A Modest Proposal

VERO BEACH, Fla.- Commisioner Bud Selig has been asked endlessly about whether he considered the just-concluded World Baseball Classic a success. C'mon. Isn't that like asking Donald Trump if he thinks "The Apprentice" is great TV? After all, the WBC has been Bud's pet project since its inception an there's a certain amount of bias here. Of course he loved it.

In fairness to Bud and all concerned, though, that's pretty much the answer you get everywhere you turn. The Dodgers who participated like Chin-Lung Hu enjoyed the experience. Hu, who played for Chinese Taipei, says he'd love to do it again. And Jack Santora postively gushed when asked about it.

Santora's been around the game awhile having been drafted out of UCLA by the Diamondbacks in 1999. Since then he's played just about everywhere including the independent leagues and is currently in the Dodger camp trying to make it as a utility infielder in AA or AAA. In the case of the WBC, he's one of those players of Italian lineage who has eaten enough pizza to qualify to play for Italy.

Of the WBC, he exclaims, "It was absolutely fabulous. The best experience in the game I've ever had. First-class in every way." Sounds like one of those movie ads. doesn't it ?

So, okay, it was a hit - except for the timing. Holding it at the same time as spring training caused several players to forgo the event for various reasons. Russell Martin, for example, really wanted to play for Team Canada but when told he had a real chance to make the Dodgers if he stayed at Dodgertown, not surprisingly made the choice to stay here. That decision not only hurt the Canadian team but Russell's wallet for the players share in the proceeds so by passing it up Martin lost an estimated $70-80,000.

And please remember, Russell was a 17th round draft choice who never even got a sizeable bonus to sign so the money he didn't receive by declining would have represented a lot more than he's ever gotten to play this game. That had to hurt.

Now, major league baseball has announced plans to stage the event again in 2009 so they'll have to consider the timing of it. If not in the spring, when? Many have suggested the fall after everything else is over but that could reduce the World Series to a preliminary, something that would make purists shudder. Also, big leaguers who are kicking back after finishing a long grind would have to go back into training and watch the defections then.

How about early in the year like February? That, though, would clash with the Caribbean Series. I know that's hardly an event of importance in this country but it's big, big down in the nations that take part in it and those countries are vital to the success of the WBC.

Everywhere you turn, there are obstacles so here's a notion. If you keep to the present timing, grant players who participate roster exemptions. Thus, managers would have more time to evaluate them and how they fit into his plans. It was particularly tough this spring on Grady Little, who hadn't ever seen most of his players before arriving so, in some cases, had to make almost instantaneous decisions. Why, Hee Seop Choi was only around for a day after playing for Korea, before being placed on waivers. In his absence, James Loney clearly played his way ahead of him for possible use if Nomar Garciaparra falters in any way.

So, grant players like Choi and the others a period when they don't count against roster limits. Say, a blanket 30 days or, possibly, a period equal to the time spent away, two or three weeks or however long their national team lasted in the tourney. That way, both the players and the clubs that regularly employ them have a fair period of evaluation. And the tournament benefits by having fewer drop-outs.

And another thing while I'm on the subject. I know that teams like Italy have to use those pseudo-natives to field a presentable entry but the Dominicans or Mexicans? Please! They have able bodies all over the place. Ozzie Guillen was right! Sure, the Dominicans would have been enhanced by A-Rod and the Mexicans would have loved to have Nomar in the lineup but, last I looked, they did just fine without them. They can compete with their own homies, not some guys who visited once on a Carnival cruise.

Always glad to help out, Bud.