Friday, March 6, 2009

Hit the nail on the head

ESPN's Jayson Stark made the same point in this column that I did here yesterday.

Stark argues there is pressure on the U.S. baseball team to play well in the World Baseball Classic this time for the health of the competition. The WBC is widely accepted outside the U.S., but here in the birthplace of baseball it's an afterthought.

That has to change, not because of TV ratings and financial projections, but because baseball is the American game.

"Three years ago, we sat in ballparks where other WBC countries were playing baseball and were blown away by the energy crackling out of every seat in the park. It felt like the Final Four had just merged with the World Cup. The baseball was awesome. The atmosphere was even better," Stark wrote.

American fans have to get past the notion that winning a World Series is the greatest achievement in baseball. Maybe it is bigger than a WBC championship now. But in a few years, when the WBC grows, that title will be bigger. Is there anyone in the world that thinks winning the MLS Cup or European Champions League title is bigger than winning the World Cup?

This is not a glorified All-Star game designed to make money for MLB. It's an international tournament. A chance to prove who has the best baseball players. When was the last time the U.S. could accurately say that? The 2000 Olympics, the last time a U.S. team won the gold medal. We also could say it in 1988, when we sent amateur players.

The country got behind the Olympic basketball team last summer in its quest to win the gold medal and prove U.S. basketball really was the best in the world. In my mind this is the same idea. We have to prove we're the best once again, this time in baseball.

There has to be someone out there willing to get behind that banner.

No comments: