Baseball classic 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Down at the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, Florida, someone posted an apology to the team's fans.
"We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
"The New York Yankess," the sign went on, misspelling the team's name, "did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association."
MLB commissioner Bud Selig ordered the team to take the sign down.
Club vs country is a tricky argument that no one is ever going to win. The reason for its delicate nature is that it is a toss up between logic and emotion. There is no greater honor than representing one's country. To wear the national uniform and to hear the anthem is something special that can never be replicated. But you do so for love and not money.
The clubs who foot the players' wages have every right to worry about their employees. They don't want their players injured, especially not when they aren't wearing their colors. If many teams prevent their players from taking part in recreational games, why would they want them running around in full-fledged internationals?
In the the world's top professional baseball league, it was never an issue as the clubs held their players under lock and key. The unavailability of the big names during the Olympics was what got baseball into trouble in the first place, as the IOC voted to kick the sport out after the 2008 Games in Beijing.
This long-standing concern in soccer means they are far more experienced at dealing with this issue.
There are weekends devoid of any domestic action and these are when the internationals take place. But when there is a clash like there was with the recent African Nations Cup, many of the stars are away from their clubs for weeks. Ironically, this seems to be a bigger problem for players who come from the lesspowerful soccer nations.
In tennis, the issue is country vs self. Many players tire from Davis Cup play and wish to have the week off resting rather than flying to the other end of the world.
Cricket has less dramas in this regard, although some players do retire from international duty at the tail end of their career. Shane Warne no longer plays limitedovers cricket and had he been out there on Sunday, South Africa would have had less of a chance of chasing down Australia's astonishing 434. A decent one-day score is 275. At the halfway stage of its inningsâ€š South Africa was a phenomenal 2/229 but yet still needed another 206.
The match aggregate of 872 runs was an astounding 179 more than the previous highest. To give you a sense of the carnage placed on all of the 13 bowlers used in the match - Nathan Bracken was the least expensive, only going for 67 from his 10 overs. The yelp of joy emanating from New Zealand was that of Martin Snedden, who has seen his 2/105 been superseded by Mick Lewis 0/113 as the most expensive bowling figures in one-day cricket.
At one point leading 2-0 in the best-of-five series, had South Africa lost, it could have been the choke to top all chokes, especially with Australia winning game four by one wicket. Now an enthralling Test series is set to begin Thursday.
When Australia posted its world-record score, there was little thought it would lose, which is why two Australians placed $20,000 bets on Australia at odds of 1:1.01. Their "sure thing" of a $200 payday serves as a lesson to all sports gamblers out there.