Friday, March 17, 2006

WBC - Improvements for 2009

Well I have just watched Mexico eliminate themselves... and the USA from the WBC. Watching the last few innings, it is hard to argue that this hasn't been a far greater success than anyone connected to the tournament could hope - a stunning atmosphere, and it clearly mattered to both sets of players.

I have really enjoyed the games that I could watch... and that can start the list of improvements.
  • fans have to be able to see all games, live, on a normal TV. is a fantastic tool, but cutting from SportsCenter to live updates from the USA game at 10.30pm, which was shown later on tape delay at 1.00am, was just bizarre. Given the press coverage on the ratings for the key 18-34 male audience (and you have no idea how much that hurts me to write that) there is no way that this mistake is repeated in 2009.
  • umpires have to be able to get the calls right. Another game involving the USA, another terrible call that went in their favor - how many people watching that game didn't think that was a HR? Let's guess at...4! Clearly the preference would have been for MLB umpires, but that would still leave the home-team issue - yes there is an issue of trust, but surely the umpires working in Japan, Korea and those that work in the Caribbean Series would be acceptable?
  • ditch one-off games. I appreciate that the one-off, winner takes all is part of the excitement, but that isn't baseball. I would suggest reducing the Classic to 8 teams, with the format changed to a seeded draw, with 3 game series, with the winner advancing to the next round. At most, this would mean the winner playing 9 games - the winner this year will have played 8 games, so no real additional workload. The biggest advantage of this approach is that it removes the ridiculous tie-breaker that we had tonight... Mexico could qualify if they won 3-0... in the 13th inning... so as they were batting last, a solo home run would have eliminated them... as it was they eliminated themselves with a single run in the 3rd inning.
  • keep the pitch count limits. This is one of the most common arguments belittling the WBC - how can it be real baseball if the pitcher gets pulled at a pitch limit? But given the teams have been playing one-off games, I think the pitch counts actually help the competition - no team can throw out Santana, or Clemens, or Son and then rely on one hot arm - if a team has no pitching depth, it cannot win - if the competition stays in the current format, I think that is a good thing.
  • consider the timing. No, not the in-season thing, nor the extended all-star break thing, nor the post season thing, nor the post, post season thing - but why does it need to finish two weeks before spring training finishes? If you do a search on this time last year, you would find numerous reports of players, and managers, stating that spring training is too long... so why have the tournament over and done with two weeks before the season starts? To let the players get back to their clubs presumably, but the players we are talking about aren't typically guys fighting for 25th roster spots - isn't a week enough? If that were the case, players, hitters especially, would have been a week more ready, with a week more AB's under their belts, which might have helped avoid some of the low scoring games that we have seen.
Anyway... go Dominica... or Korea... or Cuba... or Japan... well not quite so much Japan, as Ichiro's whining has been a bit off-putting... but seriously, it is difficult not to root for any of these teams - let's just hope for tight, exciting games through the weekend.

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