UPDATE: Change of plans for this week’s installment

Aside

Originally, this week’s installment of Baseball Continuum Weekly was to be a Bizarre Baseball Culture. But after remembering that the WBC rosters will be released tonight, I’m changing course. Sometime later this week you’ll see an early WBC roster analysis, and NEXT WEEK you’ll see a Bizarre Baseball Culture.

Thank you.

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Baseball Continuum Weekly: The Case for the World Baseball Classic

With the 2017 World Baseball Classic coming up, there is some legitimate concern for the future of the event. With the event still having trouble drawing in American players, TV deals coming to an end, a reported decrease in revenue compared to some of the earlier Classics, and baseball (at least for now) back in the Olympics, there is a chance that this coming WBC could be the last- at least as we know it- for awhile.

I’m here to argue for the future of the WBC, however, and why it should stick around with four reasons why. There are more reasons, but they are more “inside baseball” (politics, marketing, funding, etc.) so I won’t go into them.

Here we go:

1. The concept remains a good one.

While the execution has always been a bit wonky due to the event’s placement in March (the result of it being the best option due to there being no perfect time for the event), the concept remains sound: a baseball tournament between national teams. It is a simple but fun idea that provides lots of interesting possibilities and brings exposure to countries and players who normally don’t get seen.

2. It is more popular (and gets better ratings) than people think.

While it is true that ratings dropped greatly from 2009 to 2013, this more had to do with the fact that the games were moved to MLB Network from ESPN (if I remember correctly, it had to do with MLB wanting to further incentivize people having MLB Network). Still, those games still ended up being among the most watched events on MLB Network in history outside of postseason baseball, and the final of the 2013 Classic was the most-watched baseball game in the history of ESPN Deportes at the time.

This doesn’t include ratings from outside the Mainland USA. In Puerto Rico, for example, 74 percent (!!) of TVs turned on there watched the 2013 semi-finals where Puerto Rico upset Japan.

In addition, I anecdotally know that the WBC does well on social media, often getting topics “trending” on Twitter even when NCAA basketball is also going on.

So maybe the WBC isn’t as hated as people think?

3. It is a lot of fun. Definitely a lot more fun than Spring Training.

Even if the WBC cannot be truly considered an accurate determinant of what the best national baseball team in the world is, and even if it is at times a sideshow… what a fun sideshow it is! It certainly is more fun than lazy spring training games or, even worse, nothing at all!

Don’t believe me? Then you’ve probably never watched the WBC. That is the weird thing about the World Baseball Classic: those who have actually watched it seem to love it, while those who have never given it a chance seem to hate it.

Perhaps it is no surprise that some of the WBC’s biggest critics have been beat writers, who by necessity are focused nearly 100% on any given team and thus are likely to be covering a spring training game or doing some other story when the WBC is on, or they are taking a breather from baseball because that is what they had been covering all day. This isn’t their fault. In fact, it is proof they are doing a good job- they are working to get their readers the latest scoop on the Yankees/Mets/Red Sox/whoever just like they are supposed to. It does, however, mean that they have less time to actually watch the WBC and see what is good about it.

But anyway, that leads to my last bit…

4. The WBC is still young, and it can take time for things like this to catch on.

The early modern Olympics could be rated as anywhere from “qualified success” (1896) to “total and utter disaster” (1900 and 1904). It wasn’t until 1908 in London (the fourth Olympiad!) that it became anything close to the big deal it is today. Early World Cups lacked many top European squads, to the extent that in the first World Cup (1930) the United States finished third despite the fact that soccer was about the 19th most popular sport in America at the time, sitting somewhere between jai alai and the competitive beating-up of drifters. Okay, that last bit was an exaggeration. Somewhat.

It’s not just these big international events, though. The World Series was boycotted in 1904 because Jon McGraw considered it beneath him (and the 1903 World Series, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t the first showdown between the champions of two baseball leagues), and the first Super Bowl failed to sell out.

But what I am getting at here is that these things take time. With the exception of super-duper-why-haven’t-we-done-this-already-obvious ideas like the College Football Playoff, few things catch on immediately in sports.

So, the World Baseball Classic is still young. Only three tournaments have taken place. Why end it before it has truly had time to grow?

Next time on Baseball Continuum Weekly: BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE!

 

 

A preview of what is coming up in the next few weeks and months

So, now that the Baseball Continuum is back, albeit on a weekly basis (more or less), what can you expect in the coming weeks an months? Here’s a preview:

  • World Baseball Classic coverage. There are some rumors that should this coming WBC not make enough money, it could be the last WBC, at least for a good long while. So, I will be making a case for the World Baseball Classic. This will be sometime in the next week.
  • Bizarre Baseball Culture will return with a tribute to something from my childhood: The Power Rangers! That will come in the lead-up to the gritty Power Rangers movie reboot nobody asked for but honestly doesn’t look as bad as I thought.
  • Finally finishing that Chicago travelogue, seeing as how it now feels like a half-year old.
  • And more!

So stayed tuned to the Baseball Continuum!

BLOG DEALINGS: The Return of the Baseball Continuum

Miss me?

Well, I’ve been gone awhile. But now I aim to get back to this blog. I won’t be able to do it as much as I once did- I have a job now, and other occasional responsibilities. That said, starting next week I hope to have at least one post every week, hopefully of a high quality.

That said, a few notes:

  • Sadly, I won’t be able to do another blogathon. For one thing, I wouldn’t have the time since I work weekends. For another, even if I did have the time it is way too late to get all of the pieces together for this weekend. Sorry!
  • I also will have to drastically scale back my WBC coverage, for similar reasons.
  • That said, I do hope to do features like Bizarre Baseball Culture, taking advantage of my new weekly format to put even more attention and effort into them!

So… welcome back to the Baseball Continuum, now in a weekly format!

“Woah, Cubs, Woah”: A song

(To be sung to the tune of “Go Cubs Go”)

Baseball season’s done today

But you better get woken for a whole new way

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day!

They’re singing …

Woah, Cubs, woah

Woah, Cubs, woah

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day!

Woah, Cubs, woah

Woah, Cubs, woah

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day!

They had the power, they had the speed

They were the best in the National League

Well it was the year and the Cubs were real

Fans came on down to Wrigley Field.

They’re singing now …

Woah, Cubs, woah

Woah, Cubs, woah

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day!

Woah, Cubs, woah

Woah, Cubs, woah

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day.

Baseball time was here again

Just like the days of old WGN

They stamped their feet and clapped their hands

Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans.

They’re singing now …

Woah, Cubs, woah

Woah, Cubs, woah

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day!

Woah, Cubs, woah

Woah, Cubs, woah

Hey, Chicago, how do you say

The Cubs have finally won the day.

Postcards before the Baseball Apocalypse: Thoughts before the 2016 World Series

Well, I guess the Nationals didn’t make the World Series, huh? And now, random unorganized thoughts on the World Series we ARE getting:

Something’s gotta give

As I’m sure you know and will no doubt be reminded 1,908 times, this is a match-up of “cursed” teams. The Cubs, obviously, haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and hadn’t even been to one before this year since 1945, when a goat was infamously refused admission to Wrigley Field, leading to the infamous “Curse of the Billy Goat”. Cleveland, meanwhile, hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, and is said to have been cursed to never do so again because of the trading of popular star Rocky Colavito in 1960. Others, however, say that the curse is actually the “Curse of Wahoo”, which fates the Indians to runner-up status until they remove the unquestionably politically-incorrect red-faced smile from their uniforms entirely (the Indians have made it much less prominent recently, but it’s still there).

Unless you count the three different Washington baseball franchises as one line of tradition (and most don’t), these are the two most snake-bitten teams in basically all of North American sports. One of them has to break a curse here, right? Or are we doomed for an endless series where the extra innings spread on until Baseball Armageddon?

Andrew Miller, Destroyer of Worlds

It’s hard to put into words how great Andrew Miller has been lately, and how well Terry Francona has used him. Ignoring the outdated orthodoxy that caused even the relatively-maverick Buck Showalter to hold Zack Britton for a save opportunity that never came, Francona deploys his best pitcher when he’s most needed.

And for that reason, it is going to be imperative that the Cubs score early and probably often. Because Miller Time probably means another year without a World Series title if they don’t.

Kyle “Kirk Gibson” Schwarber

I’m looking forward to seeing Kyle Schwarber, making his first appearance since getting injured all the way back in April. He’ll only be DHing and perhaps pinch-hitting, but with his bat, that could easily mean we might see a Kirk Gibson moment where a player who has no business being in the game delivers a magical moment.

Or maybe he’ll be a total non-factor who strikes out. Where’s the fun in that, though?

Terry vs. Theo

Amazingly, the fact that Theo Epstein’s team is facing Terry Francona’s team hasn’t gotten as much play as I thought it would. I mean, it’s been brought up a lot, but not as much as I thought it would have. Probably because of the bigger storylines going around.

Blah, Blah, Blah, get to your prediction:

Cubs in 6.

Why?

Depth. I think that the Indians can win match and defeat the Cubs at the top of the rotations and with the bullpen, but the deeper lineup for the Cubs and starting rotation give them the overall edge. To rewrite a song: “Hey Chicago, what do you say, the Cubs have finally won the day!”

 

My sure-to-be-wrong predictions for the postseason

Before the year, I predicted that the Washington Nationals would win it all. Therefore, I must stick with that prediction.

But I’m not confident in it. I made that prediction assuming that Bryce Harper wouldn’t fall off (he did, due to injuries) and that Stephen Strasburg would be healthy (nope). Still, they definitely are a team that can win it all. They just aren’t the favorite anymore.

So, without further ado, my predictions for the postseason, sure to be wrong (the team with home field comes SECOND here):

AL WILD CARD: Neither Chris Tillman or Marcus Stroman have done that great down the stretch, but with the lineups behind them that hasn’t been that big of a deal. Make no mistake: this game could become a slugfest. However, I’m going to give the edge (barely) to the Orioles, because I have more faith in their bullpen, and Zack Britton in particular. Of course, a one-game playoff is a total crapshoot, so who the heck knows?

NL WILD CARD: Folks, I’ve checked the calendar, and it’s October. And Madison Bumgarner is pitching. Sorry, Mets. Giants win, although, again… one-game playoffs are crapshoots.

ALDS ORIOLES/RANGERS: Man, are the Rangers the most anonymous best-record-in-the-AL team in years or what? A lot of people seem to have just assumed that the Red Sox had the best record, but they didn’t. Anyway, I think that the Rangers will win this series in 4, as they A) are the better team and B) have better pitching.

ALDS INDIANS/RED SOX: The Red Sox may not have had the best record in the AL, but they probably were the best team. The Indians, meanwhile, played like how many people thought they’d play last season. This probably will be the best series in the Division Series round (barring a Blue Jays-Rangers rematch), but I think the Red Sox win it in 5.

NLDS DODGERS/NATIONALS: Again, I am duty-bound to pick the Nationals (I’ll say in 5), but if I weren’t duty-bound to do so I probably would pick the Dodgers, who are coming into the postseason hotter and with Clayton Kershaw healthy again. Still, the Nationals are still a very good team, and maybe the bad luck that seems to haunt Kershaw every damn October- as well as the Dodgers’ own injury problems- will pop up again.

NLDS GIANTS/CUBS: If I were not duty-bound to pick the Nationals, I’d probably say the Cubs would finally win it all this year. They may well be the most complete team in baseball, and I think they will defeat the Giants in 4.

ALCS RED SOX/RANGERS: This could be a good series, and I’m sure the FOX will be happy to know that I think the Red Sox would win in 6 due to their better depth and what my gut is telling me.

NLCS NATIONALS/CUBS: Again, duty-bound to pick the Nationals, although logically I think the Cubs would win. So… Nationals in 7.

WORLD SERIES NATIONALS/RED SOX: I have a feeling this series would either be a short 4-5 game victory for the Red Sox, or a 6-7 game victory of the Nationals. You can guess what I think it’d be based on what I’ve said so far.