Monday, March 18, 2013

U.S. Failure in WBC Won't Stop Globalization; Dodgers/D-Backs Could Open in Australia Next Year

      By Ross Newhan

      Baseball's global initiative will continue despite another failure by the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic.

      In fact, the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are discussing the possibility of opening the 2014 season in Australia, a relaxing flight of about 15 hours.

     The irony in that is this: It's surprising any team is discussing anything with the Dodgers.

     If L.A.'s record payroll of $230 million hasn't annoyed the majority of organizations, owner Mark Wohlers upset many in the National League West with a recent USA Today interview bordering on braggadocio. I just returned from a Cactus League trip and spotted the interview on several clubhouse bulletin boards.

    Warner said that one of his goals was to win 14 straight division titles as the Atlanta Braves did in the former NL West except that he wants to do far better than Atlanta's one World Series win.

    "I want to be a team that people are not looking forward to playing unless they want to play the best," he said.

    I'm not sure there is anything wrong with an owner expressing high expectations, especially an owner who paid a record $2.15 billion for the franchise before building a record payroll.

   But as one division executive said to me: "Sometimes it's just better to let your team's play speak for itself."

   If the Dodgers and D-Backs open in Australia it will simply be a continuation of Commissioner Bud Selig's determination to stretch the game worldwide, reaping the licensing, merchandising and media benefits.

   It's just too bad that so many U.S. players, who share in the WBC wealth and globlalization of the game, aren't inspired inough to participate.

  It is understandable, to some degree, that they are drawn two ways, feeling a responsibility to the club that pays them as well as the opportunity to represent their country, but under the current plan the WBC is conducted only once ever four years, seemingly a chance not to be missed, as many of their foreign teammates recognized.

  What has been illustrated in the last two WBCs is that a U.S. team of second tier players at some positions can not automatically beat the animated Caribbean teams, the always difficult Japanese team and now the most advanced of the European countries, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which now boasts six academies and has sent 10 players to the majors. It is true that the U.S. may have advanced beyond the quarterfinals this spring except for injuries to David Wright and Mark Teixeira, inuries that could have happened in their spring camps or exhibition games, but the lack of depth and absence of too many powerful U.S. players took a toll.

   The U.S lost games to Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A few U.S. players objected to the celebratory mannerisms of the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, but as Dominican manager Tony Pena said, "We're not trying to show anybody up. We're just showing the emotion that is our culture."

   It will all be forgotten as players from the various countries rejoin their major league teams. The percentage of players born outside the U.S. on last year's opening day rosters was 28.4%, the second highest ever. Globalization rolls on, and the Dodgers and D-Backs may go a distance in showcasing the game next year, a possibility still being discussed.            


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