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For one raised in upstate New York and living in western Michigan, the coming of the Spring Equinox has always seemed merely symbolic. The weather, often harsh and certainly unpredictable at this time of year, doesn't help to summon the image of Spring-tide in the mind. But somewhere in the southerly climes, the "boys of summer" have begun to shake off the rust, to stretch and throw and swing upon verdant diamonds. Baseball's slow emergence, like that of the tulips and daffodils, has always helped to foster the patience and hope upon which spring is sprung.

Perhaps this is why the World Baseball Classic, the baseball innovation which has dominated this spring's conversation, seems to me an imposition on baseball's century-old rhythm. Several things seem awry with this pre-season tournament: the risk of injury, mitigated by mandatory pitch counts, has created unnatural constraints on the games. The teams represented seem uncomfortably nationalistic, or, for many of them, absurdly un-nationalistic in their contrivance. The games themselves have featured weird calls, blowouts, and gross competitive imbalance. Major League Baseball has been blunt in talking about opening new markets and reaping some of the international gains—financial and reputation-wise—that the NBA has enjoyed. It might be good sports marketing, but it seems bad for baseball, or at least forced. So much for my lament. Going into Monday night's championship game between Cuba and Japan, Ichiro is the only player still separated from his Major League team, so baseball is starting to make sense again.

But I need to be careful with the notion of baseball "making sense," since the book John Wilson bestowed upon me for review this year was written with the ...

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March 2006

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