Major League Baseball hasn’t been secretive about its desire to expand the sport’s fanbase. It remains to be seen if (or how) Rob Manfred’s new pace-of-play rules will have any effect, but the World Baseball Classic has been a rousing success. And it comes just months after the most-watched World Series in years.
With at least two things trending in the right direction, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a wacky thought that would combine those two things, and he shared it with the media on Saturday: why not have a true “world” series once every four years, where the current World Series champions play the WBC champs in a three-game series?
Two championship teams playing each other is an interesting idea. They’d need to come up with a special name for this game or series, and a special name necessitates a special trophy as well. But this is an easy way for MLB and the WBC to come together and combine their powers: team pride and country pride. And as Maddon told Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, it’s exactly how he wants his players starting the regular season.
“From a competitive perspective, with guys in shape [late in camp], I think that would be very interesting,” Maddon said. “You want your players amped up at that point, anyway.”
There is, of course, one glaring problem with this idea, and Castrovince pointed it out in his column. What about players who are on both teams? Javy Baez is the only Cubs player who would have that quandary this year, but if Puerto Rico wins the WBC, who would he play for in this imaginary tournament: Puerto Rico or the World Champion Cubs? He’s been a vital part of both teams. There’s no easy way to make that decision short of a coin flip, and that doesn’t seem very fair. Making the player decide would be even crueler, since he’d have to decide between playing for the team with which he recently won the World Series, or playing with the team that represents his country. There isn’t a player alive who wants to make that decision.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer also poked holes in Maddon’s idea when he spoke to Castrovince.
“You want your own guys back, playing for you,” he said. “We should be as a group by now. [The Classic] ends about the right time where guys need to get back and start playing for their own team. If it goes too long, it kind of hurts them.”
Of course, Maddon was just spitballing, tossing out a random idea he’d had in his head. This isn’t a serious proposal that MLB is looking at. But sometimes good ideas start with just a small kernel of interestingness, and Maddon’s idea certainly has that. With the WBC so popular and so exciting this year, I’m sure MLB and the World Baseball and Softball Confederation will be looking for ways to capitalize on that. Who knows what we’ll see in 2021 during the next World Baseball Classic.
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