I've spent good chunks of the last three evenings watching the finals and semifinals of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). Here are some random thoughts:
- Other things being equal, I was rooting for the team with the fewest major leaguers on it. I've always found it offensive that the Major League championship should be called the World Series, when all the eligible teams are located in two countries, neither of which seems to ever win a real world championship. Of course, other things weren't equal -- I usually felt like rooting for the Red Sox players I like, and I watched the finals with a Japanese friend, so I rooted for Japan over South Korea, even though Japan has several times as many major leaguers on their team.
- I was annoyed that they abandoned play-by-play for a large chunk of the close-fought final game for an interview with the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Baseball broadcasts tend to do this more casually than I like anyway, but you would think they would take a championship final a little more seriously.
- Besides, the interview was not illuminating. They asked the Commissioner what could be done it increase fan interest in the WBC. Nobody mentioned the idea of putting more of it on TV, or some of it on broadcast TV.
- If the Commissioner had been asked about TV coverage, he probably would have said that people with internet connections could watch it online at mlb.com. This isn't true for anyone I know who's tried. Admittedly I tried 3 years ago, but a friend who's a big baseball fan and doesn't have cable tried this month, using his Mac with DSL, and found it unwatchable.
- An article I read before the WBC started said that it wasn't going to be a real world championship until you could get 16 teams without using weak entries like Italy and the Netherlands. In fact, both of those teams did quite well. What you would write with 20/20 hindsight is that you won't get a good world championship until the semifinals can have 4 teams that are all better then Venezuela was on Saturday against South Korea. I didn't see enough of the preceding games to be able to tell whether Venezuela was better at the beginning or whether they really got to the semifinals by beating teams that were even worse than that. The couple of games I saw earlier in the tournament were better than that.
- I couldn't figure out what the point of the pitch-count limitations was. I assume it's to mollify the MLB managers who don't want their players used up before the season starts. But it might have been to prevent a Davis Cup type situation where a country with a good pitcher and one or two good hitters can embarrass the countries with lots of good players. But that would be good television, if it happened.
- The official scorers seemed a little error-happy to me. I
saw several plays ruled as errors that if the player had made
it, I would have been impressed. One particularly memorable one
was on Sunday night, when Ichiro was batting for Japan against
the US team. He hit what normally would be a routine ground
ball to third except:
- Ichiro is one of the fastest runners in baseball, so he beat it out.
- The third baseman's throw to first was a little wide.
- The US team didn't have a real first baseman, and were using a converted shortstop, and he had his right foot on the bag, when the throw was wide to his right side, so he could have stretched better if he'd had his left foot on the bag.