Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good Baseball Knows No Borders

Selig and his friends did not get their wish when Japan defeated the USA Sunday night, but they sure got a hell of a consolation prize. Last night's WBC championship game was an immensely entertaining affair and featured crisp baseball and many great plays by both sides.

A great deal of the enjoyment was due to the fantastic crowd at Dodger Stadium. Many people put down the WBC as a mere exhibition, but rest assured you will not see Dodger Stadium rocking like that on April 13th when they open against the Giants. This was a playoff crowd and the game was played with playoff intensity. A few years ago if someone had told you there would be playoff intensity baseball in March you would not have believed them, yet there it was Monday night in Chavez Ravine.

For all of the heat that Bud Selig has taken through his tenure as commissioner, some warranted, some not, this has to qualify as a genuine coup for Selig. The game, admittedly, could not have gone better - right down to Ichiro, one of the few MLB players in the game, getting the big hit to win it.

Selig himself is, as usual, crowing about it as well as playing a bit of gamesmanship, challenging the USA to field a better team so that it can reach the finals four years from now.

While I wrote that Selig needed a USA win in Saturday's semifinal game, perhaps losing will give the needed psychological effect to entice more US players to play in future Classics. Had the US cruised to victory in each of the first two Classics, more players may not have felt the same sense of urgency they will now.

The same happened with US Olympic Basketball. After the novelty wore off and the US established their dominance, a lot of players begged off of the team and lost interest. Now, after a few embarrassments, the US team is better and more serious than ever, enhancing the Olympic as a whole as well.

So while Selig didn't get his star-laden finale, the silver-lining may have been worth the sacrifice. If nothing else, Monday's game proven that exciting, must-see baseball can be played in March, which is worth something in itself.