I have to admit it - I am totally digging the World Baseball Classic. Ultimately, it is just a competitive version of spring training, but there is something appealing to seeing Derek Jeter next to David Wright on the same team.
It seems as though all of the competitors are really into it, as well. As I watch the US team pull away from the team from Venezuela, I see them taking extra bases, moving over runners, and all the other "little things" that make baseball such a wonderful game.
Typically, you only see that kind of play in the post season, but seeing it in March is very cool, and it is whetting my appetite for the start of the MLB season in April.
I understand that the timing of the tournament is not perfect as players are really only starting to get into game shape as they develop their timing. However, I also understand that there is no perfect time. If they waited until after the regular season, it would be anticlimactic. Holding the WBC during the all star break doesn't make any sense either, as it would diminish the midsummer classic that is the all star game.
I think the only way to really accept the WBC is to understand what it is about. It's about marketing and spreading baseball to countries that do not have a real big baseball heritage. For example, in this year's tourney is South Africa, Italy and the Netherlands. These teams aren't expected to go very far, but it is fun to watch them play. The power houses like the US and teams from the Caribbean are all made up of current and former big leaguers. Not so much the other teams.
But, in the end, it isn't about the players and where they come from. It is about the competition and the pure play of what I believe is the PERFECT game. It's about playing for pride the same way you see exceedingly wealthy players perform in the Olympics (baseball is no longer an Olympic sport, so the WBC is meant to replace that forum).
Ultimately, what I find most appealing is that you are watching some of the best in the world play - play for pride - their own and that for which they have in their country. And steroids or multimillion dollar contracts are not part of the discussion. That will return in a couple of weeks and then we can watch multimillionaire jerks just being Manny.
In the end, I'll be there, soaking it all in. I love this game.