With Carlos Marmol's departure after yesterday's appearance, all four major league Cubs (Marmol, Ted Lilly, Geovany Soto and Kosuke Fukudome) are now off training with their WBC teams, which begin play this Thursday.
There has been much debate here and elsewhere about the WBC; people say it disrupts spring training and the season, some players have begged off, and other major league teams have prevented their players from participating, which has turned what could be a great tournament into not much more than a minor league spectacle.
The WBC is a good concept, but it has been poorly executed. So how could it be changed so that it would provide competition at the highest level at the least disruptive time?
Here's my idea. We have already seen that March, during spring training, isn't a very good time. For the same reason, February, when players aren't even totally ready for the season, would be no good. And November, after the season is over, would risk putting fatigued and tired players into a high-stress situation -- not to mention that the TV dial is filled with football at that time of year, leaving little room for baseball.
So once every three years, we're going to replace the outmoded All-Star Game, which, even with Bud Selig's silly "This Time It Counts" gimmick, has outlived its original purpose and has become a game where everyone complains about who is or isn't on the team, who plays and who doesn't, and the game isn't played at a high level. Instead, we'll turn that mid-July week into WBC Week (and, at the same time, give the World Series home field to the team with the best record, the way it should be anyway).
To make this work, the tournament will all have to be played in one city, preferably one with two major league-suitable venues, so it can be completed in four days. That would make New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area the first choices; also, after next year, places like Minneapolis and San Diego will have new baseball venues and also older stadiums that could still host baseball games. You'd still have enough travel time to play games in Asia (likely Tokyo), in years when the WBC would be scheduled there, or in one of the Latin American or Caribbean nations.
You'd still have the sixteen countries, with rosters established ahead of time, and players would know their roles even if they didn't have a chance to practice together. The regular season would break, as it does now, after a July Sunday. After a day for travel, on days one and two (Tuesday & Wednesday), you'd play four games, two in each stadium (to allow for cleanup time and resetting for game two), with staggered start times for TV purposes.
The four winners of the games the first two days would play semifinals on Thursday, and the championship game on Friday night -- a Friday night in July when virtually nothing else sports-related is on TV (it's after Wimbledon and before NFL preseason), giving worldwide exposure.
Players travel back to their major (or minor) league teams on Saturday, and the schedule could resume on Sunday, thus major league teams would only lose one summer Saturday date.
This isn't a perfect solution and I know many of you could probably find holes in my answer -- but that's why I'm posting this, to start discussion. Have at it.