Desperately seeking World Baseball

Simon Harrow writes on the World Baseball Classic.

I found myself in an unfamiliar situation the other day. I was looking for some baseball results and the scores I wanted were at the bottom of the search engine page.

Not only that, but I even had to go to a British newspaper to find them.

It’s true that I frequently visit that particular newspaper’s website for stories on football (I refuse to call it ‘soccer’), not only from England and Scotland but also Spain, Italy and Germany. But baseball?

The reason why the results didn’t hit me straight in the face before I’d even completed my search request was because they were for the World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Yes, it seems this international tournament, which includes many players from the major leagues, has a low priority in the US media. It is a well-trodden path of course.

The NFL’s attempt at a World League and even the football World Cup – the most- widely watched tournament in the world – have seemed unimportant to American outlets over the years.

After all, there are much more pressing matters to cover, such as college basketball, NFL summer camp and baseball’s winter leagues.

In the WBC’s case, it has to compete with coverage from the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues – spring training for Major League Baseball clubs.

Obviously it doesn’t stand a chance. In fact, when you search for US press articles under the name of the tournament, most of the results cover whether or not the WBC is a nuisance in preparation for the new major league season.

This is a shame. The results I was looking for turned out to be major shocks. Korea, who finished runners-up last time around and third the time-before-that, had been knocked out at the pool stage, following a 5-0 defeat to the Netherlands.

It’s true that the WBC is played below MLB standards - the pinnacle of its sport. Yet, it has been graced by some of the game’s greats – Ichiro Suzuki to name just one.

Many of the players’ names are familiar to US baseball fans, as they ply their trade in the American and National Leagues. After all, baseball today is a world game.

On last season’s Opening Day, over 28% of the players who started MLB games were born outside the US. Since 2005, the number has regularly been between 27% and 29%.

The 2012 non-US players came from fifteen different countries - mainly from Central America and Japan.

Added to that, there is a chance to see the best Cuban ballplayers who haven’t defected yet. So why is it so difficult to get English-language news on this tournament from sources other than its own website?

Well it could be a huge coincidence, but in the two Japan-dominated tournaments played so far, Team USA! USA! haven’t even close to winning.

With former Met, Yankee and Dodger Joe Torre as skipper, maybe that will change this time around.

image: © belz_