With the World Baseball Classic coming to an end this past week, I feel it’s finally a good time (if, admittedly, not a little late) to give my idea on how to improve the tournament. To me, it’s a simple solution with scheduling. It won’t make it perfect but it could erase some of the grumbles and gripes.
Move it to the end of the season. Now, there are obvious issues to this plan. The first and most glaring is that baseball won’t want to compete against its own playoffs. And that is fair. In hockey, at the end of the regular season of the National Hockey League, the World Championships take place opposite their playoffs. First of all, the World Championships are every year which is completely different and the International Ice Hockey Federation holds the Worlds, not the NHL.
At the Worlds, it is limited to players whose teams do not make the post-season. It is not advertised as a best-on-best as many players choose not to go. However, you don’t have to worry about players being in game shape. They will be. And you will have players who will stay home to rest up after a long season. But you have players not stepping out of the Classic because of the effects it could have on a long season.
But it would help. Prospects would have this or the Arizona Fall League to go to. Minor leaguers would have no issue. Major Leaguers who don’t make the playoffs or get eliminated in the Wild Card Game could go if they want. You can even scatter games to not compete directly with playoff games. Because everyone loves day baseball, as much in March as in October.
I get that this isn’t perfect. But nothing will be until Major League Baseball holds it in the summer and holds their season for it. But by having the tournament at the end instead of the beginning means that the product will be better and fans who cheer for bad teams will have something to look forward to when the off-season seems longest.
You would still need pitch counts to protect pitchers but their arms will be ready. You won’t have guys who haven’t thrown a curveball yet or who are still stretching themselves out.
I think this is a small change, admittedly with some new problems, that will improve the overall product. Because something has to change if people want to take this competition seriously, or at worst, more seriously than they currently do. The need for baseball we all feel in March hides the fact that the product needs help and isn’t the elite display of baseball everyone wants to think it is.
As a Canadian, I loved watching the games and having that National pride. I knew that Canada was missing Erik Bedard, Ryan Dempster, Russell Martin, George Kottaras and Brett Lawrie among others, but I enjoyed it for what it was. A chance to see other guys step up for their country. I enjoyed the games and watched most of them. But I couldn’t help but think throughout that it could be so much better.