Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Building Credibility for World Baseball Classic
IKEI Masaru / Professor Emeritus of Keio University

March 28, 2006
The first World Baseball Classic tournament ended with Japan's victory. Ascending to the top in an event deciding the world's No.1 in baseball was a truly remarkable feat that gripped the entire nation in excitement.

Even so, the event did leave many issues to be addressed. Let me start with the timing. March leaves little time before the opening of the professional baseball season, and many Major Leaguers did not take part in the tournament due to their conditioning needs. After much contemplation, Matsui Hideki of the Yankees, who was expected to play fourth batter for Japan, decided not to participate, and so did Iguchi Tadahito of the White Sox. For Americans, March is also when excitement mounts over the final stages of the college and professional basketball leagues. Basketball captured more attention among sports fans in America than the WBC games.

Then there was the selection of umpires. Misjudgments made in the Japan-America and Mexico-America matches not only turned spectators off, but also cast doubt over the appropriateness of allowing American umpires preside over matches involving the American team. That they were not all active MLB umpires was not exactly convincing either. In future, umpires should be selected from a third country whose team is not involved in the match they preside over.

The rules and combination of matches were also complicated. The number of pitches a pitcher could throw was limited to 65 pitches in Round 1, 80 in Round 2 and 95 in the Semifinal and Final matches. The scoring system made it difficult to figure out whether or not a team could progress to the next game. Despite losing twice to South Korea in Round 1 and Round 2, Japan managed to reach the Semifinals due to Mexico's subsequent 2-1 victory over America, and went on to the Final match after beating South Korea in its third attempt. It was because of these complicated rules that Japan and South Korea ended up playing each other three times and South Koreans were left with a lingering sense of frustration.

Finally, sponsored by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, WBC was led by American initiative. Events such as the Olympics and World Cup soccer take place under the auspices of organizations that oversee participating countries and regions - namely the International Olympic Committee and the Federation of International Football Associations - based on universal rules. In contrast, the WBC often gave off the impression of lacking uniformity and being America-oriented. For example, the American national anthem was performed as a rule, even before the Japan-South Korea and Japan-Mexico matches that did not involve America, in addition to the national anthems of the countries represented in the match. Having made such arrangements, the biggest miscalculation on the part of the Americans was seeing their team drop out in Round 2.

It is common knowledge that baseball will be excluded from the 2012 London Olympics. Officials involved perhaps hoped WBC would transform baseball into a global sports event comparable to World Cup soccer. However, problems will persist unless the above-mentioned points are resolved. As the first champion country, Japan should actively speak up for the future development of WBC.

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Keio University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

池井 優 / 慶應義塾大学名誉教授

2006年 3月 28日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Building Credibility for World Baseball Classic