Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
In developments that should have surprised no one, big-name players continue to withdraw from participating in the WBC.
Don't get me wrong -- I think the World Baseball Classic is a fine idea. But, as with most things BaalzeBud touches, the execution doesn't do the idea justice. Pretty much every decision made with regard to the WBC was made with profit, not competition, in mind, and it shows.
Take the decision to hold the tournament in March, before the pitchers are even in game shape. Ludicrous. I've heard arguments that the tourney should have been held after the World Series, too, but that just puts a different kind of pressure on pitchers' arms. No, the logical thing -- if you wanted to make it a true World Cup-style affair -- would have been to skip the All-Star Game this year, expand the break by a couple of weeks and hold the thing mid-season. But I doubt that option was even considered.
(And in typical Selig fashion, they even screwed up the 'safe' schedule they decided upon -- the final games of the WBC will overlap with the first rounds of the NCAA basketball tourney, cutting into the TV audience and revenue streams. Brilliant.)
Anyway, the decision to make it a preseason tourney led of course to the enforced pitch counts, which just highlighted to everyone how much this was simply going to be a product showcase rather than a purely competitive event. And so star players, given a choice between a contrived show of patriotism or getting themselves ready for a World Series chase, are choosing the latter.
I'm actually hoping the pitch count rule embarrasses Selig to the point that they do this thing right the next time they hold it (if they do). Imagine this scenario: it's the final game showdown between the US and Japan, tied 0-0. Roger Clemens is on the hill, having thrown 4 2/3 perfect innings to start the game. The crew chief signals to Buck Martinez. "Sorry, Buck, Roger's reached his pitch limit. You'll have to replace him." Martinez calls for the 'pen while Clemens fumes on the mound. The crowd at a packed Astrodome rises in unison to protest. "LET! HIM! PITCH! LET! HIM! PITCH!"
OK, maybe not. But right now, the only real reason I have to watch is to see some Cuban players before they get to the majors, so I'll hang onto my little fantasy for the moment.
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