Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The World Baseball Classic...Pros and Cons

With the start of the World Baseball Classic just days away, I find myself becoming excited for the start of the Baseball season. As a fan of our Country's greatest past-time, I can't help but be excited for opening day - and as a fan of all sports, baseball is one of the only things we have during the heart of the summer, before football season starts up again. In short, I can't wait for that first pitch.

As far as the game of baseball is concerned, the WBC is a huge event. Much like the all-star game, fans are able to see national all-star teams play other all-stars of the world. Fans can root for their favorite players as well as their country, and unlike the Olympics, you don't have to deal with the ridiculous rules of Olympic international play. Furthermore, games in the WBC are generally more competitive, as the players have much more to play for than they do in the MLB all-star game. All in all, it seems like a pretty good situation for the fans and the game of baseball.

But wait...

As a fan of a specific team, (go ahead and hate me because I am a Yankees fan), I find myself a little disturbed by the fact that the WBC takes place before the start of a grueling 162 game season. With most of the players having not played baseball for the better part of 5 months, many are not in top "baseball" shape (not to be confused with great physical shape), putting them at risk for injury.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Derek Jeter help lead the U.S. team to a victory in the WBC. But I would hate it even more if he were to get injured, and subsequently miss time during the MLB season. How would the fans in Boston feel if Big Papi were to bust his ankle rounding first, and miss 4 months of the regular season? Not good.

If possible injury is not enough of a "con" for you, what about poor mechanics and technique? Baseball is a sport centered on rhythm and routine. Pitchers and catchers report to camp almost 2 weeks before position players just to get a head-start on finding their rhythm and working on their mechanics. There is a reason that they don't make full starts until 4 weeks into spring training. Just this week Blue Jays pitcher B.J. Ryan opted out of the WBC becaus his mechanics were not ready for competition yet. Smart choice B.J., but how many other pitchers are too proud or not smart enough to hold themselves back and do the same thing?

What about hitters? Finding the groove and timing of a swing is something that also takes the majority of training camp. Getting your hand-eye coordination back takes time and repetition. While not necessarily a proven direct detriment to these aspects of the game, the WBC does seem to rush these players back into competition games before they are physically ready.

So what is the solution? No other major American sport has something like the WBC, but I am certain that neither the MLB, NHL, or the NBA would let their players compete in a tournament the size of the WBC before the season. As is, the NFL barely has its starters play in pre-season games - let alone playing in full-speed competitive games. While the NHL does occasionaly take extended breaks for international play (Olympics, World Championships, etc.), these all occur mid-season.

I think the best bet for the WBC would be to have it played in the off-season, starting about a month, maybe two, after the World Series. Granted this would make it necessary to be played in a warm climate, but what baseball player wouldn't be willing to play for two weeks in warm weather in the middle of winter? While this doesn't eliminate the risk of injury, it does give each player adequate time to recover from any injury sustained, as well as adequate off-season time from the MLB.

I know things like this are hard to change, especially in the game of baseball (it took them 9 years to even publicly recognize that there "may be" a steroid problem). But why not look into a better situation for all parties involved? I can't be the only one who feels this way.

But what is a fan to do other than watch, and wait, and hope for the best for his country, as well as his home team? So for now, play ball, I guess.

As a newly added member to this blog, I am hoping to offer some of my opinions, but more importantly, to be disagreed with and spark discussion. Feel free to add comments both for and against at will. Strong language appreciated.


Schette said...

While I agree with some of the comments you make on the pitchers finding their rhythm on the mound with their associated catcher, I have to disagree the WBC hinders hitters. I feel as though the WBC can only strengthen a hitter's mechanics and allow them to see more real time, in game pitches that will end up enhancing their regular season.
I also have to go against your suggestion of playing the WBC a month after the World Series (beginning of December I assume). First, most players take October (if they don't make the playoffs) and November to rest their sore bodies after a grueling 162 game season (that is if they are not in a fall league). It is only until the beginning of December that they begin doing daily regiments of working out and getting back into "baseball" shape (I agree they are not all the most physically fit). Then it is not until mid to late December that they begin their throwing and hitting regiments. These players need those months of rest to recover and will not be ready to play until Feb/March.
Yeah, of course you run the risk of injury but it's not that much bigger of a risk than their regular spring schedule. I say, if the players want to play and feel they can adequately help their countries team... let the boys play.

GregGoBlue said...

I like to think of the WBC for baseball as similar to the NFL preseason. Many think it's an unnecessary and risky endeavor before a very long and taxing season. An injury can have devastating results on the team. The Falcons' season was practically lost when Michael Vick broke his leg a few years ago. However, I believe that a short, competitive tune up is necessary to ease into the rigors of the professional baseball season.

I think that though the lack of real competition in spring training (blowouts, home run derbies, vacationing in Arizona/FL) can be helpful for some players, it may breed complacency. For the players who desire real baseball as a tune up for real baseball, the WBC is the perfect solution.

The WBC also serves to accentuate the international aspect of the game that baseball has evolved into. I think it's exciting to give the lesser-known guys center stage, and to throw into the mix a bunch of all-stars. I agree with Phil. If they want to play, let 'em play!

Anonymous said...

How about having the classic in september, with the best players from 2nd or 3rd place teams that have no chance of making it to the playoffs?