On the eve of the Classic, tournament coverage marked by withdrawals

The first pitch of the World Baseball Classic is just five days away. While the tournament hype machine has been working overtime lately, the biggest news out of baseball has been the defections and withdrawals.

Major Leaguers are dropping like flies, and in my opinion, these defections reflect poorly on the institutional support for the tournament.

Last week, more big names withdrew from the WBC. The Blue Jays’ outfielder Vernon Wells announced he won’t play in the first round due to a leg injury. While this injury may just be an excuse for Wells to stick around the Blue Jays camp on the eve of an exciting season for Toronto, it means that the American team will be relying on Jeff Francoeur and Randy Winn in the outfield. These two players are hardly of Wells’ caliber.

In another case of Manny being Manny, the Red Sox enigmatic slugger seems to enjoy being around Boston’s spring camp so much that he took himself off the Dominica roster. Who knows what this is all about? After an off-season during which the Red Sox tried to tried their disgruntled All Star, I am surprised Manny wants to spend any extra time around the Red Sox camp.

In my opinion, this is a case of Manny exerting the least amount of energy. While Ramirez may come off as aloof on the field and somewhat absent-minded, he is not an idiot. Ramirez knows that if he were to play on Team DR, he would be expected to show up and compete throughout the course of the tournament. But this tournament is just exhibition. Why should he over-exert himself so early in the year? By staying with Boston, he can take it easy and relax. He can be Manny.

The Dominican team so far has been hit the hardest by those opting out of the tournament. Alongside Manny’s announcement came a decision from Pedro Martinez. His sore toe has forced him out of the tournament. Pedro’s toe has been an issue since the end of September when he missed his last few starts for the New York Mets. Fitted with a special shoe, Martinez has been looking for a way to pitch without pain. He has decided that he is not physically ready to compete in the tournament. I can’t blame him.

Angels’ rookie Ervin Santana who wowed the baseball world by shutting down the Yankees in game five of the ALDS last October also dropped out of the tournament. He wants to stay in Spring Training with the Angels. Santana and Martinez were at one point expected to be key cogs in the Dominican pitching rotation.

Withdrawing due to health reasons was the projected Dominican starting third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs’ All Star who hit 31 home runs in just 123 games last season missed the month of September with a strained left quad. Replacing him will be Seattle’s free agent bust Adrian Beltre. While the Dominican Republic team was one of the early favorites for the tournament, these high profile loses could harm the team’s chances.

While the Dominican team is struggling to keep its All Stars on board for the tournament, the Panama team suffered a morale blow late last week when Roberto Kelly, the manager, quit. Kelly, citing a lack of support from the Panama baseball federation, noted that many of his star players were held back to play in the Panamanian league championship tournament.

Bruce Chen of the Orioles echoed Kelly’s sentiments. Chen, as reported by the Washington Post, said that he agreed with Kelly’s assessment.

Kelly’s resignation showcases one of the conflicts of the tournament. Many international leagues hold popular championship tournaments during March, and training for these tournaments begins in January and February. To compete in the World Baseball Classic, teams needed to practice throughout February.

In other words, international baseball federations, the organizations in charge of putting together the nation-based teams, would have ask their nation’s top players to pull out of the popular tournaments. As I noted last week, organizers in Cuba were not too thrilled about this prospect, and it seems that the same has happened in Panama as well.

So as the tournament nears its start this Friday with games in Asia, the biggest stories leading up to the first pitch won’t be about the tournament. Rather, the reports will focus on who is in and who is out, who is hurt and who is not. For Major League Baseball, these stories are hardly the positive marketing light through which they had hoped to sell the tournament.

Hopefully, once the games start, the focus will be on the compelling on-field action instead of the behind-the-scenes machinations. In the meantime, tournament supporters will just have to hope that the remaining big names will still be enough to draw international interest for the two-and-a-half week event.

Advertisements

RSS River Ave. Blues

  • The Rest of the AL East [2017 Season Preview] March 30, 2017
    There has been an interesting bit of parity in the AL East this decade, as every team has won the division crown in the last seven years. The Red Sox appear to be the standard-bearer, with both ZiPS and PECOTA projecting them to repeat as division champs – but both also have at least four […] The post The Rest of the AL East [2017 Season Preview] appeared fi […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Spring Training Game Thread: Final Grapefruit League Game March 30, 2017
    This afternoon the Yankees are playing their final Grapefruit League game of the year. They still have one exhibition game remaining, tomorrow night at the brand new SunTrust Field in Atlanta, but this is the final game in Florida. Well, at least until the Yankees come back to play the first series of the regular […] The post Spring Training Game Thread: Fin […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Yankees finalize Opening Day roster; Holder, Mitchell, and Shreve make the bullpen March 30, 2017
    Earlier this morning, Joe Girardi informally announced the Yankees’ 25-man Opening Day roster. Aaron Judge will be the right fielder and Luis Severino will be the fourth starter, and the decision to option out Rob Refsnyder means Pete Kozma will be the utility infielder. Also, Girardi told Bryan Hoch that Bryan Mitchell, Jonathan Holder, and […] The post Yan […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Girardi on Aaron Judge: “He’s our right fielder” March 30, 2017
    Common sense prevails! Joe Girardi announced this morning Aaron Judge will be the Yankees’ starting right fielder this season, according to Erik Boland. “He’s our right fielder,” said Girardi. The club was reportedly considering sending Judge to Triple-A as recently as yesterday. Judge, 24, is hitting .345/.406/.569 with three homers so far this spring. He’s […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Rob Refsnyder Optioned to Triple-A March 30, 2017
    Earlier today, the Yankees announced that Rob Refsnyder had been optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 26-year-old was batting just .209/.314/.349 in 43 at-bats, and was openly put on the trading block three weeks ago. There was some talk that he could have a shot at heading north in a bench role on the heels of the […] The post Rob Refsnyder Optioned to Tr […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Passan: Yankees will use Luis Severino as fourth starter March 30, 2017
    According to Jeff Passan, right-hander Luis Severino has made the Opening Day roster and the Yankees will use him as their fourth starter. Neither Joe Girardi nor anyone with the team has announced anything yet, however. Still, all signs point in this direction. This isn’t exactly a surprise. Severino, 23, has allowed six runs in […] The post Passan: Yankees […]
    Mike Axisa
  • There are many pros and only a few cons to signing Sanchez to a long-term contract March 30, 2017
    February and March make up extension season in baseball. Most pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players hammer out their contracts for the upcoming season this time of year, and inevitably some strike long-term deals with their teams. In recent weeks Tim Anderson, Rougned Odor, Jose Ramirez (the hitter, not the pitcher), Kevin Kiermaier, and Carlos Ma […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Open Thread: March 29th Camp Notes March 29, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.The Yankees are officially Spring Training champions. They clinched baseball’s best record this spring with their win this afternoon. Neat. The Yankees are now 23-8-1 while the second place Cardinals are 20-8-4. Both teams have two games to play. Aaron Judge had two singles this afternoon and he even stole […] The post O […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Poll: The 2017 RAB Prospect Watch March 29, 2017
    One of our longest running features — I hesitate to call it a feature, but whatever — here at RAB is our annual Prospect Watch. We pick a prospect and track his progress throughout the season in the sidebar. Simple, right? Also kinda silly, but hey, people seem to like it, so it continues. Think […] The post Poll: The 2017 RAB Prospect Watch appeared first o […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Brian Cashman and the 2017 trade deadline [2017 Season Preview] March 29, 2017
    Welcome to another contract year for Brian Cashman. Don’t worry: Cashman has enough job security that he isn’t about to trade the farm for some short-sighted fix that harms the Yankees’ future. He’s acquitted himself quite well over the last two decades and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the job right now. It […] The post Brian Cashman and the 2017 trad […]
    Steven Tydings

Blog Stats

  • 62,328 hits

%d bloggers like this: