Sunday, January 08, 2006


"Baseball spoken here": and the one word you need to know is "$"

Major League Baseball has organized an international baseball tournament called "the World Baseball Classic," to be played from March 3-20 by 16 teams representing countries from east Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. Even the Aussies are fielding a club.

I guess it allows for more Major Leaguers to play than the Summer Olympics, which conflicts with the heart of the MLB season. The World Baseball Classic conflicts only with spring training, and teams will probably agree to allow some of their veteran players to tune up for the MLB season by playing in the tournament rather than in spring training games.

It always seemed funny -- and grandiose -- that the championship of a game played, first in one, then only in a small handful of countries would be called "the World Series." But once you accept that premise, it becomes equally strange to the ear for an innovation like the March international tournament to be called the World BaseballClassic -- which may be "world," but is far from "classic."

No matter. The real action here, of course, is to expand the Major League Baseball empire -- and it is a true empire, with the U.S. as its capital -- by tapping into new international markets. Maybe a few talented players will be combed out of Europe, and more out of east Asia. (Latin American is already being pretty heavily mined for talent.)

But this is just gravy for what really boils down to a vast marketing enterprise. You can see the underlying goal in the upper right hand corner of the World Baseball Classic web page.

The very clever slogan for the Classic -- "baseball spoken here" -- suggests that baseball will become an international language.

But it's really about the hats. Undoubtedly made in sweatshops in China (which has a team in the tournament.) "Baseball spoken here" is in the same box as "your country's cap" and a link to "shop here."

I think I heard about the state department throwing a fit about the Cubans participating. Evidently there is the matter of some sort of really old embargo on anything Cuban that they are intent on keeping intact for some obscure reason. Keep politics out of baseball! I don't know what was ever resolved on that, but you can't have a world series if it is just the part of the world that agrees with you.
DS and I have been discussing this new "Classic" as well. It does seem odd, but we're big enough baseball fans to still be interested.
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