…and you know what? They’re probably right.
Barry Bonds’ withdrawl from the WBC late Monday night was just another in a long line of prominent All Stars who have pulled out of the WBC. While some top players weren’t invited, others have opted out of the tournament, and rumors abound that even more will choose to sit out the tournament in lieu of Spring Training.
With players pulling out of Team USA (a notable point), ESPN.com posed the question to SportsNation: Do you think players will take the World Baseball Classic seriously? The answer is discouraging for the tournament’s supporters.
According to the poll, only 37 percent of voters think players will take the tournament seriously while 63 percent feel the opposte. (Hurray for polls that do not have “I don’t know” as an answer choice!)
Meanwhile, as a tie-in to the poll, the ever-prolific Jayson Stark offers his take on the players’ views of the upcoming WBC.
We want to love this little tournament. We want it to be a goose bump kind of spectacle on the field. We want it to be a raging success off the field. We want life around the baseball-playing earth to be paralyzed in its grip as it heads for its dramatic climax.
But how come, with not even six weeks left until the first pitch, that isn’t the vibe the WBC is giving off at the moment?
We find ourselves focusing more on the players who aren’t playing than the players who are. And that’s not good.
We find ourselves listening to one baseball person after another gripe about the timing of this event. And that’s not good.
We find ourselves wondering why so many questions haven’t been answered, why ticket sales have been so lukewarm, why Danny Haren qualifies for the team from the Netherlands, why the semifinal games have been scheduled on a March Madness Saturday during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament — and several thousand other things.
Stark goes on to blame the timing of the tournament. American players, at least, aren’t enthusiastic because of the nature of Spring Training. They would rather have the tournament after the World Series and not during the six weeks they have to prepare for a grueling season.
As one of the louder anti-WBC voices on the Internet, I have been saying this for weeks. Spring Training is not the time to have a tournament with serious intentions. Players aren’t ready for it, and the interest in it is lukewarm to say the least. Major League Baseball and the international baseball community want this to become a tradition like soccer’s World Cup or the Olympics. To do so, they need the support of the game’s stars. If they don’t get that support soon, this tournament may be more of a farce than an international exposition.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that those pulling out of the tournament seem to be representing Team USA. I have yet to see top Latino and top Asian players (other than Hideki Matsui) decline an invitation to play. If this is a question of patriotism, the Americans seem to be losing that battle. While most nations would love to see their team take home the championship, would Americans even care if their team captured the tournament title? I doubt it.