Despite the late-inning dramatics and clutch hitting by Team America,
the World Baseball Classic will be especially notable to MLB managers
because of the rash of injuries that has hit the players. With
important team leaders like Chipper Jones, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan
Braun suffering injuries, how do you think this will effect teams’
decisions to let their players participate next time around?
The World Baseball Classic, still in its infancy, is similar in that it has yet to find the perfect balance of entertainment and logic. We, the viewers, cannot expect it to be the perfect international tournament it aims to be — not yet at least.
There are naysayers. There are those who feel the Classic is a colossal waste of time. There are general managers and agents and players and pundits who see it as a liability more than an asset. And I understand their points of view.
If I were Omar Minaya or Theo Epstein or Frank Wren and I was forced to watch my best players risk injury in the name of a “friendly” tournament with seemingly zero tangible gain, I guess I would be a little ticked off too. But I believe the World Baseball Classic is more than just a King Bud money machine meant to get more people interested in Major League Baseball around the world. To me, it is a showcase of the most talented players on the planet: a baseball bravura boasting a playoff-like atmosphere during the most boring weeks of spring training.
And whether ballplayers are playing in the WBC or in Jupiter, Florida or with their kids at home, guys are going to get hurt.
Just ask Joel Zumaya about his Guitar Hero hangup.
Or just ask Aaron Boone about his penchant for pickup basketball.
Or just ask Ken Griffey, Jr. about wrestling with his children.
And while the easy way out is to say let us put an end to this World Baseball Classic for good and focus on the regular season, players are still going to find ways to injure themselves on and off the field. Personally, I would rather see a guy get hurt for his country than a video game.
The WBC only happens every few years, folks. Eventually, the kinks will be worked out. In the meantime, the foreseen benefits of firing up an entire baseball-following planet are far and beyond more plentiful than the occasional injury risks inherited by players, teams and front offices.
The truth is: baseball (yet again) was light years behind the rest of sports in not having an authentic international forum. And while the rewards of the Classic won’t be seen for another twenty years or so when little Chen Jianguo and Mario Perugino and Ned van Flanders are all grown up and starting superstars in the Majors, I think we all owe it to the world to give this tournament a chance — and most of all, to enjoy it.
But just to be safe, we should all continue to pray to the baseball gods that our team’s best players escape injury free and refrain from jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.