The World Baseball Classic was born as a result of the International Olympic Committee removing baseball as an Olympic event in 2005. Beginning in 2006, Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and International Baseball Federation developed the idea of a World Cup style tournament to determine an international World Champion.
I’m all for international competition in any sport. With the return of baseball to the Olympic Stage in 2020, I would love to see MLB send players to Tokyo the same way the NHL has since 1998. Every time NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hints at pulling the plug on the league’s Olympic involvement, it makes me cringe.
Here’s where I have a problem, it’s the scheduling. Why on earth would you have the best players in the world represent their country when they haven’t played meaningful baseball since September or October?
Pitchers and catchers will begin filtering into training camps in mid February. Position players will follow roughly a week later. The World Baseball Classic is scheduled to begin on March 6th. Why would any owner, or the players association risk having their brightest stars play full tilt away from their team when they should be loosening up and performing infield drills and soft tossing? The NHL did the same thing this past preseason when they staged the World Cup of Hockey. That tournament resulted in injuries to players and put them behind in training camp! I do realize that hockey is a more physical sport than baseball and the training camp is much shorter.
My point here is that players aren’t ready, and even if they are, they aren’t where they need to be this time of year. What if the likes of Max Scherzer blows out his elbow? What if there is a collision between Andrew McCuthchen and Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield? It’s too risky this early in my opinion for such high profile players to be playing full tilt.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (Team USA)
That being said, I do believe that the WBC is a great idea . Here’s my thought, even though some players are a little beat up by late September and into the post-season, they are still in full tilt playing form. The venues that are selected are either indoors or in warm climates. The weather and conditions in November and December are similar to the conditions in March. Miami, San Diego, and Los Angeles are the three American venues this year. Tokyo’s Tokyo Dome is hosting one Oriental pool, while South Korea is playing host indoors as well. The other venues are in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. Venue for the WBC Finals
Of course, there is still the risk of injuries and accidents, but the players won’t be coming out of the off-season. Any minor injury will have the rest of the winter to heal and have the player ready for a full Spring Training. Although there is always a risk of an injury to a player it’s less likely to happen when players are in condition.
Commissioner Manfred, I ask that you consider moving this tournament to the end of the season.