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!

 

 

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BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE/CONTINUUCAST 4: “THE DAY BASEBALL DIED”

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

This installment of Bizarre Baseball Culture can only be found through the Baseball Continuum’s Continuucast! Hit play above, download by right-clicking here, follow the RSS feed here or follow on iTunes here (if the latest episode isn’t up yet, it will be shortly).

The Continuucast has it’s first true “Bizarre Baseball Culture” segment as Dan looks at the 1946 Columbia Workshop radio-play, “The Day Baseball Died.” In addition, he takes a quick look “Around the Continuum” of international baseball and has a brief complaint about the fact MLB Network doesn’t show the Caribbean World Series.

Music/Sounds Featured:

“The National Game” by John Phillip Sousa

“Flight of the Bumblebee” (AKA The Green Hornet Theme) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov performed by the US Army Band (special “Bizarre Baseball Culture” remix by Dan Glickman featuring the Pablo Sanchez Theme and clips from previous and future Bizarre Baseball Culture pieces)

“Prelude to Act I” from Carmen by Georges Bizet (AKA the Bad News Bears theme)

Excerpt of “Pennant Fever” from the Major League soundtrack

All sound and music used is either public domain or is a short snippet that falls under fair use.

 

Go below the jump for links to previous Bizarre Baseball Cultures.

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Continuum Baseball Rankings Update (Dec. 29, 2014): Nicaragua makes a big jump, a note on some changes to the formula…

It’s time for the year-end Continuum Baseball Rankings! This takes into account the Central American and Caribbean Games baseball tournament in November. And only that was used in updating this edition.

Originally, I was going to use the IBAF year-end ratings, but that led to a slight problem: It would break the system, as the best countries and worst countries would end up going so high or low numerically that I’d be unable to use them with the website I use to make these rankings.

So, I’ll instead be making up for that by using more games and events in future editions, using different “K-values” (basically how much a win or a loss can give points in) for each event based on the level of team placed in the event for each team. For example, if it’s a WBC tournament and the teams playing are the best that the country has to offer, they’ll be putting more points at stake than if, say, it’s a strictly-amateur affair. This will allow it to be more sensitive to games the higher the skills involved- so if, say, Team USA does well in the WBC, it would get more points than if, say, it had done well in a college exhibition series somewhere. This is a bit different then how “K-Values” are used in some other places, but I think it’ll be good.

More information on that later.

For now, however, below the jump you can see the differences that have occurred because of the CACG’s. As you can see, Cuba (which won the tournament) jumped up to number 3, past the DR. The biggest mover and shaker was Nicaragua, which jumped from 18 to 14 thanks to their good performance (they came in second). Guatemala made it’s first appearance but is waaaaaay back at 43.

Stay tuned for more on the new system.

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Continuum Baseball Rankings Update (Oct. 20, 2014): Asian Games moves some stuff around, but nothing drastic

The Asian Games occurred late last month. Seven of the eight teams had a talent-level good enough to have it count for them in the Continuum Rankings (Korea, for example, sent KBO players, while Taipei sent players from the Affiliated Minors. The one team that didn’t qualify for Continuum Rankings was Japan, which sent amateurs and semi-pros, which isn’t enough to count). Korea won.

Now, despite all of this, there wasn’t too much movement. While Taipei lost a small amount of points and Korea gained over 19 points, those weren’t enough to cause any changes in the top 10. Instead, there were minor changes down the board, with China and Germany flip-flopping, South Africa and Hong Kong doing the same, and Finland and Mongolia switching places down near the bottom.

Anyway, look below the jump for the full rankings.

 

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Plenty of Movement in Sept. 24’s post-European Championship Continuum Baseball Rankings

The European Baseball Championships are over, and were won by the Netherlands. So it’s time for a new round of the Continuum Baseball Rankings! Go to that link for an explanation about them.

This takes into account both the overall results of the tournament as well as head-to-head matchups during it.

Anyway, there was plenty of movement in the rankings because of the tournament. The Dutch, for example, are once again in fifth place, overtaking Taiwan/Taipei. The biggest jump was made by the Belgians, however, who as I predicted earlier have begun to move up the ladder, jumping from 55 to 50. The biggest drop came for Great Britain, which went from 24th to 27th as a result of their play at the European Championships.

It won’t be too long before yet another update of the Rankings, as the Asian Games baseball competition is going on right now- although it should be noted that that will only take into account results for teams that sent professional players or their closest national equivalent.

 

Go below the jump to see the rankings:

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Pre-Euro contests make Dutch fall to 6th in the Continuum Baseball Rankings

Due to one (!) surprising loss to France in the run-up to the European Championships (which are going on now), the Dutch dropped enough points where they are now in sixth in the Continuum Baseball Rankings. No other teams made any big changes, although Belgium and Sweden have entered near the bottom. While they are definitely not as low in baseball talent as their ranking indicates, it is custom to have new entrants enter based on how forward or back in the IBAF rankings they are of the lowest rated team in the Continuum Rankings. It’s likely they will both be moving up as time goes on.

The next rankings update will come at the end of the European Championships, which are going on right now. Go below the jump to see the full rankings:

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Some minor movement in post-2014 Caribbean Series Continuum Baseball Rankings

The Caribbean Series is included in the Continuum Baseball Rankings because it’s between the champions of leagues, and usually are primarily made up of players from those countries anyway (the Asian Series isn’t included because the Australian League is full of North Americans on most teams).

So, Mexico won this year’s Caribbean Series, while Cuba’s champion surprisingly came up the rear. So, how did this affect the Continuum Rankings? Well, nothing major, but there were some small moves, such as the Dominican and Cuba switching around.

Go below the jump for it:

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