Column: WBC would flourish at right time

If the WBC were moved to January, it would gain more popularity.

The World Baseball Classic looks like a good idea on paper, but no one is watching. Not a lot of Americans seem to care. Sadly enough, it's almost like it receives the same treatment soccer gets, even though baseball is supposed to be "America's Pastime." Several factors play into the WBC's unpopularity, the primary problems being a lack of major TV coverage, the lack of marquis players and the poor timing of the event.

The WBC is a great idea. What baseball fan wouldn't enjoy watching powerhouses, such as the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba and Japan square off? Add in surprises such as the Netherlands and this tournament has serious potential. So what's holding it back?

First of all, too many of the games are only shown on ESPN Deportes. Not a lot of people get this channel. The games are pushed off ESPN and ESPN2 in favor of college basketball games (which most people would rather watch at this time of year anyway).

Another problem with the Classic is not enough big name players play in it. This year, for example, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and many other star players elected not to participate. Then Alex Rodriguez had to back out because of an injury.

It's not that these stars don't want to play. It just interferes too much with their regular schedule. If the tournament were in January, the players would have a month and a half to recover after the MLB season ends. Then, after the WBC, the players would have another month of rest before reporting for spring training. I think the players would enjoy this setup a lot more.

And that's the biggest issue with the World Baseball Classic -- the timing of it. It is played during spring training, and this causes a lot of players to opt against the tournament and prepare their bodies for the long MLB regular season instead.

If the tournament started in January, it would be a lot more popular. Have the games played during the week, with Sundays off because of the NFL playoff games. Most fans get sick of hearing about the weekend's NFL playoff games by Monday afternoon. The WBC would provide a welcome break from this.

No one wants to watch baseball now, with March Madness about to go into full swing. But during most of January, the best college basketball teams are playing their weak non-conference schedules. It would be the perfect time for television to take advantage of the WBC's high level of competition for ratings purposes.

In order to have the tournament in January, the cold weather host sites would have to be eliminated (sorry Canada). But with first round games in places, such as Puerto Rico, Miami, San Diego, Australia and even South Africa, enough fans would show up to make the tournament profitable.

If TV executives and the leaders of the World Baseball Classic make these changes, the tournament will flourish. The WBC is still a new thing (this is only the second time it has been played), so there is still enough time to fix it before it gets canceled all together. It would be a shame for such a good idea to go to waste.

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