Let's crown a real 'world champion'

The winners of the World Series and the Japan Series need to get together each year and crown a real "world champion."

Originally Published: November 2, 2006
By Enrique Rojas | ESPNdeportes.com

No matter how low the TV ratings are each year, the World Series will always be the biggest event for Major League Baseball and one of the most watched spectacles in professional sports around the world.

But it may be time for baseball to take the next step: the crowning of a "champion of champions" with a series between the winners of Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

Albert Pujols
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesHow would Albert Pujols and the Cardinals fare against the Nippon Ham Fighters, winners of the Japan Series? Nobody knows.
This is not to suggest that the World Series should be replaced, or even undergo a name change. But to be fair, critics are correct in pointing out that MLB's so-called "world champion" does not emerge from an international competition.

Let's be clear about one thing: "World champion" may be a misnomer, but there's no denying that the world's best baseball is played in the World Series. It's like having a Miss Universe pageant with the contestants only coming from Earth. Get it?

The World Baseball Classic, played for the first time in March, was an important first step and should get better every time the tournament is played. What a champions league would accomplish, however, would be the ultimate globalization of the sport.

If it's not possible to gather all the champions in one place (from MLB, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Cuba), we could at least get the winners from the U.S. and Japan together.

In fact, we already have the All-Star Tour between players from the major leagues and the Japanese leagues, played just days after the end of our World Series.

In a curious circumstance, if the New York Mets had won the Fall Classic in a seven-game series, some of their big names (Jose Reyes and David Wright) would have had exactly 24 hours to enjoy the win before getting on a plane for Tokyo. They wouldn't have even had time to participate in the victory parade.

The All-Star Tour, which is played every two years, was a much bigger deal a few years ago, but not so much anymore with the influx of Japanese players in the major leagues and, of course, Japan's impressive victory in the WBC.

A series between this year's World Series champion, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Japan Series champion, the Nippon Ham Fighters, would have been the definitive series to determine the real club champion on the professional baseball planet.

Details could be ironed out, with games played in warm-weather cities or at sites with domed stadiums, such as Tokyo, Seattle, Houston, Arizona and California.

To allow rest time after their long and tiring seasons, reinforcement and replacement players -- maybe up to five -- could be permitted from other teams that did not make it to either league's championship series.

This would be similar to the Caribbean World Series, where the winter-league champions from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela play a round-robin series in February.

Maybe MLB would consider such a champions series an unnecessary risk, pitting its champion against another from what might be considered a lesser league. But it's the exact same concern the National League had in 1903 when the American League proposed the World Series. We know how that turned out.

Why couldn't it be the same with a series between the best of the major leagues and the best of Japan? We wouldn't be risking anything. Remember that a lot of American fans turn their backs on the World Series if a big-market team is not involved.

There's really nothing to lose, and it's the right time for baseball to crown an undisputed "world champion."

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.