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Looking back at the WBC, and looking forward at 2009

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by user Thecrookedcap

Yes, I know that Cuba and Japan still have to play the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Still, it's still ripe for critique at the moment.

In many ways, this was a dream realized, as I have been wishing for a real international competition for at least a decade. However, the way the tournament was structured really accomplished nothing for me. There was no USA-Dominican Republic showdown, no matter how the organizers tried within their power to make it so. I was happy to see more parity in the competition than expected; Korea's brilliance until the semis was fun to watch.

Hopefully, more people will be looking forward to the next WBC. Perhaps we will have a top-notch team, wanting to avenge the loss of ego at not being the dominant nation anymore. I say to the organizers, keep some ideas that the organizers might want to keep in mind for the next tournament:

  • No "regional" pools- For the first time, it was fine to put all the Asian teams together, North Americans, etc. Next time, however, mix it up. Japan and Korea advanced to Round 2 practically by default, meanwhile in Panama (who had two very close loses to Cuba and Puerto Rico and played much better than an 0-3 record) probably would have qualified in Pool B. These sorts of things are common in international tournaments, as those who watch the upcoming World Cup will see with USA's Group of Death. But their groups were assigned randomly in a televised special complete with a supermodel host. Having mixed groups will be more fun, and especially in the US give some exposure to the lesser teams who were either never televised or banished to live late-night coverage. What if the US and Dominicans are in the same pool in round one? It's not a nightmare; we'll just have something interesting to watch.
  • Shuffling the groups for the playoffs- One thing that will hurt my opinion of the first WBC that the schedule produced too many matchups between the same teams. Teams that advanced to round two played one team twice. Korea and Japan played three times (and by virtue of making the semifinals, Cuba and Dominican Republic also played twice). In nearly every case, the team that initially lost the first time won the second and eliminated the initial winner from the competition. If nothing else, when it comes time for the semifinals the first place team from one group should play the other group's second place finisher. Nearly every single other sporting event with a round robin format does this.
  • Qualification rounds- This may seem a bit far-fetched, but why not do some form of qualification for at least the lesser teams. If this is going to be a major event, treat it as such. Letting a bunch of South Africans get blown away by Clemens doesn't make it anymore of a World Classic. Nicaragua has produced some big leaguers, they probably would have played better than China.
  • Easier to understand tie-breakers- I hate confusing tie-breakers. They bog down every sport they touch, be it advancing in the WBC or trying to figure out that the Saints get in the playoffs only if they win, the Panthers tie, the Rams lose by 20 points, and the Redskins change their name to something more politically correct. The runs allowed rule gets confusing when the mercy rule gets involved and teams haven't played the same number of innings. It actually hurts teams that win by the mercy rule, as they would lose a tiebreaker to a team that has played nothing but pitchers duels if they gave up the same number of runs. This could be solved in a couple of ways: having 5-team groups to reduce the number of 3-way ties or using a team's run differential.

I think there's a lot of room for improvement. I mean, we could have a major debate just on whether it should be in March or November (on which I refuse to comment; no need to start a fight here). I see a lot of potential in this event.


Sun 03/19/06, 2:42 am EST

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