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