The World Baseball Classic — a healthy, pleasurable, yet competitive competition to see who is the world’s best — is a time when baseball players get the rare opportunity to represent and showcase their respective countries, while playing alongside stars from their hometown. It is the equivalent of soccer’s most heralded championship, the FIFA World Cup, due to the fact that it commences every fourth year. Furthermore, it is baseball’s strategic attempt to continue obtaining an international fan base during the downtime of an MLB season. The players soak it in, the managers boost their stock and the fans feverishly wave their colored flags. So why the buzz and commotion?
Throughout the WBC, there were a few stars that got injured along the way. New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira injured his wrist before an exhibition game, and according to ESPN.com, is now out 8-10 weeks. New York Mets third baseman David Wright strained his back and was out of the lineup the last few games for Team USA. Finally, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop and third baseman Hanley Ramirez injured his thumb while diving for a grounder, and according to ESPN.com, is out eight weeks.
So raised the question as to if the WBC is an injury risk for participating players. MLB front offices and coaches deter their players from signing on with their countries because of the injury factor. If their player gets hurt, it could become an issue for the start of the regular reason, as was the case with Ramirez and Teixeira. Because organizations realize the potential for danger that comes with the territory, they do their best to persuade their property not to join forces. Certain players even declined their invitations to the dance due to prior innings pitched or rehab in order to be fully ready for Opening Day. But the fact of the matter remains that these are baseball players. They will get hurt. Hypothetically, they could get hurt anywhere, anytime and by doing anything.
The WBC is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable time out on the diamond, but the brawl between Canada and Mexico during their game did not help its cause. After Canadian catcher Chris Robinson elected to bunt in the ninth inning with his team holding a comfortable 9-3 lead, Mexico took offense to this action and pitcher Arnold Leon threw at the next batter on consecutive pitches. This prompted a benches-clearing, full-on assault. The field became one large wrestling mat, players became cheerleaders and some fans even joined in on the fun as well. Oftentimes emotions and adrenaline get the best of athletes and it just so happened to pour out in this game. It is unfortunate because this is clearly not a positive message to be sending to younger viewers, especially those aspiring to maybe one day, represent their own country themselves.
According to several MLB.com and CBS sports reports, both Canadian manager Ernie Whitt and Mexico manager Rick Renteria pleaded to “change the tiebreaking rules to encourage another method of scoring runs, rather than running up the score on the opposing team.” Wait what? Stop running up the score? Yes, I get that it may not be professional, but come on. If you don’t like it, then stop it. It’s that simple. Field a capable team, and do your best to try and halt the run scoring. If you cannot do so, oh well. There should be no reason a professional manager has to plead to the media for the WBC to change its rules so the final score does not look too bad. The truth is, Renteria should be worried about his players motioning toward their pitcher and telling him to plunk the next batter. This is supposed to be an easy-going tournament. Keep your head up and quit being a sore loser because your team is down a whole six runs.
While top stars refused to join, the WBC should be comprised, not belittled. Even with the injuries and the brawl occurring, the impact that this tournament has generated is immense. The WBC is producing viewership over seas and expanding its global reach. Factor in the release of baseball as an Olympic sport, and the classic has instantly become the biggest international affair. Additionally, the WBC also stands as a platform for up-and-coming international players, looking to prove themselves in the big leagues, and taking after the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish. Essentially, it gives players the chance to establish themselves and the opportunity for development and growth. Both MLB teams and major universities get to view top prospects from around the world, which ultimately leads to more exposure for their country, by having scouts and coaches interested in their talents.
All in all, the WBC is a growing entity. In only its second year of existence, the popularity is on the rise. Yes, there is a huge risk for injuries, but when is there not? Professional baseball players rarely have time off, and over the years, we have seen them get hurt hanging around the house or by doing the simplest of things. The WBC is great for the game and great for international countries. While true, there is no Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander, Buster Posey or David Price, the WBC is a fresh and vibrant scene from the redundant, dull Spring Training storylines and B team lineups.