I had an interesting twitter exchange Saturday morning with ESPN’s Buster Olney. It is challenging to have any substantive discussion in 140 characters or less, especially when trying to include some of the previous tweet for context, but it does require one to be succinct. This is how it went.
What I did not realize until we got into the discussion is that apparently MLB is wearing the black hat.
Olney commented that until WBC games are free to attend and have no advertising, players/teams should not be criticized for not wanting to participate.
I pointed out the fact that international baseball benefits from the tourney proceeds.
Background point: According to MLB’s information (which of course could be slanted), from the proceeds of the 2009 WBC, a prize pool of $14 million was distributed to the teams. Another $15 million went to the participating federations and the International Baseball Federation.
Olney asked me if I thought MLB would allow moving the WBC to summer, which is when he believes would be the optimal time to hold the tourney.
I replied no, that charity has its limits.
Background point: The disruption to the Major League season by a summer WBC would be considerable. I am not as sure as he is that summer would be the ideal for MLB, the Japanese and Korean leagues or anyone else involved. Sure, MLB owners would almost certainly lose money by giving up prime summer home dates, but still, this seemed a bit of a strawman argument to me.
Olney said none of it is charity. It is all business.
Background point: Though I did not tweet it, I actually disagree about the WBC not being the recipient of some charity. For example, MLB teams do give up something in allowing their players to participate, though it is not terribly significant as long as no one gets hurt.
I tweeted that I agreed with Olney about player criticism. After all, participation in the event is voluntary. Some players potentially have a lot to lose, especially if their MLB jobs are not secure. My issue with Olney was his concept of the WBC being free.
Background point: Maybe Olney brought it up in the first place because he also knew that a free WBC is not realistic, but then why base his position on it? Perhaps he meant that both points were equally absurd.
My thrust was that WBC ad and ticket revenues ultimately help to fund international baseball. While I highly doubt that MLB is in the WBC (or any other endeavor) to lose money, it only makes sense to generate cash from it, especially when the proceeds are shared with developing baseball nations.
The twitter conversation ended there.
What do you all think?