As I type this, the excellent teams representing Japan and Korea are facing off in the final of this year’s World Baseball Classic. Both teams earned their respective berths and none but the most militant would argue their right to square off against each other.
Of course, to get there the Japanese had to first obliterate Team USA, and if you (like I) watched that you probably had to cover your eyes in horror. Simply put, the Japanese did every single thing right and never never never found themselves saying “Come on, three-run homer, come on!” Mark De Rosa putting the game within two was neat, but I think we all kind of knew how that game would end. Maybe you turned it off early. Maybe you switched over to American Dad.
More importantly, think about what you didn’t do. You probably didn’t riot, didn’t weep for the loss, and I imagine you didn’t call Derek Jeter a national disgrace. The MLB season is two weeks away(!), the NCAA tournament is in full swing, hockey exists in Chicago again – what’s to get torn up about?
And that, I think, is part of the problem with the WBC: American baseball, in a way, is competing not just against other entertainment but actually against itself. So the USA lost this week. So what? In thirteen days, fans of fifteen teams can begin watching their favorite clubs do that for six straight months. Winning would’ve been cool, but a prize Major League Baseball has spent the past century convincing us carries that much more weight is just getting underway.
So really, we Americans were left with just a kind of pleasant diversion, something considerably more intense and exciting than Spring Training, but somehow less moving than the possibility of the Twins losing a lot of ground out of the gate. Korea and Japan, two nations that have despised each other for the better part of a millennium, have their sporting representatives playing for bragging rights and real, legitimate national pride. America, meanwhile, is working on rewarding John Danks and Carlos Quenting for staying home. Something doesn’t seem right here.