The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is set to begin on March 2, 2013 in Fukoka, Japan (Pool A) & Taichung, Taiwan (Pool B) and on March 7, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Pool C), and in Phoenix, Arizona (Pool D). The teams in each pool are as follows.
Pool A:Japan, China, Cuba, and Brazil
Pool B: South Korea, Netherlands, Australia, Taipei
Pool C: Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Domincan Republic, and Spain
Pool D: USA, Mexico, Italy, Canada
Of particular interest to Rays fans will be the Pool C and Pool D brackets which includes the United States, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Ben Zobrist will be representing the U.S., Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta will represent the Dominican Republic, and Jose Molina will represent Puerto Rico. Our own Scott Grauer did a fantastic job at looking at the Team USA roster in his article titled USA World Baseball Classic Roster Includes Ben Zobrist. In his article he ponders the possible starting lineup of Ben Zobrist (RF), Joe Mauer (C), Ryan Braun (LF), Giancarlo Stanton (DH), David Wright (3b), Adam Jones (CF), Mark Teixeira (1b), Brandon Phillips (2b), and Jimmy Rollins (SS). The starting pitching staff includes R.A. Dickey, Kris Medlen, Ryan Vogelsong, and Derek Holland.
All of the athletes that have decided to participate, for whatever reason, in the WBC should be applauded. Those that chose not to participate, for whatever reason, should not be seen in a negative light. Recently Jon Morosi of Foxsports sparked some debate in his article WBC's Team USA Lacking Biggest Stars in which he suggests that the American baseball player isn't invested in growing the WBC as the premier international baseball event.
Before summarizing some of Morosi's thoughts it is only fair to point out that he does state that "This is not to question the character or patriotism of the players who have opted out."
In the article he does suggest that many players opt-out of the WBC because of a mid-guided fear of injury, the player may be pressured by their team to skip the event, and the attitude of some American players, executive, fans, and yes reporters.
He says that the US athlete should want to reassert their supremacy in the sport and points to Team USA 7-7 record and no title game appearances on main reasons why. He says, "Instead, it seems several American stars see the WBC as a matter of convenience rather than an obligation to country and sport. They don't want to play entering their walk year. They don't want to play if they just changed teams, signed a big contract or went to the postseason. They will do it, only if the timing is exactly right."
Morosi concludes his article stating that "the US remains the structural center of the baseball universe, producing more than 70 percent of current major-league players and serving as the base for 29 of its 30 teams. The game is richer, greater and more diverse than it's ever been. Those are manifestly positive developments. Yet, because of how the history of our nation is intertwined with the history of the sport, the US bears a unique responsibility to grow the WBC as the sport's premier international tournament. A large part of that obligation is showing up. And it would be nice to win once in a while, too."
The article covered many points and if your twitter feed includes many of the national writers a good amount of debate was sparked. The question I have is whether or not the US fan cares about winning the tournament or cares whether the tournament is played at all? Would you rather David Price and Ben Zobrist remain in Port Charlotte working with their coaches and bonding with their teammates or push themselves to win a WBC title?
From my personal point of view the WBC is a fun event and a game with more intensity than the average spring training exhibition game. As the WBC advances the clock tics down ever closer to the beginning of the season when the games count and if Team USA wins that'd be great but if they don't it has never bothered me.
I do not believe that the WBC will ever gain in popularity in the US to the degree that will drive the tournament to the World Cup level and I don't believe that responsibility should be placed on the US players backs. As a fan I look forward to Team USA competing as the players that have committed are a formidable bunch.