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What a Classic bore

  • White Sox outfielder Alex Rios is playing for his native Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic this year. The U.S., on the other hand, has had a tough time getting its best players to participate. And that's no fun
White Sox outfielder Alex Rios is playing for his native Puerto Rico in the… (Al Bello / Getty Images )
March 13, 2013|By Ben Johnson | For RedEye

It's 2013, and that can only mean one thing. It means, uh … help me out. Oh that's right, the World Baseball Classic.

Remember? The World Cup-like March tournament that supplanted the Olympics as a way to have people play baseball for their country? The one Paul Konerko didn't seem to want to play in? They do it once every … two years? Four years?

OK, it's every four years. This is the third time it's happened. The first two were won by Japan. I did not know that. That is a clear signal that I'm not the only person not taking this event seriously. I don't mean to disparage, but there is no way the island nation of Japan can field the best baseball team in the world. Not even in a "they got hot when it mattered" way.

But hey, that was 2005 and 2009. This is 2013. More big-leaguers are playing this time. The competition is more fierce. The stakes are … well, the stakes are the same. One country still gets named "world champion" among players who are unconcerned enough with the injury risk and potential impact on their Major League Baseball salary that they're willing to put some high-tension miles on the tires in March. That's not nothing, but it's not everything either.

In a perfect world, everybody would participate. But then in that world we'd have a Team USA outfield of Mike Trout, Matt Kemp and Andrew McCutchen, and there would be no point in any other country even fielding a team. The US of A could win that tournament without an infield.

Instead we're treated to baseball's equivalent of March Madness: Passion abounds while the talent is questionable. I'm not against it, I'm just more excited for real baseball.

I will say this for the WBC: it's the only chance Cubs fans will have to root for a baseball team this year. That's one thing 2013 has going for it.

Ben Johnson is a comedian at iO Theater in Chicago. @itisbenjo

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