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World Baseball Classic (Headache?)

Ever since the concept for the World Baseball Classic was announced, there has been a muted response from players, fans, and management. Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has gone a long way to promote the event both here and abroad.

Several factors of the tournament have been discussed, but amongst the primary detractions have been the following:

1.) It's a terrible time of year for it.

My response:

When else are you going to do it? Most players have families which are already giving up most of the year to baseball, from February through October in some cases. How many family men are going to sacrifice another 3-4 weeks to the Classic?

2.) What happens if a player gets hurt?

Players are going to get hurt. It happens, especially in Spring Training. Having the WBC in November only heightens the chance for injury, as many players have "gotten cold" after the season. 162 games is a long season. Add 30 spring training games and 19 playoff games, and you're over 200 games. That's just too much.

3.) It takes away from the things that need covered in Spring Training.

These guys are pros. They've been playing baseball for many, many years. Does every ballplayer really need more than 2 weeks of batting practice, fly balls, and baserunning drills? It's a bit different for pitchers, but even at this point in the spring, they're far ahead of the hitters. There's really no reason to play 25+ spring training games. Why not play 10, and spend the rest of the time playing the WBC. Also, not every player on every team is going to play. Those ballplayers will still be able to maximize Spring Training.

As the WBC edges nearer, more and more players are pulling out. Why is this? Is it a way to protest their frustrations with the event without flaming MLB? Absolutely. Using the old "I need to focus on my team" excuse is awfully convenient. Many of the international rosters are far less star-powered than originally concieved.

Even players like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, who are adored in the Dominican Republic, are "finding" ways out of the tournament. What does this mean? Do they not love their country as much as they've said? Not likely. Are they willing to do almost anything to ensure they continue to live in their employer's good graces? Probably. We don't know the whole story with Manny right now, but that would not surprise me. Pedro's Toe???? For all of his talk about how excited he was about this tournament, he's awfully afraid of his toe problem. Boy do I not miss his antics of this nature.

Back to the World Baseball Classic, who does it benefit most? Obviously, its a monetary coup for MLB, which will enjoy showcasing this cavalcade of talent. It's a nice chance for non-MLB players to be scouted and measured against professional players. It will be nice exposure for national programs that are lesser known. The fans? The hardcore baseball fan will enjoy the unequal distribution of ability, but many will be sucked into the NCAAA tournament, which is easily one of the most popular events of the year for the casual sports fan.

Beyond that, there's not much. The players will likely have a hard time with the interruption of routine, and the time away from their teammates. Depending on the success of the WBC, it won't be surprising to see even fewer All-Stars on national teams in 2007.

As with some other MLB ideas of the past (like shorts, pastel uniforms, interleague play and the Colorado Rockies), the World Baseball Classic might be something that could be thought of as "a nice idea, but not well thought-out or widely enjoyed.