Bud Selig and his Japanese counterpart, Ryozo Kato, apparently met in Milwaukee recently to discuss a proposal for an annual global championship between the U.S. World Series winner and the Japan Series titlist (skimpy details in this column and the AP article linked within it). Personally, I think Selig needs to expand on this idea. Here is a suggestion for a format that would truly determine the “world champion” of baseball:
First, there needs to be a poll system of some kind. There would be two main polls. In one of them, writers, presumably from around the world, would vote on which champions of each world league were worthy of playing in the title series. In the other “human” poll, managers from some of the elite clubs (and even a few from the less-elite ranks) would vote. Computer polls could also be used, in case further obfuscation was required.
The champions that finished 1st and 2nd in the poll system would qualify to play in the global championship. In addition, the weeks leading up to the global series would be filled with series between other continental champions. I would call these various series the “Baseball Championship Series”, just so everyone could grasp their tremendous importance. The 1 vs. 2 matchup would be known as the Baseball Championship Series Global Championship.
You could have automatic qualifiers from North America, the Caribbean, Asia, South America, Australia, and Europe. Another couple of slots would be filled by at-large selections; for example, an extra European club would presumably get to play in the Baseball Championship Series almost every year, because of the political importance of that continent.
I suppose it is possible that every now and then a lesser continent would produce a team worthy of competing in the Baseball Championship Series. It is unlikely such a club would really be at the same level as those continental champions already guaranteed berths, of course, and certainly a place in the title series would be completely out of the question.
However, to satisfy potential rabble-rousers (all great things attract critics), a set of conditions could be met by a prospective qualifier to allow a team from a smaller continent (like, for example, Africa) to compete in the Baseball Championship Series. It must be emphasized that such a club would never be in a position to qualify for the Global Championship, because it would obviously not be deserving. The system would be designed to ensure such an injustice never happened.
There is no doubt in my mind that the system described above would be a major success for all significant parties. There would almost never be a situation where more than two clubs would be in line for play in the global championship, and the other qualifying clubs would get to bask in the glow of the championship event by playing in much-anticipated series leading up to the final.
It’s a wonder such a setup hasn’t been tried for other sporting events, particularly the NFL playoffs and the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, each of which desperately needs a substantial change in the way it determines its respective champions.
All in all, it’s a fantastic idea.