Buster Olney seems to think that when games at the World Baseball Classic are free, then players should play for their countries and not have any self-interest. The only problem is that, like the Olympics, the World Baseball Classic was designed to grow the sport while showing world supremacy in baseball through competition. While sponsorship is necessary, the over $15 million given to participating federations and the International Baseball Federation from the 2009 World Baseball Classic proceeds has been valuable.
See Team Brazil, who has battled the Japanese and Cuban teams this year after not even qualifying for previous Classics.
While marketing can be seen as a negative due to the money coming in, Olney’s take would probably be much different if ESPN Desportes wasn’t the only ESPN station showing the games, along with the MLB Network; however, money from sponsors is needed for the hosting cities to staff, lock down venues, keep players and fans safe with security, and many other “normal” reasons. Otherwise, this tournament could take place in your local sandlot, a corner lot in Tokyo, a disheveled field in Germany, or any other non-sactioned-type of site.
The World Baseball Classic NEEDS MORE sponsorships, MORE money, and MORE faces to step forth for no other reason than to play for their country. Baseball NEEDS the World Baseball Classic to thrive and Major League Baseball NEEDS more of their most valuable players to take part so that the sport returns to glory, overtaking soccer around the world and football in the United States.
Baseball NEEDS the World Baseball Classic to thrive and the International Baseball Federation NEEDS sponsorship to make that happen. The NHL didn’t matter on the Outdoor Network. Why? Because no one got the Outdoor Network because of their cable providers and so no one got hockey. Sponsorship, viewership, and the ability to be taken seriously are what matters, and the money and strength that comes from those things will make the World Baseball Classic last.
While it may be difficult to get into the WBC now, that is understandable. We don’t know many of the Korean, Japanese, Cuban, Brazilian, or Chinese players. We don’t understand the lack of power, the pitch limitations, and the spirit of international play. We don’t understand that because baseball was removed from the Olympics. We don’t understand the fire and passion that comes from the Venezuelan team and Dominican Republic being out for blood when they play. We don’t understand how Team USA is 7-7 and hasn’t won either World Baseball Classic.
Americans don’t love baseball anymore. The slow, grinding process that comes along with a nine inning game is damning in a “now” society. Baseball is America. America NEEDS baseball. The world understands that.
Why can’t Buster Olney?
And, yes, there are risks in playing meaningful games this early in the season due to potential injuries. And, yes, players are under contract to play for a specific team. And, yes, sometimes things are more important than one season, one organization, and one player…and that is why MLB should expect more players to play and more teams to allow players to play.
The players and teams aren’t bigger than the sport.