Sometimes I am wrong, and other times I am, like, way wrong.
My preseason prediction for Super Bowl 51 had the Seahawks clashing with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Seahawks didn’t make it out of the second playoff round. The Bengals, nine-game losers, didn’t make it into the first.
When the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008, I guaranteed Seattle would acquire an NBA expansion franchise within five years. Oops.
And from the “What Was This Idiot Thinking?” file, there is this nugget: I was certain the World Baseball Classic had the potential to become an international must-see event, the equivalent of soccer’s World Cup.
Next month the WBC, introduced in 2006, will determine a fourth champion. It will be a surprise if there is a fifth.
Mariners players such as Felix Hernandez (Venezuela), Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic) and Edwin Diaz (Puerto Rico) gear up for the WBC as Latin American fans do — national pride is at stake — but there’s little buzz about the tournament in the U.S., where television ad revenues are required to float the boat.
Ad revenues tend to be sparse when viewership numbers rate the WBC as less-watched than reruns of “Adam 12.”
Scheduling is a foremost problem. There’s only one bracket Americans are following in March, and it doesn’t involve a 16-team tournament that will commence when Israel takes on South Korea — first pitch at 2 a.m. PST — on March 6.
Another issue is the premise of baseball as international competition. The sport, for us, begins on Opening Day and ends after the final out of the World Series. Nothing else matters.
Between 1992, when baseball was recognized as an official Olympic Games event, and the most recent WBC, in 2013, the U.S. has been awarded a championship medal once in eight tournaments. No big deal. We don’t care. (Well, most of us don’t care. If President Donald Trump learns about that dismal international-competition record, prison yards soon will be occupied by all those ballplayers who failed to make America great.)
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, whose baseball knowledge is steeped deeply in history, belongs to the minority of big-league executives convinced the WBC should survive.
“I love it,” Dipoto said last week. “It gets your players juiced. It gets them going. Knowing that they’re going to leave for the WBC, they prepare. They’re in a different place when they get to camp. They start the offseason preparation earlier, and they’re really ready. They’re not going to go out and be embarrassed on a public stage.”
An aversion to humiliation can be a motivational tool, I suppose, but aren’t managers forever reminding us that the big-league season is a marathon, and not a sprint? There are so many throws a pitcher can deliver over the course of a six-month season, which extends into seven months for World Series participants. The idea of them going full throttle, in the middle of March, is ludicrous.
Call me old-school, but I’ve always regarded spring training as preparation for a season: Loosen up in February, be ready to hit the ground running in April. Take it slow. The finish line is months away.
And yet here’s this tournament demanding that players compete at a peak-performance level, weeks before the first game that actually counts.
Pitch-count maximums will be enforced throughout the WBC, and Dipoto has gotten assurance an arm as valuable to the Mariners as Diaz won’t be overworked. The closer is psyched. He’ll have fun.
But we’re 11 years into a baseball event conceived as an alternative version of the World Cup, and it has gained no traction in the country where baseball was born.
The WBC struck me as a cool, outside-the-box way of turning baseball into an international pastime. I was mistaken, not for the first time, and not for the last time.
If you’re in Las Vegas this weekend, put your money down on the Patriots. Please.
I’m seeing the Falcons winning, and winning by a lot.