The rosters for the World Baseball Classic will be announced on Thursday. Adam Jones will be on the U.S. roster, and it’s possible that Miguel Gonzalez will pitch for Mexico and Pedro Strop will be on the Dominican Republic’s roster.
Lots of people don’t like the World Baseball Classic, at least not in its present form. At last month’s Winter Meetings, manager Buck Showalter said he would prefer the WBC be played as part of an extended All-Star break.
Managers rightly worry about their players, who must leave spring training, to play in much higher intensity games than they’re normally playing.
Four years ago, Jeremy Guthrie’s early season woes were blamed on his participation in the WBC.
These games shouldn’t be a problem for Jones. He’s a veteran and will look forward to playing in some games with meaning in March.
While Showalter would prefer having him around and fans prefer seeing him in spring training games, Jones will be fine under the care of U.S. team manager Joe Torre.
If Matt Wieters were to leave for three weeks, Showalter would have a bigger problem. He relies heavily on Wieters’ leadership, and while nearly all of the Orioles pitchers are returnees, he likes how Wieters works with them.
The pitchers are different. Gonzalez will come to spring training for the first time with a job in hand, and while it’s an honor to play for your native country in the WBC, Showalter will worry if he’s away.
Gonzalez was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. as a four-year old, and while he’s an American citizen, he can still play for the country of his birth.
Albert Pujols, who’s also an American citizen, may play for the Dominican Republic, and Bruce Chen, who’s a Panamanian, may play for China, where three of his grandparents are from.
Wei-Yin Chen decided not to pitch for Taiwan, but Strop is apparently going to pitch for the Dominican. Two minor league catchers Allan de San Miguel and Chris Robinson will play for Australia and Canada.
The WBC comes at an admittedly strange time. Only serious baseball fans are paying attention to spring training, and most other sports fans are getting ready for the NCAA tournament.
To play it after the World Series would be anticlimactic, and could put undue stress on pitcher’s arms. You don’t want a baseball version of football’s meaningless Pro Bowl. With the NFL and college football underway, it would get even less attention than it does now.
Staging it in lieu of the All-Star Game every four years isn’t the worst idea, but a lot of managers wouldn’t want their players in meaningful games as they prepare for the second half of the season. Having an extended break in July could also upset the rhythm of the division races.
The Players Association and Major League Baseball have worked together on the WBC, and it’s been a bigger hit in other participating countries than here.
Baseball is no longer a part of the Olympics, and the WBC is the only true worldwide showcase. It was designed as baseball’s answer to the World Cup, and while it’s nowhere close, it’s a good try, and should be embraced.