After Team USA's semifinals loss to Japan in the World Baseball Classic, Bud Selig said the team "lacked intensity." Selig saying something lacks intensity is a little like Dane Cook calling someone a tool, but whatever, he's entitled to his opinion, we guess. He might even be right.
Of course, Team USA's players will not take too kindly to that notion. Already Cubs pitcher and White Sox reliever Matt Thronton have spoken out against Selig's notion, saying the players were plenty intense, and that if Selig had spent some time around the dugout he'd know that. Fun!
"[Selig] was never around. He wasn't in our clubhouse, he wasn't in our dugout. It was a great experience for everyone. I think everyone in the game was trying to win. … I hear these comments people are making, and it's like 'What are you talking about?' We were going after it."
Lilly's comments were less effusive, but basically the same. The players played hard, and so on, Bud wasn't there, we need better players too, whatever. None of this is the point.
The point is that if Team USA's players didn't care, they can be forgiven. They aren't given a reason to care. For much of the world, such a tournament can serve as a validation for the ongoing local baseball boom, but for the U.S., it's hugely secondary to what we (perhaps arrogantly) call the "World Series." U.S. fans don't care, and the players are putting themselves at risk of injury to the teams they are actually paid by. Why would Team USA play as hard? Why would they play in the first place? Why, when there's nothing tangible at stake, when the usual motivators (money, glory) are out the door?
So maybe Selig is right. Maybe the team wasn't playing hard. But if he's looking to blame someone, he can only blame himself for creating the WBC in his own image: bumbling, apathetic, and only occasionally interesting.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger who prefers the World Series, thanks. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.