According to Bud Selig, the main purpose of the World Baseball Classic is to be “our great vehicle to internationalize the sport.” This was apparently intended as the silver lining to Team USA’s 5-2 loss to Mexico on Friday. Translated from Commissioner-ese into English, it meant, “Hey, it’s no fun if America wins all the time. If someone else wins, it creates more interest in baseball.” Well, the internationalization must be going great guns since there have been two previous Classic, and the best the US has done id finishing 4th in 2009.
Since last Friday, the US has done a little better, beating Italy 6-2 (the difference coming on a grand slammer by David Wright) and Canada 9-4 on Sunday. Tonight comes what looks to be an even tougher game against Puerto Rico, though the American team has a fine starting pitcher, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, who finished third in the Cy Young voting.
My question is: Why does Bud Selig, commissioner of the American major leagues, give a hoot about “the internationalization of the sport?” Does he think this will help produce more talent for American pro teams, the way the increased popularity of basketball in Spain and France has produced top players like Pau Gasol and Tony Parker? Or does he think that the internationalization of the game is going to lead to him, Bud Selig, being elected commissioner of all the world’s professional baseball leagues?
Simply put, what does he mean by “our vehicle?” Who exactly is the “our” — the American team owners who keep grumbling about having their star player miss spring training and risk injury while playing in games that mean nothing to management? (And it just isn’t American-born players who are the concern of American team owners, but their players who are playing for the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and other international teams.)
“Overall, you’ll look back on this in retrospect someday and realize that you’re watching a sport that is going to be legitimately worldwide.” But what is baseball now, illegitimately worldwide? Japan has won the two previous WBCs, Cuba and South Korea were runners-up, and Venezuela and the Dominican Republic finished in the top four. There have been, over the past six years, increasingly tough teams from Taiwan, Australia, Italy and Spain.
What exactly does this signify if not the “internationalization” of baseball?
The worse Team USA does in world competition, the sunnier Bud Selig seems to think the future will be. If we get smoked tonight by Puerto Rico, no doubt the future will be so bright that Bud will have to watch the remaining games with shades.