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2009 World Baseball Classic: Good Idea or Looming Disaster?

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The second World Baseball Classic begins in three days, and our beloved Red Sox are well-represented in the tournament. 15 players from the organization are attending, tied for most in MLB (with the Mets). Notable attendees include Pedroia, Youkilis, Bay, Ortiz, and Matsuzaka, (see full list here). In other words, one of our best pitchers and a good deal of the lineup is participating in the WBC.

As pointed out by Adam Kilgore in the Boston Globe, the remaining Spring Training games will at most feature five regular starters: Jed Lowrie, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Julio Lugo and Jason Varitek.* MLB has a rule that spring games should start with at least four major leaguers in the lineup, and the Sox are unlikely to be able to satisfy that requirement.

I have mixed feelings about the WBC. Mostly, I think it's a great idea. For baseball to grow, it needs to be promoted around the world. With more countries participating, the level of play will rise and the sport will be better for it. Also, the games themselves should prove entertaining to watch.

On the other hand, playing games that matter early in Spring Training always incurs the risk of injury. Back in the inaugural WBC, Mike Timlin pitched three games before coming down with a tired arm, and he had a poor regular season that year (4.36 ERA, 4.40 FIP). This article discusses other examples, such as Bartolo Colon, who pitched the second-most innings of participants (14) and proceeded to miss most of 2006 to injury. Thankfully none of our real injury risk pitchers (Smoltz, Penny, Saito) are participating, but the possibility of anything happening to Daisuke is troubling.

Another issue is the effect on Spring Training. I doubt MLB will sanction the Sox for not fielding the required four major leaguers in every game. Seeing more of Lars Anderson can't hurt, but the ST games are going to be less fun to watch without familiar faces like Youk, Pedroia and Papi.

So what do you think about the WBC? Are you excited? Worried? Angry? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and don't miss the poll.

*I'm guessing the WBC has a quota on the number of players whose names begin with "J."