While the Phillies were Clearwater yesterday knocking around Johan Santana and improving to a Grapefruit League leading 12-6 record (their first winning spring in seven years), Team Japan was in San Diego taking care of some international business. The one island nation defeated the other island nation, Cuba, to take home the inaugural World Baseball Classic by a score of 10-5. I know the Phils are hotter than the sands of Siesta Key, but I feel we should take a moment to recognize the WBC and its implications on the Phils.
Ever wonder why the Phillies don’t have any Asian players on their roster? I have. I realize though Philadelphia has had a history of being the late-comer to diversity. The Phillies were the last National League team to have an African-American on the roster. The famous Supreme Court case Flood v. Kuhn which challenged the game’s reserve clause, came about in part because Curt Flood refused to be traded to such a racist town. While I do believe the city has shed most of its racist past, the ballclub has yet to completely embrace the globalization of baseball.
Baseball has been played internationally for over a century so it should be no surprise there is big league talent out there waiting undiscovered. For more information on the history of baseball in Japan, might I suggest reading my 2001 essay entitled Baseball Diplomacy in the United States and Japan: From Ichiko to Ichiro. But still, it has taken a tournament such as this WBC (the Olympics were simply not as popular) for MLB people to recognize the talent out there. For this, Bud Selig should be commended and should consider taking a page out of Paul Tagliabue’s book and retire on a positive note.
As for the Phillies, there are some names then that Mike Arbuckle and Marti Wolever should be researching. Of course there is the winner of last night’s game and tournament MVP, Daisuke Matsuzaka who has said he would definitely like to play in America. Then there’s the young Mexican, Jorge Cantu, who upstaged the Americans in the final game of the second round. Yoandy Garlobo, the outfielder from Cuba, went 12-25 in the games and his teammate Yadel Marti pitched brilliantly. I know the Phils have operations in Venezuela but that market is becoming diluted as many teams are snatching up players at a very early age. Thus the Phils need to broaden their horizons and start taking advantage of untapped sources of talent. Besides, turning Phillies Nation into an international phenomenon like the Yankees and Mariners have done can only be in the long term interests of the club. For my part, I converted a few fans here in England, but have yet to find anyone with big league talent. That’s the job for Phillies scouting.