SBD/Issue 129/Events & Attractions

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  • WBC Concludes With Thrilling Final At Packed Dodger Stadium

    Japan Wins Its Second WBC Tournament
    The '09 World Baseball Classic concluded last night with Japan’s epic 5-3 win in 10 innings over Korea, drawing a tournament-record 54,846 to Dodger Stadium. The boisterous crowd, appearing to favor Korea but pulsating with energy for both teams, pushed the total WBC attendance to 801,408, 8.7% above the inaugural version of the event in '06. Japan has won both WBC tournaments. In the press box, many reporters and league execs said that the electric stadium atmosphere for the title game exceeded that of most World Series games. “That’s as much intensity as I’ve seen in a baseball game in a long time,” said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig following the game. “It was just incredible. When I think about what we set out to do years ago -- (MLBPA Exec Dir Don Fehr) and I were just talking about this out on the field -- this is what we were aiming for." Selig continued, “This reminds me of when we did revenue sharing, the wild card, interleague play, all these things that were different, and I understand all that. People had significant trepidation and there was skepticism. And things have fortunately since worked out" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Selig: “The idea that nobody cares about this is wrong. It’s doing exactly what we set out to do. ... The idea was to take baseball’s enormous popularity here and to transfer it all over the world. I think the success in the first four years has been amazing” (ESPN Radio 540 Milwaukee, 3/23).

    INSTANT CLASSIC: YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown writes the WBC is "far from perfect," but any format that "put Japan and Korea on that field for four hours Monday night, the ballpark close to full and frantically loud, the players getting after it so hard they practically had tears streaming down their faces, it just can’t be all wrong." Some believe that since some top U.S. players, such as Yankees P CC Sabathia and Phillies 1B Ryan Howard, would not play in the WBC, it "must not be worthwhile." But Brown writes, "Stand amid the Koreans and Japanese at Dodger Stadium, amid the songs and costumes and flags and tension, stand amid the baseball soaked in nationalism, and know this wasn’t about us or our place in it." Instead, last night's game "was about the baseball" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/24). In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes both Japan and Korea fans "exuded passion and spirit for 10 of the most memorable innings ever played at Dodger Stadium, a weirdly wonderful mix of baseball game, rock concert and pep rally." Last night brought "four hours of joyful noise," and the Dodgers "ought to figure out how to share some of this with their fans." Dodgers Dir of Asian Operations Acey Kohrogi: "The noise factor is a bit different. There's a lot of cheering going on, but it's all controlled by the fans. It's not induced by the public address announcer or the scoreboard. It's not controlled in any way by the teams" (L.A. TIMES, 3/24).  

    Writer Says Korea And Japan Are Examples
    Baseball Can Still Be A Beautiful Pastime
    SPORTS AT ITS FINEST: ESPN.com's Eric Neel writes, "I didn't see a game so much as a happening, an event in which every moment, from the plays made in the field to the explosive cheers in the stands, felt charged with intense desire and fierce competition." Hopefully the game "made you think the lingering questions about whether the WBC is here to stay seem silly." Last night was a "great night of baseball, a great night for baseball" (ESPN.com, 3/24). ESPN’s Steve Phillips said after last night's game, “It’s hard not to think this event is a tremendous success” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/24). SI.com's Arash Markazi writes, "In a time when baseball has been individualized, commercialized and altogether tarnished by nine-figure contracts, performance enhancing drugs and labor stoppages, Korea and Japan are an example that baseball can still be a beautiful pastime, even if it isn't entirely America's pastime anymore" (SI.com, 3/24). In S.F., Gwen Knapp writes the WBC "may save the sport from its home country." Japan and Korea "aren't playing for a highlights reel, or to lure an audience away from MTV," and "they should be baseball's dream team" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/24). ESPN.com's Jim Caple writes last night's championship was "among the most exciting games I've ever seen" (ESPN.com, 3/24).

    NEW WORLD ORDER: In Orlando, David Whitley writes this year's World Series champion cannot be called the World Champion, because "that title belongs to Japan." Most Americans "pay less mind to the WBC than the World Cup" because the WBC is a "concocted, made-for-ESPN event whose main purpose is to market the MLB brand around the world" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/24). In N.Y., William Rhoden writes baseball in the U.S., "for better or for worse, has moved to lavish new stadiums and supports lucrative player contracts." It is "built on power and entertainment." However, nations like Korea and Japan have "learned our game, digested it and improved upon it by going back to the basics." Rhoden: "Did the United States lose a semifinal game? Or have we lost the game itself?" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/24). In L.A., Kevin Baxter writes last night's game was a "classic final," and the "only thing separating it from a major league playoff game was, well, teams made up of major league players." Only 12 players from Korea have ever played in MLB -- Indians RF Shin-Soo Choo is the only active MLBer -- but that is "about to change." An NL scout said, "I've been surprised. I think a lot of people have. Maybe I was just ignorant. I was ignorant. If you don't think some of these Koreans can play in the big leagues, then that's prejudice" (L.A. TIMES, 3/24). MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger: “Big league scouts are buying plane tickets to South Korea at the moment, I have a feeling” (“World Baseball Classic Tonight,” MLB Network, 3/23). In Miami, Linda Robertson writes just as NBA teams "now rely on European players, major league teams would be wise to stock up on players from the Pacific Rim." Venezuela manager Luis Sojo, when asked why more Koreans were not in MLB, said, "There will be from now on." U.S. manager Davey Johnson: "The world is catching up to us" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/24). 

    Writer Says Biggest Problem With WBC An
    American Problem
    WHAT'S NEXT? MLB Senior VP/Int'l Business Operations Paul Archey was questioned at length prior to yesterday's game about logistics, player injuries and scheduling. Reiterating some prior comments from Selig, Archey again confirmed the tournament would remain in its March time frame, and that the tournament would expand by 16 teams to an as-yet-undetermined number of clubs, likely with play-in rounds. “We’re trying to build something, and we have a base that’s now strong,” Archey said. “We’re just finishing our second event. When we finish, we’ll go back, talk to people, our steering committee, people who played, ownership, everyone, and discuss how to keep making this better" (Fisher). Selig said for the '13 tournament "baseball is going to have a hard time limiting it to 16 teams, because I’m telling you the interest all over now is remarkable" (ESPN Radio, 3/23). SI.com's Tom Verducci writes the WBC "grew bigger and better in its second incarnation," and while it is an "acquired taste for smug Americans, the party goes on in 2013 whether America wants to resist it or not." Verducci notes the "biggest problem with the WBC is an American problem: the U.S. team is not fully committed to winning, not in its administration, not in the support of Major League clubs, not in the expectations of its fans, and not in how the games are managed" (SI.com, 3/24). Selig said, "I think we have to find ways to pick up the intensity for the United States team. ... We’ve got to find a way to get our best players and make sure that they are on the team." He added, "We need everybody’s best players and we shouldn’t accept anything less"  ("Japan-Korea," ESPN, 3/23). In Toronto, Dave Perkins writes with the WBC, "Selig gets it and much of his kingdom of Major League Baseball does not." That Team USA was "waxed again in the game they once dominated is the second-best thing that could happen for the worldwide growth of the sport." The best would be for the U.S. to "take it seriously, from top to bottom" (TORONTO STAR, 3/24). Also in Toronto, Ken Fidlin writes the tournament "makes money and has served its purpose in creating excitement around the world. Just not North America." The world is "catching the spirit" of the WBC, and it is "time for North America to join the party" (TORONTO SUN, 3/24).

    STILL NOT CONVINCED: In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes the WBC is "doomed to remain a glorified exhibition for as long as that indifference lingers and lasts in the mindset" of the U.S. (N.Y. POST, 3/24). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “We still don’t care about the (WBC). ... We don’t (care) in the way we care about the Olympic Gold in basketball because we haven’t gotten beaten enough to care about it” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/23). FanHouse.com’s Kevin Blackistone said the WBC “is just a fraudulent event” because the “best baseball players (are not) playing against each other” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/23). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote the WBC returning in '13 is a "nightmare waiting to happen." Jones: "All it will take is one big-name pitcher blowing out his arm in a meaningless tournament and wrecking his team's pennant chances. But by then, it will be too late" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/23). In Chicago, Greg Couch writes the WBC is a "waste of time." Couch: "No, it's worse than that, really. Players are coming back to their major-league teams hurt, tired or out of shape." Selig is "about to turn 75, and more and more you hear his thoughts turning to his legacy." Couch: "I can only imagine him sitting there watching his creation and seeing things that aren't really there, a desperate and pathetic last grab for greatness" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/24).

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  • ESPN Exec Says Major Changes Needed For Skins Game To Survive

    Tournament Must Secure A New
    Title Sponsor To Continue
    ESPN VP/New Business Tony Renaud said that "major changes must be made to the Skins Game if it hopes to survive," and that the '09 event "might not be played unless changes are made," according to Larry Bohannan of the Palm Springs DESERT SUN. Renaud: "I believe it is dead in its old form. We cannot continue in the same manner. We cannot keep the purse that low. We have got to be able to compete with Dubai and whatever. We've got to get some changes from the tour." Bohannan noted the "made-for-television Skins Game has been dogged by low ratings and waning interest in recent years," as ABC's Sunday broadcast of the event last year drew a 1.2 rating and about 1.3 million viewers. Ratings "hovered between 5.0 and 7.0 ... in the event's heyday." Renaud's plan to overhaul the event includes "finding a new title sponsor to replace the departed" LG Electronics, and he "believes playing the 2009 event depends mostly on acquiring a new title sponsor." Renaud: "That's the key. That's the first domino that has to go." Renaud noted that he is "talking to three sponsors interested in the event." Other elements of Renaud's plan to overhaul the event include "convincing the PGA Tour to relax eligibility standards for the event's four-player field," as well as a "doubling of the purse to at least" $2M. Bohannan noted if a new sponsor is "found for 2009 and beyond, the next step might be finding a new home for 2010." Indian Wells is "in the final year of a three-year deal to host the event," and City Manager Greg Johnson said that the Skins Game "hasn't provided the exposure the city hoped when it agreed to sponsor the event" in '07. Johnson: "I would say that IMG, ESPN and the PGA Tour have not delivered on the television ratings for the amount of money they are asking to be a host sponsor. Unless they are able to change that and show they are able to deliver a product that is worthy of the host sponsor fees they are requiring, I don't believe it would be appropriate to continue" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/21). Renaud said that he will "talk to tour officials this ... week in Florida, trying to convince them to help ESPN produce a better television show" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/22).

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