In the end, I decided to half watch the final of the WBC on tape delay last night. It was more interesting than exciting seeing as I knew the result.
In the 9th inning, play-by-play announcer Jon Miller started talking about the Orioles' tour of Japan in the early 70s. At the time, the Japanese thought they were ready for such competition, but the Orioles were clearly better even though it was only exhibition competition for them. Miller then said that Japan had clearly "caught up with the United States" over the past three decades. While the fact that the Japanese players can now compete with the best the US has to offer is obvious, Miller implied that the change was mostly one of the improvement of Japanese players. I'm not so sure that's true.
I think the biggest change is the fall-off in talent in the US. American kids don't play baseball as they once did. Baseball used to be the dominant sport in the US, much like soccer is in most of Europe. It seems pretty obvious to me that football, basketball and soccer have attracted many of America's best athletes. Baseball in America is simply not as good as it once was.
So, Japan may have "caught up", but that may be mostly because the US has dropped back.