World Baseball Classic takes a hit?

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig speaks at

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a news conference. (May 17, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Concern for Classic?

The World Baseball Classic already is under way, with two of its current qualifying rounds taking place in Taiwan and Panama. The latter venue wasn't lacking for star power. Mariano Rivera, in the midst of contract negotiations with the Yankees, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in his native country.

But when the first round begins in March, participation might be an issue. The Rangers' Yu Darvish said earlier this month that he will not pitch for Japan -- a huge blow to that nation -- and clubs do tend to get a little queasy when their franchise players get involved.

It's a touchy subject, and when Scott Boras was asked last week about whether he will "allow" client Bryce Harper to play, the agent danced around the question.

"I think it's a good experience -- at some time in a career -- for a player," Boras said. "If a player like Bryce wanted to play in it, I think it might be a good experience for him sometime."

Bud Selig, obviously, feels much more strongly about the WBC. With baseball's revenues climbing over $8 billion last season, the commissioner still is determined to expand the game internationally, and this is an instrument to do so. The fact that Johnny Damon joined Thailand's fledgling program this year shows that Selig's vision is taking shape.

"This is important," Selig said. "This is going to be the biggest World Baseball Classic we've had. If we do our work properly, you won't recognize this sport in five years."

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