GOODYEAR, ARIZ.: Fans and big-league personnel (read: managers and general managers) who complain about the World Baseball Classic usually focus on the timing of the tournament.
Their grievances most often include the following:
• In the United States (and other countries), it takes players away from spring training and can delay their readiness for the regular season.
• Or it forces players to compete at an intense level before they are prepared to do so.
• Or it creates the risk of injury (of course, players can just as easily get hurt in spring exhibition games) and lengthens spring training as a way of absorbing WBC participants back into the regimen of camp.
To all of these complaints, Major League Baseball has an answer: Suck it up and quit whining.
The quadrennial WBC isn’t going anywhere. MLB is trying to popularize the game worldwide, to open markets heretofore uninterested in baseball, creating new fans who will buy shirts and caps plus corporate sponsors who will purchase television time.
Do you think MLB will give this up just because it disrupts a small percentage of players’ spring-training schedules?
Keep in mind that holding the tournament in March is preferable to doing it after the season, when players are fatigued or still participating in the postseason.
Playing it before spring training would require players to start preparing for the event the day the regular season ends. Moreover how many fans would care about an international baseball event trying to horn in on the meat of the college and pro football seasons plus the beginning of the NHL and NBA schedules?
But there is one other solution: Conduct the WBC in the middle of the regular season. Put a hold on games for 2½ weeks (or for nine days in July and nine more in August). One problem with that scenario: The World Series would end just about the time folks are eating their pumpkin pie to wrap up Thanksgiving dinner. In addition, depending on the exact dates of the tournament, the All-Star Game might take a public relations hit.
Unless the regular season was shortened, something that should happen anyway.
I have proposed this before, but just in case you’re one of the 290 million people who missed it, here it is again.
• Start every season April 1.
• Schedule four day-night, separate-admission doubleheaders.
• Trim four games off the schedule, leaving 158.
If those rather simple, straightforward and innocuous policies were undertaken, the season would end Sept. 19. That leaves plenty of time for a multitiered postseason and even — every four years — the WBC.
There probably is no objection to the first provision, but the next two are considered fightin’ words to many owners, who don’t believe that day-night doubleheaders will draw and who refuse to even consider losing two home dates, which would account for less than 2½ percent of their game-day revenue.
But there are advantages, even economic advantages to shortening the schedule.
There would be fewer games in September, when school is in session and the temperature on many nights can be uncomfortable. A few more games would be squeezed into fan-friendly months.
Day-night doubleheaders as currently constituted are played only after a rainout. They are sudden additions to the schedule. If they were part of the regular season from the outset, there’s no reason why fans wouldn’t plan to attend either the day game, the night game or both.
Promotions tying both games together, discounted tickets to induce fans to stick around for both ends of the doubleheader or between-game promotions (I know, the ballpark has to be cleaned) could end up being a plus rather than a drag on revenue.
The networks probably would welcome postseason games that don’t compete with the heart of football season — either college or the NFL — and might be arm-twisted into increasing rights fees. And few things are as disconcerting to baseball fans as watching teams play in cold, rain or snow. Shouldn’t baseball’s showcase events be played in conditions that promote good play?
In years when the WBC isn’t being contested, the postseason would end before the World Series begins under the current schedule.
Why doesn’t baseball consider this or some other sensible method of addressing the length of the season, which could resolve several problems?
It would require change, and change is scary. Think about it. How long did it take you to quit asking for paper tickets from your favorite airline because you didn’t trust the electronic ones?
Earth to owners: It’s long past time to take your heads out of the sand.
It went largely unnoticed when the Tribe put reliever Rich Hill on the roster last week.
But Hill’s sudden inclusion on the 40-man list probably indicates that he will make the team as a matchup left-hander.
There’s no particular reason why Hill shouldn’t be on the roster. He posted a 1.83 ERA in 19⅔ innings (25 appearances) for the Boston Red Sox last year.
Now 33, Hill was a career starter until 2010 and underwent elbow reconstruction surgery in 2011.
Badge of honor
Apparently, undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery no longer is a something a player would withhold from his resume (if he could). In fact, it might be a positive attribute.
Of the 66 players who began spring training with the Indians, nine endured Tommy John elbow surgery. Moreover, the front office acquired five of these players knowing they had been damaged goods: Mike Aviles, Jerry Gil, Blake Wood, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hill.
Carlos Carrasco, Frank Herrmann, Chen-Chang Lee and Mike Tomlin went under the knife after they became Tribe property.
Cheap shot of the month
In an email from a reader, Beryl Vandersall of Tallmadge: The Tribe should consider making Ubaldo Jimenez the Opening Day pitcher — in Columbus.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.