The following AP report in today’s Boston Globe (cited earlier by David Pinto) is a bit of a crusher for those of us hoping the World Baseball Classic would represent anything more than a glorified exhibition.
(You can purchase an authentic Italy WBC cap for $34.95 ; a John Franco autographed model will run you $30)
Pitchers in the first round of games, scheduled from March 3-10, will be limited to 65 pitches. The amount rises to 80 pitches for the second round, set for March 12-16, and 95 for the semifinals on March 18 and the championship March 20.
A 30-pitch outing must be followed by one day off, and a 50-pitch outing must be followed by four days off. No one will be allowed to pitch on three consecutive days.
Pitchers who reach the limit will be allowed to complete the current plate appearance. The usual rule that a starting pitcher must throw at least five innings to get credit for a win will be waived.
All games will use designated hitters. Games will be stopped after five innings when a team is ahead by 15 or more runs and after seven innings when a team is ahead by at least 10 runs. A game can be stopped in the middle of an inning if a team reaches the threshold.
If the respective national team managers choose to keep their pitchers on a pitch count, that’s fine. If the respective GM’s want to twist arms and howl about potential abuse to their employees in early March, that’s fine too. But if the public is supposed to treat these games as legitimate contests that count for anything, legistlating how long any pitcher can go is crazy.
The “mercy rule” is also hard to excuse. The words “little league” come to mind, though I don’t want to smear the kiddie circuit by association. If the organizers are so afraid the likes of South Africa or the Netherlands risk falling behind by 15 runs in the 4th inning (or that neither team could possibly overcome a ten run deficit), that seems like an admission there isn’t a large enough talent pool for this tournament.