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Baseball Around the world


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Commissioner Bud Selig keeps coming up with new initiatives. Viewed individually, each one makes sense. Put 'em all together, and the Selig Doctrine amounts to a jumbled vision.

Take the World Baseball Classic, a joint creation of Major League Baseball and the players' union. Terrific idea. But like a lot of terrific ideas, it works better in theory than in reality.

Kent, Rolen and Hunter are recovering from surgeries. Dunn initially was listed among the players who would participate, but was not on the provisional roster.

"I'm certain he'd be open to it," Dunn's agent, Greg Genske, said Tuesday night. "Right now, we're just trying to figure out whether they want him to."? Ken Rosenthal

The commissioner wants it all ? inter-league play and an unbalanced schedule, the WBC in March, an expanded postseason in October, all crammed into one overstuffed, eight-month package. Never mind the scheduling inequities or increased risk of injuries. At Bud's Diner, the buffet never ends.

Granted, the WBC will take place only every four years, but its mere addition to the schedule reinforces a basic truth about Major League Baseball, a dirty little secret that no one wants to acknowledge:

The season is too long.

Want vision? How about reducing the season from 162 games to 154, or even 140? The regular season in Japan consists of 138 games and the masses somehow endure. Give a little, get a little. But with MLB, there's no give.

A grueling six-month regular season is followed by an exhausting one-month postseason. Some players have adapted by using amphetamines to maintain their energy and steroids to boost their training capacity. Check out the disabled list at any point during the season: The players are stretched to their physical capacity and beyond.

Selig occasionally mentions going back to 154 games, but the idea never seems to gain momentum. Meanwhile, injuries wreck the best-laid plans of team after team. The World Series champion often isn't the best team as much as it is the healthiest. Yet, the potential benefits of a shorter regular season get overlooked.

Teams would get more of a return on their multi-million dollar payrolls if their players stayed healthier. Fewer home dates could increase the demand for tickets, leading to potentially greater revenues through higher prices or increased sales. And MLB would have room to either expand the postseason or at least change the first round from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven, making it more equitable. Those options, too, could translate into greater dollars.

Of course, none of this will ever happen.

Of the 10 players who signed the most lucrative free-agent contracts this off-season, only two will appear in the WBC. Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett wasn't even invited to join Team USA, according to his agent, Darek Braunecker.

Selig and the owners rightly point to booming revenues as proof that the sport is the midst of a renaissance. No owner ? not the Yankees' George Steinbrenner, not the Royals' David Glass' ? wants to sacrifice even four home dates by going from 162 games to 154. OK, but NFL owners made a much greater sacrifice when they agreed to share revenues in the 1960s. Their foresight helped football replace baseball as the most popular professional sport in America. Give a little, get a lot.

Make no mistake: The WBC deserves to be part of MLB's long-term strategy. Those of us who have spent years criticizing Selig for MLB's lame marketing efforts would be two-faced to scoff at the tournament, the most aggressive attempt yet by MLB for international exposure.

Yet, we'd also be remiss to overlook that Pedro Martinez or some other highly-paid pitcher might suffer an injury during the tournament or break down later, causing panicked clubs to forbid their players from participating in the future.

World Baseball Classic

# When: March 3-20.

# Where: Chinese Taipei, Puerto Rico, Orlando, Phoenix. The semifinals and finals will be played in San Diego.

# What it is: An unprecedented event that will feature many of the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories for the first time ever on such a big stage.

# What countries are playing (16): United States, Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Dominican Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and Venezuela.

# How it will be played: The 16 teams will be divided into four pools for Round 1. The first and second rounds will be round-robin format. The semifinals and finals will be single elimination.

A shorter schedule wouldn't prevent such injuries from occurring, but it would help ease the strain on players. The WBC finalists will end up playing eight games. Add that to a 154-game schedule, and the demands on those players would be no greater than those that currently exist. Add it to a 140-game schedule, and the demands would be even less ? plus, MLB could gain the option of staging the WBC in late October, after the conclusion of the World Series.

Radical as these ideas might sound ? and yes, I'm well aware of the statistical continuity that would be disrupted by reducing the length of the season ? the changes would be worthwhile if the WBC proves as monumental an innovation as Selig claims it will be. Heck, if it's as good as Selig anticipates, MLB might want to stage it more frequently than every four years.

Major-league officials were taken aback at the level of interest during a recent visit to Japan. The anticipation is palpable in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and other baseball hotbeds. In baseball ? as in virtually every sport ? international competition will be more popular in foreign countries than in the U.S.

Most American fans probably will be more concerned with their favorite team's progress during spring training than Team USA's performance in the WBC. But all that could change with the first big Barry Bonds homer off Venezuela's Johan Santana, or the first big Roger Clemens strikeout of the Dominican Republic's Albert Pujols.

Already, plot lines abound. The Bush administration is giving the WBC its first drama by withholding permission for Cuba to compete. Alex "Hamlet" Rodriguez provided the first soap opera by waffling over his participation, finally deciding to play for the U.S.

The stories only figure to get better ? assuming, of course, that the government relaxes its embargo against Cuba for the WBC, ensuring that the tournament goes off as planned. Given all the likely sub-plots, U.S. attendance and television ratings might even exceed the modest expectations that many have for the WBC, a first-time event that will compete for attention with the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

I love the idea. I just fear it's too much.

All from <http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/5257046>

In my opion this is 100% good news to baseball

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