(Long Island, NY) The World Baseball Classic tournament has received a lot of criticism. Some of it is warranted, but it became overkill on the New York sports talk airwaves. This is still a professional baseball event taking place while the temperature is still close enough to freezing. How bad could it be?
Many of the big name players have dropped out for one reason or another. Major League Baseball organizations cannot stop participation by their players, but it is no secret that they prefer them to stay in camp where their progress is being closely monitored and there is less chance of injury.
The Mets have to be relieved that their new star closer, Billy Wagner, decided to stay in camp instead of playing for the United States team. Taking his place was Al Leiter, who is trying to make the Yankees as a specialist reliever. He probably is decreasing his chances by participating in the WBC, but he feels that it is an honor to be invited.
This is a tournament that is taken more seriously in other countries around the globe than in the USA. I’m sure that the Latin American counterparts of Mike and the Mad Dog are not dismissing it as an exhibition that has little value. If people enjoy it and the games have a little juice to them, that apparently was the point.
The big question was the timing. Some folks said that it would have been better served after the World Series. Personally, I agree with that assumption. A few years back there was an All-Star mini-series held in Japan after the MLB season concluded. It attracted some popular players and there weren’t as many negatives said about the timing. The Major Leaguers played a team comprised of Japanese All-Stars. It was a success and there were no serious injuries.
Perhaps the next time (if there is a next time) they play the World Baseball Classic, they will take into consideration the other options as far as time of year it takes place. They will have this tournament to use as an example and hopefully it is a good thing for the game and its fans.
So instead of knocking it, we should take it for what it really is. It may be an exhibition for some people and players, but it may also mean the world for that youngster from another country who is not a big leaguer. This is his stage to prove he has what it takes and there’s nothing wrong with watching a hungry ball player this time of year.