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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Winning Isn’t Everything…But It Would Be Nice

This time, it counts.

Or so says the members of the United States World Baseball Classic team. And do you know what’s refreshing?

I believe them.

Considering that most Americans haven’t supported the WBC as its creators hoped, and that most major league teams don’t want their players competing, it’s great to see that the players on the American team haven’t lost interest. Whether their reasons be patriotic or competitive, guys like Chipper Jones are genuinely motivated to compete for a United States world title.

“You know, the guys that are here want to be here,” Jones told ESPN’s Jayson Stark. “They want to play in it, and they want to win it. But I just don’t see how you can pass this opportunity up.”

The opportunity to shine on a global level should be a selling point for American athletes, who have been maligned in recent times. Every time a player gets a DUI, arrested, or goes all Stephon Marbury/Terrell Owens/Gary Sheffield on a team, the whole world hears about it. And in the international spotlight, the U.S. hasn’t fared well lately. Sure, our Redeem Team captured gold in basketball in Beijing and Michael Phelps smoked the Olympic competition in the pool [and out of it -EIC]. But what about the rest of the American athletes?

In a word: apathetic. It seems that today’s ego-driven athlete is focused on his money, his health and his image. You’ll notice that “team” is not prominently featured in that sentence. However, these baseball players are different. They’re committed to each other, the game, the tournament, and to a degree, the whole United States.

“I didn’t sign up for this thing to compete. I signed up to play to win,” Padres ace Jake Peavy said. “And I think the rest of these guys will tell you the same thing. If we don’t make it to Dodger Stadium, if we’re not holding the trophy, I say it’s a failure on our end.”

The team is built to be holding a trophy in Chavez Ravine. Avoiding building an all-star team a la the Yankees, U.S. manager Davey Johnson and the WBC baseball braintrust have assembled a team built to win baseball games. They have top-notch leaders (Jones and Derek Jeter), power (Adam Dunn), tough outs (Dustin Pedroia), speed (Curtis Granderson), and a bullpen not made of all-star closers but relievers who will comfortable in their familiar roles as situational pitchers (Brad Ziegler and Matt Thornton). Instead of swinging for the fences, this team will play baseball the right way.

But will anyone notice? America has not warmed to the WBC yet, despite title games in the United States. Internationally, the WBC is gaining interest worldwide, as major leaguers like Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan) and Justin Morneau (Canada) have returned to their native lands to compete for home nation pride. The United States players believe that winning will drum up support, and this columnist thinks that’s true.

Take U.S. swimming, for example. Before Phelps, people swam to not die. Now, young Americans are flocking to the pool to become the next face of the Weedies…er, Wheaties box.

When and if this U.S. team captures the gold, the championship will mean something to the fans – but for once, it will mean even more to the players.