PHOENIX–Because it is one of the signature initiatives of his time as commissioner, it’s not surprising that Bud Selig is bullish on the World Baseball Classic.
But in an impromptu press conference during Friday night’s Mexico-U.S. game, Selig explained further what he hopes the WBC will bring to baseball. In his mind, it’s a step toward an eventual “true World Series.”
It may seem incongruous that Major League Baseball plays the World Series, when Japan has won the first two World Baseball Classics and the U.S. didn’t win either of the last two Olympic gold medals. In Selig’s mind, eventually the question of which team is the best in the world will be determined on the field.
“What is the final goal long after I’m gone? The thought of having a real world series and the interest in the world I can’t even imagine,” Selig said. “Yes, it has economic potential that is huge, but from a sociological standpoint that is greater.”
Selig elaborated, “Someday you get the United States vs. Japan as an example.”
He was talking about the champion of MLB taking on the champion from Nippon Professional Baseball. The WBC is where you could still see teams under the U.S. and Japan banners, and to Selig the World Baseball Classic is a big step toward that broader goal. As he sees it, interest in Europe, South America and Asia is growing because of the WBC, and whether it becomes a bigger deal in the U.S. seems incidental.
“The goal here is to internationalize the sport,” Selig said. “This is what we’re trying to do. In my judgment if we do it right, you won’t recognize the sport in a decade.
“We’ll look back on this in retrospect one day and we’ll see a sport that is legitimately a worldwide sport. Is this doing what we set out to do? You bet it is.”
Selig also added to speculation that baseball is done with the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee, which will consider this year whether to make baseball the one sport it is adding to the Olympic program, has made it clear it wants to see major league players involved. That’s a no go to Selig.
“We can’t stop our season in August for two and a half weeks. We can’t do it,” Selig said. “What do you do with the players who aren’t playing? We’d like to do it, but you can’t.”