It has been six years since baseball pretended to be a world game, an ambition not shared by the world. Yet here we are again daring to ignore the World Baseball Classic, inaccurate in two of three terms.
Oh, it is baseball alright, instantly recognizable by the universal tug and scratch of the players, but unless the world is a couple of islands in the Caribbean and a couple of towns in Japan, well, it is as dubious as identifying our own Series as World.
And Classic? Unless the patella tendon takes on the name of Edwin Diaz, an honorific saved for a Lou Gehrig or a Tommy John, nothing much for the old classic scrapbook here.
Baseball is barely still our national pastime, never mind an international pastime and the next baseball game you see in Great Britain will have a bat shaped like a boat oar.
Who knows? Do they hit behind the runner in Australia, or in front? I mean, being in the southern hemisphere and all. I’m thinking that when they go around the horn, it is, like a flushed toilet, counter clockwise. Do the Boys of Summer become the Boys of Winter?
These are questions that vex me when I should, of course, be wondering why is the highest paid relief pitcher in major league baseball being hauled off the field in a wheelchair, lost for the major league season?
Having been to 17 of the 20 nations involved in the WBC, I have not once been asked how the boys from Prague would do in Pool B, or even what Pool B is. Come to think of it, no one from Hinsdale has asked me either.
All of this is just fine with me. I don’t care if anyone in Panama can pick Mike Trout out of a lineup, or out of a hat, a Panama, of course. Or even if they can hit a Dutch fastball, which they apparently cannot.
Ah, I guess I’m being picky here but this has always been the great conceit about baseball. We have always played the World Series without bothering with, you know, the world.
It has worked just fine for more than a century, Black Sox scandals, 1994 and Barry Bonds aside.
Now this peculiar little tournament has interrupted spring training for the fifth time, not a serious intrusion and probably of no significance because anything that happens in baseball in March is completely superfluous. Unless you are Mets millionaire Edwin Diaz overcome with happiness for having beaten the Dominican Republic.
Baseball has always been ours, just as soccer has always been theirs. I think the lessons of ice hockey are plain enough. Poor Canada sent their game around the world and the next thing you know Finland is playing Sweden for the gold.
We send the Dream Team to the Barcelona Olympics and what happens? Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes the starting center in the NBA All-Star Game, guys with diacritical glyphs over their names are MVPs and the next wonder child is coming from France.
However this turns out, it should only turn out one way for us. And that is for us to win it, which we did last time. I can still feel the relief and hear the cheers, or that might have been a dental procedure. Things were kind of fuzzy that day.
Otherwise, it all belongs to somebody else, like soccer in Italy or beach volleyball in Brazil. It is easy to envision Venezuelans dancing down the streets of Miami, though that is not an unusual sight at any time. Except for Edwin Diaz, of course, who won’t be dancing for at least eight months.
This is all marketing, as if baseball is a soft drink, or a T-shirt, which I guess is where the profit comes in. Nobody is doing this for any other reason than peddling the game to new markets, that is to say peddling it away from folks who no longer treat the box score as a sacred scroll.
The naysayers and nit-pickers may eschew the WBC, as well as the rest of us, but if baseball can still bring joy to the few, the happy few, the band of brothers, it is probably worth the doing. Except for Edwin Diaz, of course. Ouch.