Thursday, 16 March 2006

Bush-league umpiring

Matthew Shugart has the goods on the most recent example of the World Baseball Classic’s most glaring weakness (besides the lack of live English-language television coverage for most of the games)—the horrible officiating.

Incidentally, for all the discussion of how embarrasing it would be for the U.S. to not win this tournament, consider that (a) the British invented virtually every individual and international team sport, and they now suck at almost all of them (the English Premier League in soccer is the world’s best club league, but the English national team is just one of a half-dozen elite teams in European soccer; the cricket and rugby teams routinely get their butts whipped; British people never win Wimbledon), and (b) it’d probably be more embarrasing for Japan to not make the semi-finals than it would be for the U.S.—baseball is pretty much the only major sport Japan is good at on the international stage.

Speaking of soccer, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the U.S. win a World Cup within 30 years. I think the current world #5 ranking is probably a bit high, but the ascent to the U.S. team from nowhere to the top dozen in the world in the past 20 years has got to be one of the most meteoric rises in the history of the sport. Consider that in the 1986 World Cup, North America (CONCACAF) was represented by the host team Mexico, who did not have to qualify, and Canada; the latter team was a motley collection of indoor-league and ex-NASL players. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that the U.S. will win a World Cup before England’s next win.

1 comment:

Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

I really hope MLB looks at some of the criticism that has been levelled at the WBC because the games (for the most part) have been great. With a little more effort on their part (eg: decent umpires, perhaps better timing) it could be even better the next time (though, I wonder what would happen were Cuba to win this weekend.)

I do take issue with your comments about US soccer. I agree that they have been tremendously successful in their rise up the international rankings. However, their current status is more than a “bit” too high. They are grossly overrated in this regard. The problem is one that many critics of the FIFA rankings have noted. This is not just a case of bashing the US either – the fact that Iran and Egypt are in the top twenty ahead of Poland and Germany (!) is simply bizarre.

You may be right about the US winning a World Cup but they face a significant problem in doing that at the moment – they only really get to play top class international matches every four years, whereas European teams play the European Cup in between World Cups. This probably hurts the US team in terms of being able to develop the consistency necessary to win a World Cup

I think this explains the United States’s elevated ranking as well. In CONCACAF now the competition is essentially between the US and Mexico with other countries fighting it out for third place (this time Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago.) thus the US and Mexico can rack up wins and thus boost the rankings (and yes Mexico is also grossly overrated.)

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