Tuesday we learned that Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez had decided to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic. Martinez, who was slated to play for Spain, and Astros teammate Chia-Jen Lo are just two of a growing number of players that are pulling out of this year’s international tournament.
A number of the players who have decided to pull out are pitchers. Justin Verlander and Kris Medlen won’t be pitching for Team USA. Reigning Champions Japan will have to attempt to defend their title without the services of Yu Darvish. China has lost Bruce Chen and the Domincan team will be without Athletics reliever Pedro Figueroa. Felix Hernandez and his $175 million won’t be going anywhere near the WBC.
I can understand why pitchers would decide against playing in the tournament, especially those from the United States. Many pitchers from other countries compete in winter leagues, but most major league pitchers are just now starting their throwing program. Although everyone would love to be able to represent their country in the tournament, players sometimes have to look at the big picture in order to make the right decision. Pitchers are coming to the realization that rushing to get ready for the WBC could have a negative impact.
At this point, position players have been less likely to drop out. Martinez realized that his chances of making the team could be diminished if he participated in the tournament. Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa has withdrawn as he continues to rehab a left shoulder injury.
The WBC gets underway in the Far East on March 2nd. Action in the Western Hemisphere begins on March 7th. The Championship Game will be played on March 19 at San Francisco’s A.T. & T. Park. The tournament was last played in 2009 and will be held once every four years in the future. All of this year’s games will be televised on MLB Network.
Although I love to watch baseball and will probably tune in to as many games as I can, I’m not exactly a fan of the tournament. Most players are just rounding into shape and I don’t feel like it gives us an accurate reading of which country has the best team. Not only are some of the best players opting out, those who are playing may not exactly be going “all out”. To me, the tournament has become nothing more than a series of glorified exhibition games. How do you feel?