I have mixed feelings about the forthcoming inaugural World Baseball Classic. I think it's a really great idea, and a format which is inspiring to fans and ballplayers alike. Considering the multi-cultural melting pot that makes up the MLBPA, it comes as no surprise that such a strong sense of National pride pervades every locker room.
I understand the desire to represent one's country on the biggest stage. The Olympics, once a showcase of the world's best amateur athletes, now features professionals in its hockey and basketball events. Olympic baseball has not yet gone that route, and I suspect it never will so long as the Summer Olympics run concurrent to the baseball season.
Still, I have a lot of reservations about the WBC. My biggest concern has to do with the timing of the event, as it is scheduled to kick off in the first week of March, right in the middle of Spring Training. Sure, Spring Training functions as little more than a tuneup to MLB vets, but it's still an important transitional period, bridging the often lazy days of the offseason to the grueling marathon of baseball's regular season. The Spring is a time for a player to hone his skills and to plant his roots firmly in his locker room with his would-be teammates. The WBC makes these things a lot more difficult.
Why not run the WBC in November? Sure it's pretty chilly here in the northern states, but it's the World Baseball Classic, and there's no reason it can't be held in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or elsewhere. Many of these countries have no marquis city in which to host the Olympics, but they all have storied baseball histories, and would bring the sport's biggest stars right into their backyard. Holding the tournament in November would prevent any overlap with Spring Training and would also provide a canvass for competitive baseball during the offseason, a time when many ballplayers are sedentary. It would also shorten the offseason for fans, something I'm sure anyone reading this blog would be in favor of.
Finally, as a Met fan, the last thing I want to see is Billy Wagner, Pedro Martinez or Carlos Delgado go out there in March, not fully transitioned into baseball mode, and suffer an injury that would cause them to miss significant time in the regular season. The players are going to take this event very seriously, and I'm sure management will cringe every time Pedro rears back for a little extra mustard or Carlos Beltran dives head-first into second base in an otherwise meaningless game.