Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Netherlands' Stunner - Feel Good Story or the Beginning of the End for the WBC?

As you've probably heard by now, the Netherlands defeated the Dominican Republic for a second consecutive time in the World Baseball Classic yesterday, knocking out the Dominican team who was widely picked to win or at least make it to the finals.

It's being widely regarded as a feel good story of David vs. Goliath and Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post is saying the game has him hooked on the WBC. I predicted in a post last week, that yes, there certainly would be upsets and that there was a fair chance that a mighty powerhouse team would be knocked out early. Yes, the Dominican team lost twice against the Netherlands, but the '27 Yankees lost three straight to lowly Cleveland that year too - in baseball, more than any other sport, anything can happen.

I admit, I didn't see the game, though I wish I had, for what was a great short-term gain may turn out to be the beginning of the end of the WBC. Yes, Tuesday's game was great, but now the Dominican Republic - a team loaded with major-league talent, is out of the tournament. And what is the WBC all about if not exporting the loads of major-league talent around the world for all to see?

Gone from the games are David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, and the rest of the Dominican's loaded lineup - now replaced by a team with Randall Simon, yes that Randall Simon, as their #3 hitter. Gone is the matchup between heated rivals Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Gone is the promise of a Dominican-US matchup. Gone from finals consideration is one of the few teams with more than a handful of major league stars.

As I wrote in a previous post, MLB-stars and quality ballclubs are the lifeblood of exciting tournament games - things that the Dominican Republic has in spades while the Netherlands has none of. And while Tuesday may have been great theatre, the Dutch victory guarantees less compelling matchups in future rounds.

Meanwhile, the WBC's main flaw - that there isn't enough games to really determine a true winner is being exposed. There already has been upsets, and there will be more, and soon these types of upsets will become commonplace - no longer a wonderful feel good story, instead just another example that yes, anything can happen, and no this tournament doesn't prove anything.

So while Bud Selig and his friends, may have been delighting in the "feel-good" story of the tournament, he may be singing a different tune when a MLB star-less finals rolls around time and time again.