The World Baseball Classic, the international tournament consisting of 16 of the best baseball nations in the world, began on March 3rd, but the discussion about the tournament began long before that. Ever since the announcement that this event would be taking place, the debate has gone back and forth; is it a good idea to let players leave during Spring Training, sacrificing the valuable time they have to create chemistry with their teammates? What about the risk of injury? Will people even watch? The answer to all of this is, of course, yes! Let’s answer some of these questions to attempt to put to rest some major concerns fans have in regards to the Classic.
Should the players be able to leave during Spring Training? They should absolutely be allowed to leave. Spring Training consists of some batting practice and fielding work and meaningless exhibition games that take place in either sunny Florida or Arizona; not the best conditions for complete concentration. I would be perfectly fine with allowing my players to get their work in against the best players in the world. What can prepare a player for the upcoming season better than that? Also, people think this tournament will seemingly last 50 games for each team, when, in reality, each team will only play (and this is if the team makes the final) eight games. Now, if a team loses in the first round, then the player will be back in Spring Training in a week, having only (maybe) participated in three games.
What about the risk of injury? World Baseball Classic, Inc., the brain trust putting the WBC together, has taken many precautions in preventing injury, especially for pitchers. Here is the breakdown:
A pitcher must:
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Not pitch until a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched;
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched;
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched; and
Throw no more than:
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 65 pitches per game in Round One of the tournament;
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 80 pitches per game in Round Two of the tournament; and
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 95 pitches per game in the Semifinals and Final of the tournament.
Note: A pitcher may exceed the maximum per-game limits in order to complete a batter’s plate appearance. There are no restrictions on the use of position players.
If a pitcher is within 20 pitches of a prescribed limit at the beginning of an inning, the Game Operations Technical Committee (appointed to each game by WBCI) shall so inform the umpire-in-chief, both managers and the ballpark public address announcer. The Game Operations Technical Committee shall immediately notify the umpire-in-chief when a pitcher has reached a limit set forth in the Rule (which includes finishing a batter’s plate appearance, if necessary), whereupon the umpire-in-chief shall inform the pitcher’s manager to remove the pitcher from the game immediately (worldbaseballclassic.com).
It now appears obvious that World Baseball Classic, Inc. has taken numerous steps to prevent injury to the players involved. Should an injury occur in the tournament, it appears it would have to be one of freakish proportions, one that means there was something wrong with the player before he put on the uniform for his country.
Will people watch? If people were smart, they would watch the tournament. Even the most casual of baseball fans knows that while Spring Training is an exciting time, the games are meaningless. The Classic has been introduced as a wonderful diversion for fans to feast their eyes upon as they wait for the upcoming season.
The games will have meaning (and if one doesn’t think there is a great passion for this tournament in the States, one should take a look at the excitement building in the South American countries) and will most definitely prepare the players better to have successful 2006 campaigns. And this is all forgetting to mention the globalization of baseball that will take place with this tournament. Perhaps the only downfall will end up being that the tournament is only played once every four years Ã¢Â?Â¦