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.
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.