Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In Which I Actually Blog About Sports

I’m not much of a sports fan. I didn’t watch a single game of the World Baseball Classic. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that the U.S. team lost miserably. I actually think it’s kind of funny, given that no non-U.S. teams (other than Toronto) are even eligible to win the so-called World Series. My national pride, such as it is, is not wrapped up in the outcome of a sports event.

Still...

What on earth would make people think the best American baseball team will consist of a kludged-together cast of stars? A team is more than the sum of its members; it is also the complementarity of the parts, the routines they have honed together, the instincts they have about each other, the trust that has developed among them, and so on. I’ll bet any World Series contender from the last five years would have done a better job than the hodgepodge team actually fielded. Is there anyone who’s more excited about the annual All-Star Game than the World Series? The same criticism applies to the Olympics, the World Cup, and every other international competition that operates by cobbling together event-specific teams instead of selecting among existing teams.

This is not an excuse for the U.S. team’s performance, of course, because (I presume) all the other countries’ teams were formed the same way. It’s a criticism of how the whole competition was conceived and executed.

6 comments:

Trent said...

This criticism might apply to football or basketball more appropriately. Baseball, compared to other team sports, is more like a sum of individual match-ups. There is relatively little team cooperation of much consequence.

Glen Whitman said...

Relatively speaking you're probably right, though bigger baseball fans would probably beg to differ. Certainly there's plenty of cooperation on defense; less so on offense.

iamamish said...

WOW. I'm a huge baseball fan, but I've got to agree w/ Trent. In fact, I submit that that's exactly why stats nuts love baseball so much - the outcomes are almost completely reducible to the performances of the individual players. Baseball is not a team sport; it's simply an amalgamation of many individuals' efforts.

Trent said...

Uh, I'm a huge baseball fan, and I agree with myself. And iamamish is absolutely right - there is little noise in baseball statistics precisely becuase all the event can be individualized.

And most of defense, probably two thirds of the value, is from the pitcher's individual actions.

OldManL1 said...

The biggest reason the U.S. lost is because we failed to field our best players. This is in part because some of our players played for other countries, for instance Andruw Jones played for The Netherlands. And many of our best players simply chose not to participate.

I don't know for a fact, but I susupect that other nations did a better job of fielding their best. The history of World Cup soccer, which is HUGE in most countries and virtually meaningless in the U.S. results in other nations having a greater passion for national sports teams than the U.S.

Jonathan said...

What makes Andruw Jones ours? It's like World Soccer. There are plenty of excellent English teams with very few English players. It doesn't make their fans any less rabid. But neither does it answer the question: which country produces the best baseball players? At best, it answers the question: which country employs the best baseball players... a very different question...