The Norman Transcript

National Sports

March 19, 2013

Behind in the count

NORMAN — Captain America used to be Derek Jeter. Now it’s David Wright, and he had been the star for Team USA until a rib strain ended his stay in the World Baseball Classic.

Wright said he could have played, but the New York Mets said no and demanded he go for tests. That is normal procedure, as Team USA is forced to honor all wishes of a player’s parent club.

Minus Wright, his teammates lost twice and went home. With the U.S. elimination went TV ratings in this country. It also opened a door to study the relevance of the WBC, at least in its current form.

Relevance, maybe. Or need — that may be a better question.

The WBC tournament, as we are led to believe, is designed to promote baseball throughout the world. Asian teams, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands get national TV coverage.

There are many human interest stories coming out of those clubs, whose players for the most part don’t compete in the majors, and this provides exposure to them and their passion for baseball.

In several cases, retired major league players and a couple Hall of Famers take roles as coaches for those countries. Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven and Mike Piazza all were involved in that way. This element of the WBC makes it relevant, but is it enough for baseball to need it?

What the world needs from Major League Baseball is not more high-profile competition — rather, its help at the grass-roots level, help forming youth leagues and getting kids interested through proper instruction.

Now, the big question: Why can’t the USA Dream Team walk through this tournament with ease?

Answer one, it’s not a Dream Team. And two, there are three Latino countries — the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela — with talent just as rich. But even they haven’t won it.

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