For the past two weeks I’ve been following the World Baseball Classic. This years tournament is the second tournament, the first being won by Japan in 2006. While the tournament is entertaining, the format is, quite frankly, ridiculous, and while some may argue that the tournament is still in its infant stage (it is), something must clearly be done to make it more exciting.
Undoubtedly baseball, like football, is a league sport- perhaps even more so as a week of games tests each teams strength in depth, especially with starting pitchers. Having said that, if you’re going to have a cup tournament it clearly needs to be more exciting than the current incarnation. As a write, Japan is playing Korea for the 4th time- potentially they could be playing a 5th game if both teams reach the final. The format is ludicrous; the first stage saw 4 teams play each other, then the winners play each other, then the loser of the winners game playing the winner of the losers game to determine the 1st and 2nd place qualifiers (if it sounds complicated, that’s because it is). In Pool A’s games this meant Japan beat China, Korea beat Taiwan, then Japan beat Korea, then Korea beat China then- finally- Korea beat Japan to get the top qualifying berth.
Inexplicably, the second stage sees the teams from each group going into the same group in the US- Japan beat Cuba, Korea beat Mexico, Korea beat Japan, Japan beat Cuba, and finally Korea and Japan play today to decide the order of the semi-finals. While Japan and Korea have played four times, neither team has played the USA team yet (some may argue this is the reason why its been set up this way- so the US can avoid the “big” teams of Japan, Korea and Cuba).
My students have been asking me who I’m supporting- I’ve told them Korea, but to be honest I don’t care who wins. Obviously I’d prefer Korea or Japan to take the title, so long as no Hanshin players get injured (there are only 2 in the Japan team, and Fujikawa’s services have yet to be required in any meaningful context).
The semi’s will take place over the weekend, between the US, Venezuela, Japan and Korea. These are the important games- todays game between Korea and Japan is a waste of time, and the semi-final line up should really have been determined automatically by, you know, constructing a real cup tournament structure.