Philadelphia, PA – Major League Baseball can pretend all it wants, but the World Baseball Classic will never be anything more than a glorified Grapefruit League tournament.
And, yes, this comes on the heels of an absolutely thrilling game between the Dominican Republic and the United States. You won't find a more exciting game with the type of atmosphere than you had on Thursday in Miami, especially in March.
But, that's the problem. And it's been the problem for the majority of the first two Classics. Those types of games have been few and far between. For every game like the Dominican win over the United States on Thursday, you have three more that draw less interest than the Pro Bowler's Tour.
Did anyone catch the Dominican Republic's win over Italy on Tuesday? Game-wise it wasn't all that bad, but you wouldn't have known from the crowd. The listed attendance was 14,482. If half of that announced number was present, I'd be shocked.
It's humiliating and it's kind of sad, too, because the on-field product of this tournament hasn't been all that bad. We have one legitimate Cinderella team in the Championship Round in the Netherlands, as well as two other longshots in Italy and Chinese Taipei that got out of the first round.
Not to mention there was an epic brawl between Canada and Mexico. By the way, the WBC should have promoted that fight a little more. That may sound ridiculous and it's probably not the best representation of the overall event, but that definitely drummed up some interest.
Getting people excited hasn't been a concern in Japan, where this event really matters. And despite a roster that doesn't have a single major-league player on it, Japan has once again reached the semifinals thanks to a terrific brand of fundamental baseball.
How much do the people in Japan care about the WBC? Well, one-third of all TVs in Japan were turned to the WBC for three first-round games, topping the 2012 Summer Olympics.
As terrific as Thursday's game between the Dominicans and U.S. squad was, it'll be lucky if it beat a repeat of the Kardashians. Actually, that's probably something better answered by NBA Editor and TV aficionado Jim Brighters. Who knows if the Kardashians even air on Thursdays?
But you get the point.
Maybe the rest of the world cares about the World Baseball Classic, but here in the United States, we could care less. Then again, though, that could change if the U.S. squad finds a way into that championship game.
You think there would have been 150 Japanese reporters surrounding the field at Scottsdale Stadium, covering Japan's exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday had it not won the first two tournaments?
Let's face it, the United States has been a major disappointment in the first two Classics. Maybe had they done a little better the first two times around, interest this year would have been there.
Team USA's run has been so-so. Basically, it's mirrored its first two appearances, which has netted noting better than a fourth-place finish.
Manager Joe Torre's club had to scratch and claw and their way out of the first round and now faces an elimination game with Puerto Rico on Friday for a spot in Final Four.
Even if Team USA survives and gets out of the second round, does anyone think this team could beat Japan? Or the Dominican Republic? And do so now without David Wright, who missed Thursday's loss with a rib problem and is back in New York getting checked out.
Still, even if the United States finds its way to San Francisco over the weekend, people are going to be more interested in filling out their NCAA Tournament brackets than who is replacing Wright.
And, that is something that just isn't going to change.