Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Who You Calling Ugly?
2006-01-04 08:28
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Murray Chass characterizes the Yankees as the designated "Ugly Americans" when it comes to the upcoming WBC games. In the end, more Yankees will probably participate than originally expected--Alex Rodriguez will be there when all is said and done. Still, if it were up to me, I'd be the ugliest of 'em all, and keep all the Yankees from participating, Scrooge that I am. I recognize there is a lot of National pride invovled for the players. But man, how upset will we be if one of the Bombers--or anyone else for that matter--screws up his season with an injury that stems from these games?

2006-01-04 09:01:14
1.   uburoisc
There is only one series that matters in baseball. The WBC should be a showcase for foreign and minor league talent to get noticed by MLB. If I were an owner, I'd place a clause in every contract prohibiting my players from playing in any games outside MLB. Chass is trying to guilt players into risking injury for a PR contest.
2006-01-04 09:01:55
2.   Knuckles
My thoughts...

Much of the world comes to an absolute standstill when the soccer World Cup is on I don't think baseball generates enough of a national fervor in enough countries to justify staging a "World Cup" solely for baseball. The IOC apparently thinks baseball is not even widespread enough to warrant being a medal sport anymore, which is fine by me, if you look at the sport in the grander scheme of things. That new void does not have to be artificially filled, at a crazily inopportune time of year, by MLB in a cheap attempt at marketing the game.

The sixteen countries participating already care about baseball, and in March they are reading their papers in great antipication of how their favorte players and teams are shaping up for the new season. People outside of these countries won't be saying, "Hey looka that baseball tournament, awesome. I wanna play some baseball." I understand that we in the US are the beneficiaries of other nations' baseball exports, but that doesn't mean we should feel obligated to stage a contrived event to 'give back' to those whose best players are toiling on our soil.

Finally, while I do believe there is great honor in playing for one's country, leaving Spring Training and going to play games for a few weeks with people who are going to be your opponents for the next several months pales in comparison to sending a group of 20 year olds to a place like Sydney to live amongst the greatest athletes in the world for a few weeks and experience the Olympic atmosphere.

I hope this "Classic" bombs, and bombs badly. And I hope the front line starting pitcher that develops a dead arm in June because of it is on the Sox/Sox/Angels, and not the Yankees.

2006-01-04 09:40:58
3.   Count Zero
Couldn't agree more. Just another one of those money-grubbing Selig decisions that show a total lack of respect for the greatest sport in the world.

Everyone should make a concerted effort to boycott this thing so that it does bomb as badly as possible.

2006-01-04 09:51:51
4.   jdsarduy
Of course, Murray as never played baseball and doesn't know the toll that a whole season takes on the body and mind, no matter how much they get paid.

No disrespect to Murray but I don't think sitting by his computer thinking of ways to criticize the Yanks is as grueling as playing over 162 games a year.

We hear all these things about the Yanks age and how fragile they are, now the Yanks get criticized for resting their old bones a bit. You're dammed if you do and your dammed if you don't.

If the man that pays your hefty salary doesn't want you to engage in activity that could cause you injury, I would have to respect his wishes.

Murray Chass isn't in that situation, and he seems to have a problem empathizing with the people he writes about.

And God forbid one of our brittle Yanks get hurt, didn't we have enough injuries last season.
Seems as if Murray just needs something to fill his column with, and writing about the Yanks good or bad always sells papers.

2006-01-04 09:55:12
5.   Mike K
Every point made thus far has been a good one, and I agree whole heartedly.

I'd be concerned about the pitchers participating in the WBC as well. In the spring Pitchers have a routine they go through to get their arms in regular season form. It takes weeks. Now I don't know how far along in this routine pitchers usually are by the time the WBC is scheduled to take place, but I'd be concerned that some pitchers push themselves too far because of national pride.

2006-01-04 10:19:46
6.   gattling
"Hear, hear" to all of the above.

You know what bugs me about this article? Chass brings up Steinbrenner's previous involvement in the Olympics to point out his supposed hypocrisy. However, Steinbrenner's support of the Olympics was directed at AMATEUR athletes, for whom this type of international competition means significantly more in terms of national pride and prestige.

The MLB players are professional employees of their teams and, as such, have one objective that should supercede all others.

For example, every year someone writes an article around July or August about the wear and tear on Mariano, how he's not getting any younger (name me one human who is, but that's beside the point), and how Torre's overusing him. So here's a good idea: let's have him pitch a bunch of innings in a contrived and meaningless exhibition tournament before the season even starts, and totally screw up his preseason routine.

2006-01-04 11:03:23
7.   rsmith51
Does anyone else think that Matsui should end his consecutive game streak? I think that streaks often force players to play injured. I can almost guarantee that Ripken was injured in 1992, but played anyway and was pretty bad by his standards. I think he(and his team) would have been better off if he took off 3-4 games a year. Once you reach 31-32, consecutive streaks are counter productive, perhaps before.

Still impressive, however.

2006-01-04 11:16:05
8.   susan mullen
Mr. Chass is desperate or lazy to have
put together an entire article appealing to
hatred. The real issues aren't these
choppy statements about the players in vile &
hateful language. It's that this Classic, if
played at all, should be after the season. This
so-called reporter addresses none of the real
problems, which are huge. He should be put out
to pasture, or eliminated in the next round of
NY Times layoffs due to falling readership.
2006-01-04 11:23:39
9.   jedi
Don't understand why Matsui wants it intact anyways. It will always have an asterisk by the record saying a portion of it was in the japanese league. Even if he breaks any kind consective innings record and the public accepts it, i think its kind of stupid when one of those games to keep it intact, was a crummy 5 second substitution in the 9th inning. Please don't tell me Cal did that too!!! =O
2006-01-04 11:45:26
10.   JL25and3
I don't think Ripken did anything like that, but Lou Gehrig did. In 1934 he had to leave a game early because of a lumbago attack. The next day he was still hurting, so Joe McCarthy put him in the lineup as the shortstop and leadoff hitter. Gehrig singled in the top of the first, and McCarthy promptly sent in Red Rolfe to pinch run, giving Gehrig the rest of the day off. You could look it up.
2006-01-04 11:56:07
11.   monkeyball
It's one thing to object to the idea of the WBC. It's another thing, once the tournament has been agreed upon, to pressure your players not to compete, or to try to game the system to get your players taken off the roster against their will.

I'm a Yankee fan, and I think Chass is overreacting. But I'm sure the Yankees and all of baseball would pitch a fit if the next time the All Star game is played in the Bronx, the rest of the stars decided they weren't feeling up to making the trip.

2006-01-04 12:13:41
12.   Levy2020
I like the WBC. It's like an extra All-Star game except instead of the bizarre "It Matters" of World Series tie break, the players have an incentive to play. Would it be better if it were after the World Series if the the World Series teams were exempt? Therefore the players could recover from all of these injuries people are worrying about?

I don't buy this whole "injury" thing. They really just happen. Look at Aaron Boone.

2006-01-04 12:23:59
13.   yankz
I don't think the All-Star game analogy is fitting. The All-Star game is a few INNINGS of one game, in the middle of the season. The players have already been in the swing of things for months, and they're still representing their teams, not their nations.

I don't even think a Spring Training analogy is fitting. Spring Training is much more low-key, gradual, and less tiring. Derek Jeter will play nine innings for many games, which he wouldn't do if he was in Tampa.

I'm with the majority of posters, I don't like the WBC. If Jeter dislocates his shoulder (like he did on opening day that one year) so that MLB can gain an extra fan in Europe, I'm going to be livid.

2006-01-04 12:45:08
14.   lpdigit
Interesting points, although I must say I disagree with most of them.

Steinbrenner has the right, as most other employers have, to prevent an employee from rendering similar services to other causes. It's his (and his partners') financial investment and he has a right and an obligation to protect it. But no one in this discussion has such a financial stake.

I think it's extraordinarily lame to want to hold the best players back from competing just to save them for another form of competition. While I've been a Yankee fan for most of my life, I'm a Yankee fan because I'm a BASEBALL FAN. The game came before any team allegiances. And any true fan of the game and its history would never want to NOT see a baseball game played with the best players on the field.

And from most athletes' perspectives: a ball player plays ball. If someone is afraid to play because they might get hurt, then they need to retire and get a desk job somewhere. If a player can't play today because he has to rest for next week then maybe that guy is just too old to play. We're talking about two weeks during a period where they'd be playing anyway. Moreover, if everyone were compelled to play the risk would be spread relatively evenly over the league – relatively being the key word.

I also don't see fans raising this kind of stink over winter leagues. Owners do, but fans, for some odd reason, couldn't give a darn. Where's your outrage over certain marquis players playing in the Caribbean over the winter? And the really lame thing is that we're only talking about TWO WEEKS during a time when they'd be playing anyway. If you want to have the games played after the season instead of before, fine.

Lastly, "meaningless exhibition" has been used in this discussion as if it were a point, in and of itself. "Meaningless" is probably one of the most relative terms out there. What's meaningless to an American could mean the world to a Dominican. So don't say something is meaningless to everyone when you're only speaking for yourself.

There was a lot of arrogance earlier in this discussion, given that some feel the tournament should be a showcase for "foreign and minor league talent" – as if the foreign talent is inferior to American talent (the best American athletes don't even play baseball anymore – wake up). I really think typical American fear is at work here. The real fear is that by drawing the lines internationally, America will lose ownership over baseball, much in the way we no longer dominate the game of basketball – due to international exposure and competition. If you take one look at what the ideal Dominican Republic lineup could be, it's obvious we no longer hold all the cards.

And remember, the World Series started out as a "meaningless exhibition" and a "PR contest" designed purely to attract more fans to the game and more money in owners' pockets – and now it's the "one series that matters".

2006-01-04 12:45:39
15.   Mike K
I know there will be a pitch count for pitchers participating in the WBC. Is there going to be a similar rule for the number of innings position players are allowed to play?
2006-01-04 13:04:52
16.   Dr V
I disagree with all this WBC bashing. I love watching baseball, so the fact that there is going to be more baseball to watch this year makes me very excited. That's the main point for me.

What if the WBC generates anywhere close to the same fervor and interest that the World Cup does? That could lead to more countries being involved, and more games that people world wide would be interested in watching. That sounds wonderful to me.

Its a long season and we're talking about 8 extra games here (for the finals teams). I'd hope the players could handle getting physically ready for them. Any injury that might happen could just as easily happen in the first 8 games of the regular season.

2006-01-04 13:29:22
17.   Murray
I agree with Alex. I'm not sure why sports nationalism is such a great thing.
2006-01-04 13:30:42
18.   Simone
A-Rod's reversal about play in the WBC is one of the main reason that he rubs me the wrong way. I thought the reason that he wasn't playing was that he didn't want to offend the people of either country? So now he doesn't mind offending the DR? What was all the BS he was spewing about being torn? Just make a decision. He needs to grow a backbone.
2006-01-04 13:42:02
19.   Murray
Also, the U.S. "dominates" baseball in a very real sense: the best players in the world come here to play because the US has the best league and the one that offers the greatest financial opportunities to players. Now, not all the best players play here, but most of them do, just as most of the best basketball players in the world play in the NBA, regardless of where they were born. It is a testament to the type of country this is that we don't care whether players come from San Pedro, CA or San Pedro de Macoris.

One more thing: Other than half-asleep sportswriters, who cares whether the best athletes in the world play baseball?
If we are discussing athletes of 80-100 years ago, then the best ones in the world were probably boxers. Is it tragic that boxing doesn't attract the best athletes any more? 2,000 years ago, people used to pack the Colosseum for gladiator bouts. Is it tragic that this is no longer a popular pastime? So why is baseball always being asked to apologize for itself?

2006-01-04 13:49:10
20.   Mike K


2)Agreed, except to say that the WBC will hurt the game because of the risk of injury/fatigue associated with it. When you watch a baseball game you want to see players/a team performing at their best. So, the have a WBC you'd want (as I would) to see the best players performing to the maximum of their capabilities. You'd want to see Johan Santana pitch all out, and Jeter running from first to third as hard as he can. Otherwise, whats the point? If these guys are just going to half-ass it, then how is this anything but a farce? And if they go all out, one has to open themselves up to a risk of injury/regular season fatigue. Is it really better for the GAME if Johan Santana pitches will in the WBC, but then has to shut it down in August because he has a dead arm or something? I HAVE to think the game suffers to some degree.

3) These guys are human, not machines. They may be playing anyway but spring training is used for condition and getting into regular season form. Players play a couple of innings, pitchers are on pitch counts. Sometimes they wont use a certain pitch because they havent worked on it. Sometimes they will use a pitch more because they ARE working on it. So if they play on the same level they play in spring training, then the WBC agian becomes a farce because they arent playing at their full capability. If Pujuls hits a home run off Santana, one would have to think "Was Santana realy trying to get him out, or was he holding something back that allowed that home run?" And if thats the case, how can someone who truely loves the game take it seriously?

4)The Winter leagues take place between November and January. So players still have time to rest before spring training. Thus the fatigue factor is limited. Also, a lot of good players dont participate in these leagues.

5)Fair enough. I think everyone who has posted such things is speaking for their own opinion.

6)I think its been obvious for years that Central/South American countries produce much better baseball players than those in the states.

To me, the only way I could support the WBC is if players put the same amount of effort into it as they would a Spring Training game. And if thats the case, then the whole prospect of "what country has better baseball players" becomes dilluted because no player is really giving 100%. Its a paradox that just leaves me completely disinterested.

DR V -

1) Valid.

2) I could agree with that, except for the face that a large majority of the games are being played in the US! Not only that, the games that arent played in the US are being played in Japan (which has its own major league) and Puerto Rico, which had the Expos for a year. So none of these countries is baseball deprived. No one going to these games is going to be foreign to baseball.

I have no idea how these games will be broadcast, but do many Italians really know who Mike Piazza is? He might as well be another player from the Italian Olympic baseball team of years past. So I dont know how exactly it will cause Italians, or South Africans, or whom ever to become more excited about baseball. I think you fall in love with the game itself, not the big names playing it.
Personally, I dont follow soccer. If you threw David Beckham on a field with a bunch of other really great soccer players and go "these guys are really good", my resposne would be, "I bet they are, I just dont care much for soccer".

2006-01-04 14:09:38
21.   yankz
Mike K, that was excellent.
2006-01-04 14:14:48
22.   jdsarduy
14. lpdigit

You said "nobody in here has a has such a financial stake."
Of course you couldn't be more wrong. How do you think George gets most of the money to pay these players? From all the horse races he wins? No, from the fans. That pay season tickets, pay to see games, pay for YES etc....

I don't think it has anything to do with "American Fear."
Most of us don't care where these guys are from as long as they put up good numbers in a Yankee uniform.

I think Jeter and especially Damon would feel awful if they get hurt during these WBC games and miss the season. As matter of fact some of these ball players might even have it in their contact. If they get hurt from something other than spring training and regular season games, they might get hit in their pockets.

The point is, if they don't want to do it then they don't have to and if George wants to deny them then he has a right to.

These guys are not machines, over 162 games a year isn't a cake walk, if they feel this will tire them out or take them away from their goal, then nobody can say different.

2006-01-04 14:20:38
23.   Murray
Remember that Steinbrenner also feels that he's constantly getting screwed by the league office and the other owners. Don't you think it's possible that Steinbrenner wants to keep his players out of the WBC because it's something the other owners and the Commissioner favored? Remember that in Matsui, Rodriguez and Rivera, Steinbrenner has the biggest stars from three different countries on his team.
2006-01-04 16:00:10
24.   uburoisc

It is not that foreign talent is inferior, but that MLB is the league where almost all the best players will go to play--just as the NBA is the magnet for international players. Also, few other baseball playing countries in any geographical proximity have the cash to field a competitive team.

As with some other posts, I also fail to get the preoccupation with national teams and play--it is a relic of the past, and as phony as the modern Olympics. I feel the whole hype about "international competition" is just lowgrade manipulation; I'm supposed to care because of the media PR, but I don't. It's another reenactment of Wm. James's "The Moral Equivalent of War," and it doesn't work.

2006-01-04 16:32:36
25.   uburoisc
One other thing. The WBC may be important for a Dominican, but mainly because it will draw the attention of the ML scouts, and hopefully translate into a ML contract. I can't speak for all DR players, but I would suspect most of them would rather get picked up by the Yanks than play for national pride.
2006-01-04 17:11:24
26.   gattling
Mike K (#20) said it well for me.

lpdigit (#14): I thought it was understood that when I called the WBC "meaningless", it was short for "I think the WBC is meaningless". I never meant to imply that the WBC had no meaning for anyone. Clearly, the WBC has meaning for some very important people, as the WBC is actually going to take place, despite my lowly opinions.

I dunno, "American fear" (xenophobia?) seems like a bit of a stretch to me. How could one watch the game of baseball today and not appreciate what a truly international game it is? Look at the birthplaces of the members of each MLB roster. Just because those rosters aren't sorted by the "nation" column doesn't make the game any less international.

2006-01-05 05:21:20
27.   singledd
Manny being an Asshole... oooops... being Manny:
"but Ramirez' desire for a two-year contract extension makes an already complicated transaction even messier....... Ramirez' is guaranteed $57 million over the next three seasons but he wants the remaining two years, currently option years worth $20 million apiece, to be guaranteed by any team acquiring him."

That's right. This guy who is begging for a trade... a trade he knows is difficult because of the $amount of his EXISTING contract.... a guy who (will have made by the end of his contract) has banked close to $200 million on baseball.... wants to be guaranteed $20mil/yr when he is over 35.

Does greed and/or stupidity know no bounds?

2006-01-05 05:55:16
28.   The Mick 536
Just Murray being Murray. Remember the source. Starts off the Yankee bashing with an off handed, off topic reference to the banning of Cuba. So much for internationalism. They play in the Olympics, don't they?

Major League baseball needs to right itself, dealing with the dimunition of talent in some of the small market teams. Let's see the players whose names and skills we don't know. Save our boys for the Long Season.

I hear that the Yankees are long in tooth. The less they play the stronger they will be when the real season beging.I have enough trouble watching Spring Training.

Besides, this nationalism is for the birds. This ain't the Davis cup. Just what I need. "Here's the pitch. The Panamanian takes ball one." "A slow dribbler up the third base line, the Puerto Rican stares at it hoping it will go foul." "Dominica's pitcher looks tired."

I'll watch, but I won't root.

2006-01-05 14:18:40
29.   DarrenF
Murray Chass is writing about the Biggest Team in the Biggest Paper in the Biggest City. You'd think he'd understand why the Yankees always put themselves first, even at the expense of others. He got to the NYT at the expense of some guy who's writing obituaries for the Dubuque Advertiser.

I actually feel dumb using my time and energy discussing the WBC. Nobody cares about the WBC and I don't know a single Yankee fan who wants to see any Yankee player risk injury.

Ugly is not forbidding your players from participating in the WBC. Ugly is ten games under .500 and ARod on the DL.

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