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What's with the WBC?

Not since the Bad News Bears travelled the globe to play the Japanese champions has international baseball caused so much grief (besides their spanking at the hands of the scrappy Mexican squad ).

Hideki Matsui. became the second high profile Yankee to officially decline to play in this spring's World Baseball Classic even though he was invited personally by Japan's Babe Ruth Sadaharu Oh.

Matsui follows Alex Rodriguez in declining an invitation. A-Rod, though raised a lot of eyebrows by showing interest in playing for the Dominican Republic. He chose to sit the tournament out rather than choose between the D.R. and the U.S. The stateside rumor mill has George Steinbrenner urging his players not to take part in this extra-curricular activity. The official word from the Yankees is that there as been no pressure as evidenced by Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, and Robinson Cano's commitment to play for the WBC. The Yanks had successfully petitioned for the restriction of Jorge Posada from joining the Puerto Rican team and is working to prevent Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina from playing.

There was more controversy when the Eliot Ness-less Treasury Department refused to allow a Cuban National Team to be formed even by expatriates now living in America. MLB and MLBPAA officials have recently reapplied for Cuban participation.

The World Baseball Classic is in its first year and its impact on the sport overall is a mystery right now. Since baseball is being removed from the Summer Olympic roster this is the only opportunity to see international Baseball competition. On the other hand, the world's greatest players already stock the rosters of Major League Baseball. March is usually the first yawn and stretch out of a winter baseball hibernation. The C out in WBC implies a level beyond where many players' expect to be at that time of year.

Part of the tournament is taking place down the I-5 from me at Anaheim Stadium *wretch* but I don't feel any passion or excitement at the prospects of going to a game. Much like my youthful ennui of going to a WNBA, WLAF, IFL, or XFL event, I shrug my shoulders at sitting in a half empty ballpark watching my favorite players playing a meaningless tournament with a majority of not- ready-for-the-big-leagues "talent" in an ersatz "championship". Sure there are some undiscovered gems in other contries and there will be much celebrating by the winners of the tourney, but who cares? Really?

And if, God forbid, a big time star gets injured that will be the last of this tournament. Not a single team will allow their players to step foot on the diamond of a WBC game. For me the curiosity level ranks up there with alpine skiing on ABC's WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS only here the potential for an injury and the agony of defeat far outweighs any thrill of victory.