Jobu answers the biggest question about the World Baseball Classic… should we care?
So, originally, I was going to write a piece about the the World Baseball Classic finale that took place last night between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I was going to recap the game and tell you that it was great, competitive and really seemed to matter to all of the players. I was hopefully going to convince you, and myself, that the World Baseball Classic is worth watching. I couldn’t do it. I’m just not there yet.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully support holding the WBC. I like the thought of making the sport more international. I like the idea that, now that all these countries have baseball teams, it might be easier to discover new untapped resources for baseball talent all over the world. I mean we all know that great baseball players can be found in places like Japan, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, but what about places like Brazil and Italy? If it weren’t for the World Baseball Classic, and general international expansion efforts made by many major league teams, would guys like Yan Gomes be in the league? If you don’t know Yan, last year, he became the first Brazilian major leaguer when he was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays.
I also like that major league hitters that play in the WBC start playing ultra competitive baseball in early March, rather than April. When I see Robinson Canó win the World Baseball Classic MVP, I know that he’s going to be ready for the season when he gets back to camp. When I watch him hit upper deck home runs in Miami during the tournament, I know he’ll ready to hit some upper tankers at the Stadium come April too. I think the WBC is great for hitters. I know Mark Teixeira got hurt while practicing for the WBC, but it wasn’t even during a game. He was hurt while taking warmup swings. He would have taken warmup swings that very day at Yankees camp too.
I do worry about pitchers when it comes to the WBC though, especially starters. Most pitchers need all of spring training to be ready to go all out in competitive games. When it comes to the WBC, they’re asked to do that basically a full month ahead of schedule. Unless they’re preparing on their own before even reporting to initial spring training camp in February, they run a greater risk of injuring themselves. You simply can’t just go out and throw at your top speed, with your top breaking pitches, without building up your arm strength first. That’s why they say the last couple of weeks of spring are just for the pitchers. Hitters can probably hit major league top-notch pitching after a week of prep time.
The only other problem I see keeping the WBC from being a smashing success in the United States is this: There’s a reason why baseball was removed as an olympic sport. People just don’t seem to care about international baseball here. I’ll grant you one thing though; unlike in basketball, where the Dream Teams of the United States have ruled the game, the olympic baseball team was made up of amateur players. Now, with the WBC, at least some of the world’s greatest players are involved, but there’s still something to be said about people not caring about international baseball. Of course, the tournament is still only in it’s infancy. I mean, this year I actually watched a whole game. I couldn’t say that about previous installments of the tourney. Maybe in 2016, I’ll watch two games. Maybe, some day, four or five. My big problem is that I don’t have a real team to root for. It’s no fun to root for Team USA (plus they always blow it anyway), and Uruguay doesn’t have a team.
I will admit that it’s important that the players themselves really do seem to care. It’s not just practice to them. There’s real joy when they lose, and real sadness when they lose. Will I ever be a “fan” of the WBC? I just don’t know, but I’m not quite ready to throw it under the bus quite yet.
Featured image courtesy of: The Associated Press
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