By Danny Mehigan
As the Japanese celebrated their second straight WBC championship with a extra-inning win over Korea, approximately 13 Americans were captivated by the thrilling finish. It was a great ending to a great tournament, but I wasn’t the only one who barely watched. And that’s too bad, because this thing could be awesome.
No, it’s not the World Cup. No, it’s not the Olympics. But it’s still in its infancy – I doubt the second World Cup was the great sporting event it is today. I think the WBC could benefit from a qualifying tournament to get more countries involved, and a better time slot. The argument has been beaten to death already, but I still don’t have a very good idea of when it should be hosted. A late fall tournament wouldn’t be good because it’s getting pretty cold, it’s early football season (and soccer season everywhere else) so people are likely a little tired of baseball. Taking an extended break in the summer near the All-Star break could work, but not enough players are involved in the tournament for that to be worthwhile.
The problem is, as always these days, money. Soccer players and fans embrace the World Cup because they want to represent their country. The pride is definitely something to play for, and that’s probably because they aren’t all filthy rich (although that doesn’t apply to everyone). Now I can see why someone like Alex Rodriguez wouldn’t want to risk his $25 million per year self to play for one of the nine countries he wants to represent. So maybe to get the best players, and thus the best tournament, the WBC needs to dish out some cash. Hopefully, as the tournament continues to grow and fans become more invested, players will want to step up and rep their countries. As I step off the hastily-erected soapbox, here’s a look at the only two players from the Reds and Brewers to make the final round.
Ramón Hernández, C: The Reds catcher went 1-for-4 and ended the Venezuelan dream with a groundout to third to complete a 10-2 loss to Korea in the semifinals. He stroked his way to a .368 average for the tournament.
Ryan Braun, OF: The Brewers leftfielder went 1-for-4 with a double in a 9-4 semifinal loss to Japan. His strained oblique/ribs/whatever held him back a little bit, but a recent MRI showed no damage and he should be no worse for the wear come regular season time. Braunie finished the WBC with a stellar .381 average.