The World Baseball Classic is a farce. Sure, some of the games are mildly entertaining and a couple of improbable victories by the Netherlands generated some buzz, but this event should hardly be called a 'Classic.'
The World Baseball Money Grab by the Joke of a Commissioner, maybe, but not the World Baseball Classic.
There are so many problems with this event that it is ridiculous. Obviously, though, you have to start with the tremendous risks taken by major league players who are not ready to be going all-out in high-pressure situations yet.
Chipper Jones, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun, Matt Lindstrom, Robinson Cano and Damaso Marte have already suffered injuries participating in the Classic. Don't tell me Lindstrom's shoulder injury didn't have something to do with the Florida Marlins' closer reaching back for a little extra something he doesn't have yet after surrendering a home run Sunday night then firing a brush back pitch that nearly ignited a brawl. It's no coincidence he left just a few pitches later.
The injury toll alone is enough to give every team around baseball pause before ever allowing their players to participate again.
There is the fact that USA fans always have to view these game with mixed emotions. I watched a little of last night's USA-Netherlands game, and my heart was in my throat when Derek Jeter had to whirl away from a pitch that nearly drilled him in the hand.
There is the makeup of the rosters. David Ortiz had to play first base for the Dominican Republic. You think that made the Red Sox happy? Catcher Brian McCann of the Braves got stuck in the outfield the other night, where he had never played. That could not have gone over well with Atlanta management.
There is the fact that you have starting pitchers on very limited pitch counts. The fact that these pitchers are not yet ready to throw meaningful pitches is risky for them, and skews the results of the action on the field.
There is the fact that this tournament pushes back the start of the regular major league season, and will push the World Series into November. God forbid you get two East Coast teams in the Fall (or should I say, Winter?) Classic.
Here is a question for Bud Selig. What is your priority, Commissioner? Is it the integrity of the league you are charged with guiding and the health of its players, or is it global marketing and pursuit of the dollar?
I think I know the answer.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has quite possibly been the biggest critic of this year's WBC. First, he ripped Team USA and Manager Davey Johnson after the team didn't even know the rules in its mercy rule loss to Puerto Rico. Today, Passan is again criticizing the event, though with a cautionary note.
There’s a sinking feeling, especially as the injuries mount, that teams will increasingly use the risk factor as a convenient excuse to withhold players. The WBC is only as good as its players, and to have a respected organization like Atlanta questioning the tournament – as the Braves certainly should do, even if commissioner Bud Selig begs otherwise – presents another roadblock on a highway filled with orange barrels.
The good news is, Major League Baseball has time to fix this. The WBC is here to stay. It makes too much money, and for all the talk of spreading the game internationally, long-term plays don’t fly if short-term bets bleed. It can mature into the premier event it shows flashes of becoming. This is only the second go-around, so perhaps these are simply growing pains.
For now, though, it could use some analgesic. It’s banged up pretty good.
I don't know exactly how to fix this event, and I still question whether it is worth having at all. I do know, however, that the risks to the health of big-league players and the integrity of the big-league season don't justify the financial rewards Selig's sport may reap.