Keenly focused on Oliver Perez’ career trajectory, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Guy Junker has a problem with the World Baseball Classic.
I never thought I’d say this, but I agree with George Steinbrenner.
While I’ve enjoyed watching the World Baseball Classic as much as anyone, when guys like Johnny Damon and Derek Lee miss games because of sore shoulders, you have to say the boss was right. Didn’t help the U.S. team any either. This is a bad time of year to be playing games of this importance. Most guys aren’t ready to compete, and although there is competition in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, there are also pitchers jogging in the outfield during those games. It’s a different animal.
The Pirates have been victims too. Oliver Perez got very little game action for Mexico, and now may stay behind in extended spring training when the Pirates come north, not available to pitch until perhaps the Bucs’ fifth game of the year. Here’s a guy who really needed to be in camp with his new pitching coach and manager. And, of course, reliever Damaso Marte has a sore shoulder, the most common WBC malady.
The WBC is a great idea, but it needs to be tweaked. It should be played in the fall after the World Series. Players are already in game shape, and if someone does get hurt, they have a greater chance of healing by the following spring. Just don’t schedule games up against the NFL.
That’s Sundays and Monday off limits, then. Except baseball’s September games and a portion of the post-season already go head to head with the NFL. And the competition for eyeballs / advertiser dollars on Saturdays would be just as fierce coming from college football.
With the possible exception of Luis Ayala (who had a preexisting condition), we’ve yet to learn of a serious WBC-related injury. When you measure the amount of excitement, goodwill and genuinely captivating baseball this tournament has generated, compared to the level of inconvenience to the Yankees, Cubs or Pirates, Junker’s misgivings, like those of George Steinbrenner, seem terribly petty.