Today’s Common Sense in Baseball award – a commodity is short supply around my game lately – goes to New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Asked why he chose not to participate in the World Baseball Classic, Syndergaard pointed out that he plays for the Mets and the WBC hadn’t sent anybody to the World Series or Hall of Fame lately.
Hooray for him and for other front-liners like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer for passing up this foolish exercise, which continues to function as another part of the legacy of Hall of Fame Commissioner Bud Selig, the gift that keeps on giving.
The World Baseball Classic is designed to promote the game, which is a good thing, and interrupt spring training, which is a not so good thing. It sends players to faraway and exotic places for early rounds, risks injuries and breaks up the chemistry of ball clubs in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.
That said, the Classic has a fervent defender in Commissioner Rob Manfred, who says the tournament is a wonderful addition to the baseball year, better than ever, and will remain a part of the sport’s calendar.
It provides, good games and wonderful competition, the commissioner said. It generates attention in non-traditional baseball venues, the commissioner said. And, by the way, it is profitable, the commissioner also said.
Follow the money. If the proprietors of the game can wring a few extra dollars out of the sport, you can be sure they will. And as for the risks, well life is full of risks. So anybody hoping baseball will scrap this foolishness can forget about that. As long as it generates dollars, the WBC will continue to be played all around the world, often in exotic sites.
So off to Seoul, Tokyo and Jalisco, Mexico the players and teams journeyed for the early rounds of this year’s tournament before it returns to San Diego and ultimately Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the finale and a celebration of nationalism for the winners. The championship game is scheduled for March 22 after carving three weeks out of spring training for the participating players. That leaves maybe two weeks for the players to get ready for the regular season.
The calendar is the biggest problem for the WBC. Playing it earlier, guarantees that the players won’t be in shape for games. Playing it later, guarantees interfering with preparation for the regular season. Playing it not at all might be the best solution.
Then there is the appeal to nationalism. How can a player asked to represent his country turn that opportunity down? The flag waving and the national anthem playing over the sound system can be very appealing. And don’t kid yourself, the WBC does plenty of that.
So we are left to depend on that old standby of common sense. And with his long hair waving behind him with every pitch, Noah Syndergaard has displayed a healthy supply of that by staying in his team’s training camp, just like Harper, Trout, Bumgarner, Scherzer and a fistful of others did.