World Baseball Classic — Day 1 — Tokyo

Having made seven or eight trips to Japan over the past three years, I know that the absolute worst part of the trip is the hour-plus ride in from Narita to downtown. After a 15-hour flight, a half-hour of circling the airport, a half-hour with customs, and a 14-hour time difference, the car trip in from the airport seems like it takes a week.

But the mood tonight is entirely different.  After years of planning, debate, getting delayed a year because of a dispute between the owners and players in Japan last year (sound familiar?), the issues with whether Cuba would be in or out, the broadcast negotiations, and the thousands of details, the very first World Baseball Classic kicks off tomorrow morning at 11:30 Tokyo time. And while I am sure we have made mistakes, and will continue to have growing pains, there is a real sense of excitement about doing something new.

Two weeks ago there was a reception at the Japanese Embassy in D.C. to honor Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh. All anyone talked about that night, from the two ambassadors to George Will to the politicians that were there, was the World Baseball Classic. Tonight, at a pre-tournament party, Mr. Hitoshi Uchiyama, the President of the Yamiuri Shimbun, (host of the games in Tokyo and sponsor of the Tokyo Giants) said that from the formation of the Giants in 1934, the entire country has waited for this day where the best players from all around the world would compete in a tournament.

While I don’t go back that far, there is no question that the quality of play in Japan and all of Asia has improved dramatically over the last 20 years. On our last All-Star tour two years ago, MLB sent probably the best team it has ever sent to Japan and the Japanese All-Stars still won the first four games and only a sweep of the last five saved the day for the MLB team. The inclusion of teams like China, Japan, Korea and Cuba, which have mostly non-MLB players, adds an element of intrigue to the entire event. Can Cuba repeat the type of Olympic dominance it has demonstrated in the past now that it will be up against Major League players?  Has Japanese baseball improved to the level of being able to beat the Major Leagues’ best?

A lot of people here are saying that the most important game in this first round robin is the very first game tomorrow morning between Korea and Chinese Taipei. Those handicappers must be assuming that Japan will sweep its three games and that China will lose its three, so tomorrow’s game will decide the second team to move on to the next round. I don’t think it will be that easy, although China lost an exhibition game badly yesterday here and Taipei, on the other hand, had a very close game.  I think Korea can give Japan a run for its money Sunday night, and Jim Lefebvre has done a great job with the Chinese team.

It is too bad the Korea/Taipei game has to be tomorrow morning. It is the first game of the entire event and it starts Friday morning at 11:30 so no kids can come. It will have the smallest crowd of the entire tournament at any venue but it was all we could do with the schedule and trying to fit everything into two weeks.

Overall interest has been great. We have issued 3,500 media credentials, which is double the number issued for the World Series. We are on pace to draw over 800,000 fans, which for a first-time event exceeds our expectations, and is comparable to the number of tickets sold for the entire Winter Olympics. And while some players have decided not to participate who would clearly have made a difference, there are an awful lot of good players on board.

Not to be defensive, but I read some criticism about the possiblity of ties in the first two rounds, and how that lessens the event. Under the rules, and again given the time constraints, in the first two rounds, a game would be declared a tie after 14 innings and each team would get a half-win in the pool. The semifinals and finals in San Diego will be played to completion. Two points: First, given the round-robin format, it is likely that a tie for one of the teams would be the equivalent of a loss in determining who would move on. Second, in 2,400 games last season, there were three that went more than 14 innings.  That is one every 800. Those aren’t bad odds.

Keep your fingers crossed that the games are good, and that no one gets hurt.  While players get hurt during Spring Training, and in the offseason, injuries can put a damper on things. Otherwise, we’re under way.

Talk to you tomorrow.  Oyasuminasai!

31 Comments

Hi, Congrats on a great job! I’m sure there will be criticism! But,not from those of us who attend! I’ll be in Phoenix w/the family for 3 games, Anaheim for 4, and San Diego w/my wife for 3. Might trade them all for the 2nd round in Puerto Rico though! Good luck thanks again! dan in sunny(well rainy) Ca.

I echo the congratulations! As a baseball fan, I cannot wait to see the first game. I wish I had the opportunity to go see a game live, but nonetheless, you can be assured that I’ll be glued to the TV and MLB’s website for the event. Looking forward to some great baseball! Scott in Charlotte, NC

Congratulations, Bob. You have done a good effort. May I ask if in this part of the world (Dominican Republic) will we watch games in Japan?

What kind of comments are going to be posted for this rediculous “classic”. The players are not in shape to play and there is no way anyone can say they are. How is everyone going to feel when Eric Bedard of the Orioles hurts his arm because he is not in shape. What comments are going to be made when Derek Jetter is hit in the head or has his wrist broken by someone’s fastball?
Don’t know who thought of this but they need some time on a Psche Ward.

Bill Hemelt

Naples, Florida

As a Mets fan I am just extremely happy that Pedro and Billy Wagner have pulled out of this thing. I think its a good idea in principle, but I feel this whole thing will be a glorified exhibition, with Pitchers on counts and tons of players pulling out. One injury to a star player and this whole thing will fall apart at it seams– Good idea but bad timing.

I can’t wait for the classic, I have tiks for the semifinals and the finals here in San Diego, but I feel I have to take the opportunity to voice some frustration about the number and caliber of players who signed up (helping to sell PLENTY of tickets) and then backing out. I find it a bit fishy that there was much hoopla when the MLB flashily announced all of the big names taking part and now they’re backing out like crazy. I don’t have a fix for it, other than it seems like too many withdrawals are for reasons that should have (and probably were!) thought out ahead of time. It’s one thing to pull out because of an injury, but another because you want to “dedicate time to breaking in with your team”. I’m no fan of Barry, but at least he didn’t commit and then pull out like Ron Jeremy!

I am excited about the classic, but im starting to worry about the injuries. Being a New York Rangers fan, when I saw Jagr go down I thought the olympics was a terrible idea. I think that they should send non-MLB players. It sounds stupid, but I do not want to see Vernon Wells, Shea Hillenbrand or any other of my Jays get injured for months or the year. Good Luck to the players, GO CANADA!

I have no doubt the WBC is the best thing to happen in Baseball for a Long time. Definately globally but also for the MLB long term ( It appears only those with a long vision can see that though ), As much as I want my Australian team to do well, I’m afraid the might of Dominican Republic and Venezuela will be hard to beat. Other than that i’m just as excited about watching some of the other nation match-ups also. Apparently the MLB will be involved in a new Aussie National Baseball League soon, I hope so as we need a National League for the sake of our grass roots Baseball and more media exposure of Baseball here.

http://www.asl.baseball.com.au

WBC’s great. Sign that dang lease in DC and get us an owner already! It’s still a sweet deal, you know.

I want to start off by saying that I congratualte Major League Baseball for the ambition and gual that it took them to agree and work as hard as they must’ve to create this event. I can’t believe all the negavite responses to Mr. Dupuy’s entry in this forum. I cannot believe all the fear over injuries that has been expressed as well. It is exciting and still surprising to think that I will get to see the best of Japan play on ESPN. This is an amazing oppurtunity. Japana has sent us their best, with some reservations I am assured, and this is a great consolation to them, however it can’t even be called fair for the oppurtunities they have given us as fans to see Ichiro make the spectacular catches that he has, the amazing cluthc perfomances of Hideki Matsui and I cannot even begin to dream of what Asian players will bring to the game in the future. That statement is blue on black when it comes to what the island nations such as the Dominican Republic has sacrificed for our entertainment. I am honored to see those players given a chance to play for their teams and their homelands and all that may mean to them. Absolute cudo’s. If Billy Wagner would’ve torn his rotator cuff, I would’ve cried, but I would’ve also given a moment to think what his nationalism would’ve meant. He wont be playing but he should. I wish Carlos Beltran the best as well. All of those possibilities of injuries and embarrassment, however, do not even begin to compare with the chance to see Sadaharu Oh on the sidelines and the mystic washed away of Cuba’s national team. Thank you MLB for this chance, it is purely beautiful.

I am excited about the Classic, but I am also disappointed. We have our ticket to the games in Phoenix, and now cannot attend. I know this isn’t what this board is for, but if anyone is interested in tickets for the USA vs Mexico, and USA vs Canada, let me know. We bought the seats the moment they went on sale, and now due to some events, we are going to be unable to attend. Don’t really want to get stuck with tickets, so if someone is interested, please post on here or contact me at tglg@charter.net . I have 5 seats together for both games. Thanks and hopefully someone out there can help me out and will get to see some great baseball. Oh, by the way, the tickets are 1st row and 3rd row behind the visitor’s dugout on the 3rd base side. My loss is your gain.

It was great to see MLB President and COO Mr. Bob DuPuy representing the WBC and being so involved. This shows the commitment MLB has for this amazing event.

As George Will would say (paraphrasing), “the long winter with no baseball ends today”!

Everyone I know in Portland, Oregon, is looking forward to the event and staying up late to watch the games on TV and/or computer.

Man, this is fantastic.

Damian Ranger

Hi Bob,

Congrats on doing a great job on getting the WBC started. I have a couple of suggestions for 2009. I think it would be great if the owners and players would agree to start Spring Training earlier on WBC years. I’m suggesting that the pitchers and catchers report the second week in January and the rest of the players the third week in January. The weather in both Arizona and Florida is just fine at that time of the year. People can have time to get ready for the Classic if they are in it or just have an extended and relaxed Spring Training, if they are not participating in the WBC.

What do other people think about this?

I’m definitely going to catch some games on ESPN and ESPN DEPORTES.

Again, thanks for your hard work.

Cheers,

William Cerf

Staten Island, NY

I’d prefer it was played every year or at least every 2 years.

Instead of interfering with Spring Training and MLB Players just getting up to speed or after the World Series, I believe playing WBC mid MLB season during a 2 week break would be best. I’m not sure how that fits with the Nippon League timing though. No other Countries have committed Pro Leagues so they can fit their season timing around what is agreed to by MLB and Nippon Pro League.

Cheers

Glen

Brisbane, Australia

http://www.asl.baseball.com.au

Nice work? The state of Spring Training is in turmoil by splitting rosters and allegience, and of course don’t forget your greed. A money making pit at best. Do something for baseball and the fans and get off your butts for the Nationals! Oh that is after ******* the life out of all of its fans.

You greedy guys suq!

Hi Bob,

Just finished watching the Olympics, the hockey in particular, which parallels what MLB is doing with the Classic. What I enjoyed most about Olympic Hockey was the intensity the top players in the NHL brought to the games, that playing for their country meant so much to them. It was also curious to see the players “choose up sides” (as we did as kids) and bond with teammates who otherwise would be rivals in the NHL.

Now it’s MLB’s turn, and it will be interesting to see the new teams and the national fervor that develops.

Of course, this is a first for MLB, and many of the top players won’t participate. Hope those who don’t play see what it all means to their countries, and sign up next time. Hope no one gets hurt, and that it’s all a great success, and grows from year to year.

My greatest concern with the way it’s being conducted this year is all the travel. I would rather see the Classic rotated from one country to another, than try to visit so many in one year.

Hope it’s a great success for baseball. And, of course, for all the countries that have given us so many great players in recent years.

Bill Quirin

I just saw the first game between Taiwan and Korea and it was pretty etertaining as far as 2-0 games go. I was impressed with Taiwan making it at least interesting in the 9th inning considering they have no major leaguers on their team. The next game between China and Japan might not be as entertaining unless you’re a die hard Nippon League fan. I think MLB has to rethink the timing of the WBC for November despite the disaproval of the MLBPA. Then all the injury risk will be less of an issue and it gives die hard baseball fans another month of baseball. In March there are already spring training games and most of those will probably be more entertaining then some of the round one games especially ones like Japan vs China or USA vs South Africa.

Must agree with comments above from carlosi@ucla.edu

As a Huge fan of WBC for the future, I must admit the first day is a bit of a marketing disaster considering a large International audience watching with interest for the first time.

Game One: Great Game BUT Middle of the Day on a Friday In Japan with 2 other Nations? No School Kids, No families and No hometown Fans at the Stadium…

Game Two. Prime Time in Japan and i’m sure the stadium will be Fuller. But Japan V China will be over quickly with the Mercy run rule I think.

Other than that I think interest will peak once Pool B,C and D games fire up.

Cheers

Glen

Brisbane, Australia

http://www.asl.baseball.com.au

I hope that the WBC will eventually be a great vehicle for the game–and give the world evidence that it is indeed an international game. But I think I speak for all Nats fans when I say it would be an absolutely unthinkably, incredibly, heartbreaking and gut wrenching irony if an agreement isn’t reached for a lease our stadium, so we have baseball at home. Right now, the wait is terrifying, and we’re afraid to hope…

The World Baseball Classic is a great idea but it should be held after the World Series to avoid disrupting spring training. Having it at this time would also help fill the void for baseball fans during the off season. Otherwise, I’m excited that it’s happening and am taking the family to FL to see one of the games.

PS – We are hoping and praying that you’ll accept the lease and allow us to keep the Nats in DC. Please don’t disappoint us!

As exciting as worldwide baseball is to some, to others having a team permanently based in our own nation’s capital. It’s hard to get excited about a game in Tokyo when I don’t know if they’ll be a game in DC next year. Please do whatever is necessary to finalize the Nationals as the permanent team for the Washington DC area. Fans in the country of baseball’s birth are awaiting your decision.

First of all let me start by stating that I am of a very healthy and experienced baseball mind having played, coached, and scouted at the high school, college, and professional levels. I have a consireable amount of mixed emotions about these games. On one hand I love the idea of bringing the best each country has to offer and having a healthy competition in the international brotherhood of baseball. This competition will allow many to see players that normally aren’t as accessable as the MLB players. Plus some countries will get to simply see the MLB players for the first time as some countries do not recieve the telecast. However, the timing, the marketing, the ticket pricing, and the lack of MLB encouragement leaves room for a lot of improvement.

Spring training is the wrong time to hold this classic for too many reason to list here (players conditions, salary risk, team marketing risk, etc).

The marketing of this classic has been dismal at best…I only happened upon any advertisements by accident. Not everyone has the scheduling ability to just up and take off for Arizona, Florida, or any of the international locations in order to fully enjoy this classic. This classic needed to be made aware of long ago so fans could have had a chance to plan vacations around them. As it stands, mostly those that live near the venues are the only ones that will really enjoy this classic. Remember, baseball is a sport appreciated more fully when experienced in person…not on TV.

My family income is in the $100,000 range and we have just one child. That being said, I feel the ticket prices were WAY too expensive for an inagrual tournament.

MLB is in the business of making money and is still controlled by the owners(what other league’s commissioner is a former/current owner?). Probably always will be. As long as baseball remains big business and the owners dont fully commit to the simple sportsmanship this classic provides, this classic will always be lower level and wont be fully endorsed or supported by MLB.

I welcome theses improvements and am fully aware the first of anything is never perfect but maybe the next time this classic is held the powers that be will take some of these suggestions to the table.

Hi Bob,
In reply to previous message. I too agree that the marketing has been horrible! Probably having to do w/ not having a TV contract until recently.

However, if your a fan you should have been looking for info. on this event. I picked up the SF Chronicle the morning tix went on sale and saw a full page ad announcing ticket going on sale that day. Unfortunately it was probably the only full page ad that I saw.

I purchased 4 FIELD BOX seats, 4 rows from the field, 5 seats from 1ST base dugout, to the 3 games in Phoenix(2 USA games) for $40/ticket. That’s probably $25-35 less than it would cost for a Diamondbacks game. This is for a WORLD CLASS ALLSTAR game! Also got 1st row, field level seats on the baselines in Anaheim for $27 a ticket for what could be the first USA vs JAPAN game, This was for single game seats also. Single game seats went on sale well after the initial ticket sales. dan

Some people have mentioned that the WBC is a glorified Olympics, but from what I understand, MLB doesn’t send their best players because it’s held during the middle of their season. I think the WBC is the right venue to display great talent and potential Major League players! I don’t think I’ve been more excited about baseball!

Those who profess to be “fans” of baseball are extremely short-sided and have little patience with any changes to “their” sport. I would think that for the survival of any sport you would need fans. Do you really think a potential Derek Jeter broken wrist compares to the potential and future of baseball in other countries? The love and rich history of this game should not be isolated to US.

And comments like “You greedy guys suq!” Come on. Get an education.

Oh, and jsb152, I don’t think your first sentence is complete. I can’t imagine ANYONE wanting to finalize the Nationals’ deal more than Major League Baseball.

NY, NY

The World Baseball Classic is exciting, but you know what would be even more exciting–MLB getting their act together and naming an owner for the Washington Nationals. And while you’re at, do something about the horrendous TV deal–I’m only going to be able to see 32 games this year because you’ve given the TV rights to an owner of ANOTHER TEAM. Does any other team in baseball have to deal with such indignities? It’s not fair!

The World Baseball Classic is a sham and a shame. If Mike Piazza is playing for Italy, why isn’t Shawn Green playing for Israel? In fact, there are more Jewish players than players qualified to play for South Africa or China, just to cite two examples. And isn’t there a player from Holland, Michigan on the Netherlands team? What a disgrace to call this money-grab a “classic.” And the timing is pitiful, since it strongly detracts from spring training and invites unnecessary injury. When will the owners wise up and select a commissioner with common sense instead of one whose name is on every outfield wall
(Bud Lite, Bud Lite)?

Braves 1, come on, Shawn Green may be Jewish as so many Mlb players are, but how short sighted can you be? This is not an MLB all star game in which players from Major League baseball are dvied up according to their allegiences. This is about people from Japan and Taiwan and Cuba getting a chance to represent their countries in a way they never could before. Are you taking a shot at Andrew Jones because he wants to play for the Netherlands. Do you think he never considered the fact that MLB fans might say “wait, he is not white, he doesnt own a windmill, how can he be from the netherlands”. Perhaps, just perhaps, he is proud of the flag flying above his birthplace, the place where his mother and father raised him. If you come into this event looking solely at the MLB players you will walk away a very small view of what actually acurred. This is a chance for people from Cuaraca to say “hey this is where I came from, do you know anyone else from Curauca? I thought not.” Simply enjoy the beauty of someone being proud of the poverty they raised themselves from. This is what Amercia is all about, rising above but never losing sight. Above all that, however, it is about a game, a game they loved as children and it took them to places we may never dream of. This is beauty and sportmanship way before a player’s union and Victopr Canta. Who does not yearn for a purer time, a time before astrisks? Who even knew how to spell askrisk before 2000? Enjoy the beauty of competition.

Dear Mr. Dupuy,

Congratulations! You have pulled off the impossible. Finally I get to see the first “Real World Series” in my lifetime. Now we have a launching pad to really bring in the the best talent on the globe into Major League Baseball. I’ll be going the games in San Diego, and hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

Bob Rudas, M.D.

Miami, Florida

I’m still torn on the WBC. While it’ll be great to see several players from my home (?) team, the Nationals, play (and thus justify that we do have good players), holding it during spring training is a bit chaotic for teams.

That said, I’d like to add my voice to those asking for MLB to approve the lease by Monday for DC. If the deal ends up in arbitration, you risk alienating fans of a young team, reducing the value of the team to potential owners, holding back sale money from the other 29 teams waiting for it, and reducing revenues in the future from said alienated fans – not to mention when the stadium will ultimately be built will be in limbo, as well as the plans/final construction project. There’s no where else for the team to go right now, so can we just get this done and name an owner, please? You have no idea how frustrating this has been from a fan’s perspective and frankly, we’re all quite sick of it. Thanks for any help you can give to push this along.

ok, as excited as i am to see the best in the world battle it out in a world showcase i really have only a few issues with the “classic”

ok, advertising was HORRIBLE because i watch sports channels and the way i found out was at a baseball game by a friend. I told alot of people to watch because it is an innovative idea, kinda like the Olympics…

but the timing was…off… and because you picked this time some players are going to burn them out for the real season, for the season that actually matters. I’d like to see this event maybe in the offseason like winter or something, so it doesn’t mess with the season.

This is a good idea and maybe in the future it will improve, but there are plenty of things to work out but i’m content with letting others take care of that…

Goodluck,

Maybe someday i’ll play in it

–Dunn

Been thinking about this event and I must tell you that it does little for me. I would rather spend my time and money going to pre-season games. Watching this is painful at best. I mean come on, Australia, South Africa? please and of course we have to respect Cuba, althought they have no problem not repsecting FREEDOM! Geez, it is a dump idea and I only hope that is goes away. Sort of like World Cup Soccer or American Football in Europe. Ever occur to anyone that maybe sports don’t have to be forced on cultures? Maybe people just want to play..well, because we enjoy it…without everyone trying to make a buck. Long and short of it, dumb idea. But I’m certain MLB we be all over itself with congrats on a job well done…or not.
Bill Davis

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