There is plenty of good and bad things associated with the World Baseball Classic right now.
The World Baseball Classic is shattering attendance and viewership records. This is undeniably a good thing. It’s bringing attention to players and countries who otherwise wouldn’t be given the time of day. Countries like Cuba have a very rich baseball history, and countries like the Czech Republic qualified for the WBC for the very first time. In fact, everyone on the Czech team have full time day jobs! Expanding the reach of the sport is among the biggest priorities of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Now, onto the bad news: Injuries. MLB’s best closer, Edwin Diaz, is out for the season with a torn patella tendon. Star second baseman Jose Altuve suffered a broken thumb on a hit by pitch and is out 2-3 months. Unfortunately for MLB and its fans, the Astros and Mets are projected to be two of the best teams in the game this year. In fact, the Astros are the odds on favorite of winning the World Series. The question isn’t whether the WBC is fun or exciting. It’s whether or not it’s worth the risk for the height of the sport, MLB, to risk injury to their marquee players on marquee teams. It goes without saying that this has been and will be debated throughout the entire season.
It’s also fair to wonder how teams will perform after their players come back from the WBC. Some players spoke about not going because they didn’t feel like they’d be ready physically to perform in high leverage games like that. Will players be tired after playing in this tournament? It stands to reason that teams that didn’t have as many players go will have an advantage as the season gets underway. Only time will tell just how important or meaningful that advantage is.
If there’s any correlation between MLB teams struggling and the amount of players they had in the WBC, it’ll be fodder for the fans arguing that the WBC shouldn’t be played this time of year. For now, it’s best to go slow when the regular season begins. We have no idea what, if any, impact the WBC will have on the MLB season. That’s what makes this so intriguing.