SBD/March 11, 2013/Events and Attractions

Potential U.S.-Japan World Series May Beckon "Fundamental Change" To MLB

Ratings for the WBC in Japan have topped all non-World Cup telecasts in the past year
MLB for the first time "is beginning to explore an event that Commissioner Bud Selig calls 'a real World Series'' that would pit the MLB champion against Japan's champion in a best-of-seven-game event on two continents," according to Phil Rogers of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. A Japan-U.S. World Series "looks like a financial windfall for MLB." It could "bring about some fundamental change to the sport -- possibly even a return to a 154-game regular season -- and serve as a home run for whoever replaces Selig as commissioner." It could "even shape who is the next commissioner, strengthening the hand" of MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan, who has overseen MLB's int'l growth. The World Baseball Classic is "practically a national holiday in Japan." The MLBPA on Friday "issued a press release that showed the Japan-Brazil game on March 2 drew a 35 share on Japanese television, meaning more than one of every three viewers was watching." That "topped all broadcasts of the 2012 London Olympics, and Japan is an Olympics-loving country." Selig said, "Someday you will get the United States versus Japan, a real World Series. It's a long way off, but yes, I really believe it. That's the final goal" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/10). Selig said, "The thought of having a real World Series, and the interest in the world, is breathtaking to me." He said that the "notion of starting a regular season in Europe no longer seemed far-fetched." In N.Y., Tyler Kepner noted Selig had "only a vague vision of the so-called real World Series and said he probably would not live to see it." But he said that the WBC is "the essential vehicle for wherever the game is going." Selig "stopped short of pushing for mandatory participation," but something "seems imperfect when so many American stars decline to participate" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).

SETTING GOALS: Selig: "I've been watching the games in Japan and elsewhere, and this is what we're trying to do. Internationalization of the sport is really the goal. And in my judgment, if we do it right, you won't recognize this sport in a decade." He added, "This serves as a vehicle to lift our sport. Every player you talk to loves it. ... I think the American team is pretty good." Selig said, "Everybody understands the potential. If the USA team does well as time goes on, maybe that will improve. ... Most clubs have been very cooperative" (MLB.com, 3/9). Selig: "Is this doing what we set out to do? You bet it is." He added of a global World Series, "It has economic potential that is huge, but from a sociological standpoint that is greater." But USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale wrote, "Sorry, we're not buying it" (USATODAY.com, 3/10).

ALL EYES ON ME? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Brian Costa wrote the "thing to remember" about the WBC is it is "not really about us." This is a "glorified international business junket" for MLB. If Americans "love it, all the better." But "far more important from MLB's standpoint is its ability to use nationalism to promote the game in emerging markets like Brazil." It is about "making a dent in such countries as China, where the NBA is vastly more popular than MLB." MLB Senior VP/Int'l Business Operations Paul Archey said, "The success of this tournament shouldn't be gauged by a television rating in the United States. This is about opening new markets, growing the game globally." Archey: "Baseball wouldn't be in the top 10 on Twitter without the World Baseball Classic." The question is "how much that is worth to MLB owners." And the answer "explains why they support the tournament while undermining its credibility" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/9). In Oakland, Monte Poole wrote the "idea is that the WBC grows into something rivaling the World Cup of soccer, a global phenomenon, a must-see event for any fan of the sport." Still MLB "has its regular season, its postseason and its World Series." That "more than satisfies the domestic appetite for the game." Poole: "Excuse us if most of us pass on the WBC." But the brawl on Saturday between Team Mexico and Team Canada "surely moved the WBC toward the top of the TV highlight shows and might boost future domestic ratings" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 3/10).

GAINING FAVOR: The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Rogers writes, "Go ahead, admit it. You care about the WBC, don't you?" Team USA's victory yesterday over Team Canada was "before a noisy, wildly divided crowd of 22,425 at Chase Field" in Phoenix. This is the third time the WBC has been played, and Japan is "looking like a very good bet to win it for the third time." Reds 2B Brandon Phillips said if Team USA had lost to Team Canada it "would have been embarrassing, man, to me" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/11). Twins C Joe Mauer said of Team USA advancing to the second round, "This is the next stop. It's nice to be going to Miami instead of back to our spring training sites." ESPN.com's Jim Caple wrote that "should be the prevailing attitude about the WBC for both participating and non-participating players, as well as general managers, managers and fans." Caple wrote the WBC is "far more entertaining than the usual dull, repetitive spring training routine." The four days of pool play in Phoenix "provided excitement, drama, controversy, violence and plenty of tension" (ESPN.com, 3/11). In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse writes, "I've become oddly fascinated with what is taking place in this third try at a WBC" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/11).

BACK TO LIFE: In N.Y., Scott Cacciola wrote for Puerto Rico, the "hope is that the team’s strong performance over all -- in front of adoring crowds, no less -- will help revive the commonwealth’s baseball culture." Participation numbers are "down across the board." Third base coach Joe Espada said, “You can see all these kids being inspired" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10). MLB.com's Mike Bauman wrote the WBC competition is "much tougher than many people realize." Team USA "remains the target for opponents." Other teams are "motivated to the skies when playing against Team USA" (MLB.com, 3/10).

HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN: The WBC for its three first round games from Fukuoka, topped all broadcasts of all non-World Cup sporting events in Japan over the last year. Viewership peaked for TV Asahi in Japan during the team's 5-3 win over Brazil to begin Pool A play on March 2 (WBC). In L.A., Mike Hiserman wrote the WBC is "very popular in Japan" (L.A. TIMES, 3/9).
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