Darvish's absence spells trouble for Japan's World Baseball Classic chances

By Shigemi Sato

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© 2012 AFP

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I think March is too close to MLB's opening season. Although February is a cold month, I think moving it up two months before April would be a better idea. If there were any injuries during the tournament there would be more time to recover.

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While it's a disappointment that Yu won't play, I'm sure Japan will do just fine.

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Let the backlash begin. They're already setting him up as the scapegoat if they don't win.

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Don't bet on it. japan's natural fanatical nationalistic fervor will see them through.

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Thing is, he's half so a much more open target!

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@tmarie Thing is, he's half so a much more open target!


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I know it's a long season but the WBC should take place after the World Series in November, and preferably in a dome stadium because of colder weather. At least the MLB players are still in top condition to minimize injuries. Feburary or March is the worst time since they are just starting the conditioning for the season. Japan still has Iwakuma and many other top pitchers. They should be competitive in WBC.

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I get what you're saying, but it should be in Summer... if baseball is ever to return to the Olympics, it will require Major Leaguers... there's no reason why MLB can't extend the All-Star break another 10 days...

From a business standpoint, March is also bad... you don't compete against March Madness in the States...

As for Iwakuma, I doubt he will pitch in the WBC... despite his new contract (which may have a clause preventing him from participating), he still has much to do to prepare for next season... Japan will have to make do with the pitchers they have in the Japanese leagues, which is still not bad...

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I get what you're saying, but it should be in Summer... if baseball is ever to return to the Olympics, it will require Major Leaguers... there's no reason why MLB can't extend the All-Star break another 10 days...

This might be an option for a WBC style tournament simply because the organizer can simply schedule around the MLB ASG and ensure essentially the same schedule each time the tournament is held. Much more flexibility.

However, it won't work for the Olympics. The Summer Games do not occur at the same time of the year each time they are held. Depending upon the host city, the games may begin in July, but they also may begin in September. southern hemisphere usually hold the games early to mid spring their time, which would require a huge amount of rescheduling on the MLB part if they want the ASG break to coincide with the Games. Even if the games were hosted by a city in the northern hemisphere there's no guarantee. The Seoul Games in '88 began mid- September and lasted into August. The 1964 Tokyo Games (think 2020) began October 10 (this is why Sports Day in is October). The MLB is not going to agree holding it's ASG in September/October just to accommmodate the Olympics and the IOC is not going to force host cities and every other Olympic sport to adjust their schedules just to accommodate the MLB ASG.

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Sceduling is only one problem. Which team is going to want to be with out it's best players for a week or two weeks of games during a playoff race? Which team is going to want to have key players risk injuries that could have them miss the rest of the season. What if a team like Detroit says that it's OK for Verlander to play for the US team (because he's a pitcher and will only miss one or two starts) but not OK for Cabrera to play for Venezuela (because he plays everyday and could miss 6-8 games)? What if the Yankees do give all of their players permission to play, but the Red Sox don't? Fans are not going to be happy either way. That from a MLB owner's business standpoint is much worse than March.

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Those are the obvious points that have been argued to death... scheduling is something that the MLB would have to work around, its as simple as that...

As for players... MLB and the owners can't stop players from competing in it... teams can express their discontent of a player wanting to participate... I'm sure Nolan Ryan was very influential there, and Darvish will listen to someone of his stature... the only time owners have control is with FAs just before the tournament, which is why you will probably not see Ichiro playing... would there be an unbalance during playoff race? sure, that's the breaks, but MLB has to learn to adjust... Soccer has learned to adjust, the JPB is getting there... MLB just needs to suck it up if baseball is to truly become a competitive world sport... and FWIW, they did just fine in 2001 with the sudden break in play...

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Comparing soccer and baseball is like comparing apples and oranges case. Soccer has much more world wide appeal. It has a much longer tradition of international competition. Baseball not so much. There are pro leagues besides the Major Leagues but they are nowhere near as powerful or as rich. It's not that simple at all. Also, Olympic soccer has an age limit. Only players under 23 are primarily allowed to play. That's still leaves a pretty good pool of really good players but that might not be the case for baseball.

A major league team can apply lots of pressure both contractually and otherwise to discourage any of it's players from participating. It can demand national federations to take huge insurance policies to cover their players during such competitions that would compensate the MLB team just in case. Many NBA teams do exactly that. It's not impossible of course but it could be very expensive for some of the less wealthy countries around the world. Some NBA players who have not been able to obtain suitible insurance have decided not to play in international competitions because of the risk involved. Baseball players would do the same thing. They are to risk their 20+ million a year salaries to play a few games if they can't make arrangements for proper insurance.

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Also, MLB is not going to adjust its schedule to allow top players to play Olympic games during the months of September or October. It's not going to happen. They are not go to allow their chances at a World Series Championship be sacrificed for the Olympic Games. The only reason the NBA gets away with it because all the international stuff takes place during their off season. Many owners aren't happy with it, but as long as they get their insurance they go along with it. But, even the NBA, would not be able to pull it off if the Olympics occurred during the regular season. There is no way any NBA team would allow any of it's top stars to play internationally during the regular season/playoffs.

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Unfortunately, international play does not really matter to US sports fans when it comes to sports like baseball or basketball. Of course they are happy when US teams do well, but they are happier when their favorite pro team does well. Miami Heat fans would not be happy at all if LeBron James, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to skip the first round of the NBA playoffs to play for a gold medal. Detroit Tiger fans could care less about the Olympics is it means they lose Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder and some others for 1-2 weeks in September.

The only way I see this possibly happening is if the MLB does like the NHL at stop all play for the Olympics. That's the only way everyone involved might agree. However, there is a big difference. The NHL stops all play for at least two weeks around the middle of its season. NHL players have only been participating since 1998 and every Winter Olympics since 1998 has been held in February which fits in with the NHL's schedule. The NHL also has an agreement in place not to hold its ASG in Olympic years. It's part of their collective bargaining agreement with the players. MLB has no such agreement and is unlikely to do so simply because the MLB ASG means more to the MLB (both historically and finacially) than the NHL one does to the NHL. Besides, if the Olympics took place during the Stanley Cup Playoffs (the NHL's main cash cow) then there is no way NHL teams would agree to release their players.

The MLB doesn't need the Olympics. They were always more than content with sending teams of amatuers/minor leaguers to play. They would much rather develop the WBC into a World Cup type of competition. The NBA is also leaning this way. If Stern had his way, he would limit the age of participation in the Olympics to 23 like soccer and then develop a World Cup type of Basketball tournament.

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Thing is, he's half so a much more open target!

tmarie, I normally like your posts, but on this one I'm sorry. Xenophobic as japan may be, he's one of us, and I think fans will agree that Darvish is one athelete who can achieve more for Japanese pride in the longer run than one WBC. I'm still a bit torn for the fact that I always feel representing your country is a huge achievement and something to strive and place at the forefront. That said, I accept that a pitcher's arm is different in many ways to an outfielder or a football player. I'm proud that Darvish represents all that Japanese baseball players on the MLB stage and would keep rooting for him anyways.

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mrmiyagiNov. 09, 2012 - 01:38PM JST I get what you're saying, but it should be in Summer... if baseball is ever to return to the Olympics, it will require Major Leaguers... there's no reason why MLB can't extend the All-Star break another 10 days...

Majority of the owners really don't care about the WBC. MLB is a business and it doesn't generate revenue for them. With many of the long term, high-price contracts they have on these players, the owners prefer to minimize risk of injuries during the season. Heck, they rather get into the playoffs and the World Series where the owners can make tons of money. They can't making nothing on WBC, so what does it matter?

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Mag, I hope you're right. He hasn't always been treated fairly due to his background.

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Let the backlash begin. They're already setting him up as the scapegoat if they don't win. Particularly when the manager says in public; “I had counted on him as our key pitcher. I kind of feel at a loss.”

The WBC will never reach the level that MLB had envisioned as long as MLB players from the US participate. I always feel somehow that Japan's victories were somehow tainted by the lack of participation by all MLB players.

Japan only has itself to blame for their poor (awful) management of JPB, if they had done a better job players like Darvish would never have run to the MLB.

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