Sunday, March 22, 2009

WBC Must Win Tonight for USA, Selig

Last night, Korea routed Venezuela 10-2 to move on to the finals of the World Baseball Classic. Tonight, the US takes on Japan for the right to face Korea on Monday for the title. Of course, as a single elimination game, it's a must win for the United States, but I would argue it's also a must win for Bud Selig and his WBC pals.

One of the things I'm interested in is how sports, leagues, and teams affect the fan, and I can say unequivocally that a Korea-Japan matchup will not be good for the fan or for the WBC. Tonight's game, featuring Dice-K vs. Roy Oswalt, two of the best pitchers around, should be a doozy and I hope it's a tight, well-played, and exciting game. However, I hope that the USA wins and I say that out of more than nationalistic pride.

After 2006's nearly MLB-playerless finale, the World Baseball Classic can't afford another one in Korea vs. Japan. Korea, with no MLB players on it's roster, is a fine team and its underdog trip to the finals is a fine story - but it needs a powerhouse, star laden opponent, and while Japan will have four MLB players eligible to play in the game, it's not the same as the USA's entire team full of stars.

A USA-Korea finale while still probably not what the WBC planners had dreamed, should be a relatively satisfying final and stir at least modest viewership across the globe and in the USA. However, a Japan vs. Korea matchup - which will be the fifth time they've played (something I warned about here) - will not be the interesting East vs. West, MLB vs. unknowns, underdog vs. favorite matchup that the US vs. Korea would be. Essentially, all of the things that the WBC needs to be draw viewers will be missing, and once again poor ratings can be expected to ensue.

So tonight, Bud Selig, who probably could care less about nationalistic pride, will be pulling hard for the home team in what should be a great game. And me, a fan of the WBC, will be doing the same.