Derek Jeter. Jason Bay. Alex Rodriguez. David Ortiz. Ichiro Suzuki.
This is a list of just a few of the hundreds of players who have been invited to play in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Many of the players invited have accepted the invitation to represent their respective country.
The 2009 WBC is less than a week away from premiering.
From March 5-23, numerous MLB players will leave their spring training camps and join the rest of their country in the WBC.
Starting in 2006, 16 different countries around the world compete against each other to determine the world’s greatest baseball country. This year’s event, much like the Olympics, will be the second installment of the Classic, with it reoccurring every four years after 2009.
I love the fact that players get the chance to compete for their country rather than a team, but not when it occurs at a time where players have to leave their teams for an extended period of time just weeks before the start of the season in order to play.
Many MLB managers give their players the ultimate decision on whether they compete in the WBC, but advise against it.
Teams worry about the possibility of one of their star players getting injured at the WBC and being unable to start the season with their team.
The bigger issue, in my mind, is the fact that players are breaking terms in their contracts.
Players have large monetary contracts and they need to earn them. By playing in the WBC, players are missing several weeks of valuable preparation.
I understand that players will be honing their baseball skills while competing, but there is more to it than just polishing your skills of the game–you can do that all winter. It’s about forming chemistry with your teammates so that by the time April rolls around, the team is ready to compete together.
We all have seen clubhouses without bonds between the players.
Players are expected and required to be at spring training.
The WBC is competition that spans across 19 days. Players competing for Team USA are allowed to practice one week before the event, which would mean that players could miss close to four weeks of spring training.
This would bring them back to their teams less than two weeks before Opening Day with a lot of catching up to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the idea of the World Baseball Classic as a whole. Anything that gives exposure to the sport across a larger audience around the entire world is going to help the game grow.
The WBC allows players to represent, play for, and fight for their country rather than the team that they have been bought by.
It brings out a sense of passion among some players that isn’t always seen in the MLB today. Much like you see in Little League, it is a passion that you are representing something much bigger than yourself.
With that being said, however, players need to seriously consider whether or not they accept their invitation to play in the WBC.
This can be seen with the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies are relying heavily on their young starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez, in 2009.
Many scouts believe that he has potential to become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. In 2008 he posted a 12-12 record with a 3.99 ERA. He showed bright spots, but also much inconsistency.
With Jeff Francis out for most, if not all, of 2009, the Rockies need Jimenez to step up in their rotation.
Jimenez will be representing the Dominican Republic in the WBC, however.
In his first spring training appearance, Jimenez struggled, to say the least. In two innings, he allowed three earned runs, three hits, two walks, and a hit batsmen, posting a 13.5 ERA.
On Sunday afternoon he battled back, allowing just a single hit in three innings pitched, but that was his final spring training appearance before leaving for the WBC.
With the Rockies relying so heavily on him this season, I believe that it is more vital for him to be with the club this spring.
Players will get at-bats and playing time at the WBC, but it is not guaranteed how much they will play. They are falling behind by not being with their teams during spring training and also potentially falling behind on playing time and at-bats.
The WBC is a good way of bringing an Olympic-style of competition back to the game of baseball, but it comes at the wrong time. Players that represent the MLB have other things to worry about during the last few weeks leading up to their season and need to focus on that as opposed to the WBC.
In the United States of America, citizens have lived by the freedom of being innocent until proven guilty. In the baseball world, however, players have recently been accused by the fans and media before they have actually been proven guilty.
Do I blame the fans and the media? No.
Am I one of those people who prematurely writes these players off? Yes.
But with my pure love and passion for the game of baseball, it is my sincerest hope that evidence is overturned and these players can move on with their lives and careers.
Obviously, the likelihood of this is slim.
Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the fans booing Barry Bonds as he closed in on Hank Aaron’s home run record.
I turned against Roger Clemens last spring when he appeared to lie in court. I was heartbroken to see that in the summer of 1998, the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run race could have been a fraud.
Honesty is the best policy. I applaud players like Andy Pettitte who came clean, even if it wasn’t until after he had tested positive. Alex Rodriguez admitted to his faults, but some believe that he is still hiding additional information.
Yet, in order for baseball to get over this “steroid era,” the players need to be proven innocent.
Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Possibly.
But a fan has to have hope.
Hope to move on from this era and get past tainted Hall of Fame numbers and records with asterisks.
Hope to restore America’s Pastime.
Hope to bring fans back to the true game they love.
Call me ignorant, but I’m crossing my fingers for innocence.