The 2009 World Baseball Classic is fast approaching. Sunday players from around the major leagues left their major league teams and reported to their teams for the WBC. The Mets have a total of 15 players representing 8 different countries. Some of the players are David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, J.J. Putz, K-Rod, and Oliver Perez to name a few. As you can see our core players will be in this tournament and will miss almost a month of spring training.
I am very much on the fence regarding the World Baseball Classic. There will be some interesting teammates such as David Wright and Derek Jeter sharing the left side of the infield for team USA or for the Dominican team Jose Reyes and Alex Rodriguez will be sharing the left side of the infield. Imagine team USA going up against the Dominican team? Jimmy Rollins is on team USA as well which would be interesting to see him playing with David Wright. David Wright could go up to bat against K-Rod as the Venezuelan team is in our pool along with Italy and Canada. Later on today team USA will be going up against the Yankees in an exhibition game which will be interesting to see as Jeter will be playing for the USA and going against the Yanks.
I like the idea of having major league players representing their countries but I do not believe that the time during spring training is an appropriate time to hold it. The purpose of spring training is to get these guys in game shape after six months off. These guys obviously workout during the off-season but there is a difference in being in good psychical shape and being in baseball shape. Pitchers might not have their mechanics down yet and could throw their shoulder or elbow out for the season or hit a batter in the head with a 95 MPH fastball. A guy running the bases could easily pull or tear a hamstring and in turn miss almost the whole season with that kind of injury. Some argue that playing games that really matter instead of exhibition games gets players in better shape for the season but you can make the argument that playing more baseball games makes you more tired and come September you’re completely gassed. Do the players for the Mets really need to be even more tired come September? K-Rod after appearing in 68.1 innings last season will be pitching in the WBC. That really worries me as he will be needed this season, especially after we spent 37 million dollars on him. Oliver Perez just signed a contract with the Mets, he gets rattled easily, if he has a bad WBC how will that help his fragile psyche for the upcoming season?
Some people say “why not have the WBC right after the World Series?” I don’t think that is the right time to hold it. These guys play 162 games during the season not counting the playoff games. They are human and their bodies need some time to rest and recover from a long season. Is there a good time to hold the classic? I believe there is. The time to hold the WBC is during the all-star game. The players are in shape and having been playing baseball for 4 months. They are in baseball shape and I believe have less of a chance to get hurt.
While I’m not in love with the WBC I will be watching and rooting for team USA. It is fun to see these ballplayers light up as they talk about representing their country. For some guys the WBC is their last chance in baseball, others are using this tournament as an audition for one last major league contract. I hope all our guys have a good tournament, enjoy themselves and come back healthy and ready for the 2009 season.