Over the course of four days, two notable names in Baseball would go down with serious injuries. Edwin Diaz and Jose Altuve would be injured. One in a postgame celebration and the other hit by pitch (respectively.) These injuries would lead to much uproar online about the meaningfulness of the World Baseball Classic. This article will examine the argument against the WBC. And ultimately, why that belief is inaccurate and shortsighted.
START WITH THE WHY?
The World Baseball Classic is an international tournament sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation in conjunction with the MLB, MLBPA, and other professional baseball leagues worldwide. The WBC was instituted when the Olympics removed Baseball and softball from competition. The tournament plays out similarly to the FIFA World Cup in that teams representing different countries worldwide come together to play in the tournament.
Many players from all the professional leagues worldwide will come together to represent their home country. The popularity of this event has continued to grow with every tournament. Many greats from MLB, the NPB, the KBO, and other leagues send their very best players to compete for a chance to say that their country is the best in the world.
The WBC takes place during the beginning of the MLB Spring Training season. And much of the controversy surrounding the event (after the injuries) has centered around the fact that teams will be without some of their best players for part or all of the season. However, determining the optimal time for this tournament is an exercise in futility. Playing the WBC after the World Series would also bring complications and challenges to MLB Free Agency. (Something which is already a long, drawn-out process most years.) The time that makes the most sense is during the MLB Spring Training campaign. And the players prep accordingly.
Much of the controversy stems from injuries to significant players. Then the online WBC bash fest gets sparked. But injuries happen all the time in Spring Training, and no one gets filled with rage about that. And why? (One might ask.) It’s because we know that injuries happen. For example, Gavin Lux was set to be a big part of what the Los Angeles Dodgers had planned for the 2023 season. Yet, in a Major League Spring Training game, Lux would get injured and be finished for the season. There was silence online about canceling Spring Training. Year after year, a countless number of players are injured in off-the-field incidents.
The New York Yankees’ current manager Aaron Boone would play in a pickup basketball game and injure his knee. Something which opened the door for the Yankees to acquire Alex Rodriguez. Did basketball get canceled because of the injury? No, the world kept turning. Kendrys Morales would celebrate (in a similar fashion to Diaz) a walk-off Grand Slam to win a game in May of 2010. The ankle injury derailed Morales’ career, and he was never the same player after that. But yet, after every walk-off hit, we still see the same type of celebration.
IT’S A HONOR TO REPRESENT ONE’S HOME
The online controversy has stemmed from the fans of teams whose players were injured. Or if it hit a little too close to home. However, for the players involved, wearing their countries on their chests is an honor. The New York Yankees don’t wear on their jerseys because it’s not about it’s the player; it’s about the team. And when asked by Jomboy Media, many of those players said that playing for their country means more to them than even the World Series. (As evidenced by this video from Talkin’ Baseball)
LOVE & PASSION SHINE THROUGH
One of the main observable differences between MLB and the World Baseball Classic can be sensed even through television by non-baseball fans. The atmosphere during the WBC is entirely different. There’s an energy in every ballpark that is unlike most stadiums in MLB today. Many casual or non-baseball fans claim that Baseball is too long and boring. These sentiments have led MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, to constantly “tinker” with the game. However, if the initiative is to stir up more excitement, look no further than the WBC. Fans from the first pitch through the final out are invested.
From chants and songs to entire percussion sections in the stands, the fans of the international teams are traveling and bringing the noise. Energy changes the mindset and the outlook of casual fans. MLB needs to look no further than the WBC for evidence that the sport is primed to be brought to the next generation. We have to make it fun and expressive. Letting the player’s passion shine through brings out the youthful joy that led us all to fall in love with the game of Baseball originally.
SO WHAT AM I SAYING?
At the end of the day, the World Baseball Classic is a fantastic event for MLB and the other professional baseball leagues around the world. The WBC allows for enlightenment in the other professional leagues as well as bringing in a focus on otherwise unknown players. The Detroit Tigers signed Duque Hebbert after striking out Juan Soto, Julio Rodriguez, and Rafael Devers. To say that the World Baseball Classic is meaningless or pointless shows a lack of understanding. Sure, the tournament’s timing may not be perfect, but there wouldn’t be an ideal time. Yes, injuries can occur from the intensity of playing meaningful games earlier than anticipated. But injuries can happen even with seemingly no-pressure activities like making a sandwich.
The beauty of the WBC is that we see Baseball played as it was intended so many years ago. Baseball was always meant to be a game played in a beautiful park with friends challenged by another group of friends to see whose squad was the best. A friendly competition with bragging rights to say that your country is the best is meaningful and necessary. The World Baseball Classic is the best representation of just how amazing the game of Baseball can genuinely be.