the WBC

The World Baseball Classic…on the surface it’s a great concept but I have some major issues with it, yet I understand that many of these things have to be done in order to create the best tournament possible.

Here’s some of my issues:

1) Players representing countries that they are not from.  Examples are Mike Aviles with Puerto Rico, Alex Rodriguez (before injury) with the Dominican Republic and about half of the Italian team.

This almost has to be done though or else countries such as Italy wouldn’t be able to field anywhere near a competitive team and make the tournament watchable.

2) How some of the team’s managers handle playing time.  This has been a major issue for the USA and some question how much they want to win because of it.  It’s a tough call when you have a team like the Americans do.  Everyone is so good, do you try to win every game and keep a player like Derek Jeter on the bench the majority of the time or do you share the playing time and try to keep it equal similar to an All-Star game.

Personally, I don’t think either has much effect on winning games but the appearance that it gives is definitely not a good one.

3) The fact that it is held during Spring Training.  It will never happen at any other time of the year but this keeps it from being played at a top level as some MLB players are just rounding into form.  Also, it keeps the pitchers from being set free by their managers and throwing lots of pitches.

They instituted new pitch count and rest rules for this tournament as to keep anyone from getting overused when they aren’t fully ready.  It also evens the playing field for countries like the USA who are stocked with MLB players more concerned with getting ready for their season when they compete against someone like Cuba who will train specifically for this event.

4) The tournament format.  Is it double-elimination, single-elimination, bracket style, round robin?  It seems to be a little bit of everything.  Let me say that any baseball tournament, even a best-of-7 series to some degree is never a fair judge of which team is best.  Baseball prowess is always best judged over the course of a long season testing the team’s depth and ability to work around slumps, injuries, etc.

In a short burst, any team can look good.  Even the worst major league teams win at least 1/3 of their games and can have decent winning streaks.  So we shouldn’t be so shocked at an upset in a single game of the WBC like the Netherlands beating the Dominican or Australia outslugging Mexico.  It’s baseball and anything can happen when it’s just one game involved.

*I will point out that this last complaint is somewhat invalidated by the new pitching rules put in this season.  Since teams are not allowed to ride one hot pitcher, they are forced to have to make it more of a team effort to win games.  This does test the depth of each team more fully, but a couple great pitchers can still offset a mediocre overall staff in such a short segment.

Speaking of Australia’s win over Mexico Sunday night, former Naturals pitcher Paul Mildren not only was on the mound for the Aussies but played a key role in the rally.  He stopped the bleeding after Mexico had put 5 on the board in the 1st and another early in the 2nd.  He pitched two innings allowing only one run and providing his team a chance to rally.

Talking to Mildren last year during the Olympics, you could really sense the pride that he has for his country.  He barely missed out on making the Australian baseball team for the Olympics and he so desperately wanted to be there, especially as he watched his girlfriend be part of the experience as a member of Australia’s rowing team.  I know Paul is very proud just to get to wear the uniform of his home country, but helping them to a win should make it that much better.

Today is the day that the minor-league camp officially opens for the Royals in Surprise, AZ.  In honor of that event, we present a Kansas City Star article featuring the thoughts of KC farm director J.J. Picollo on 5 prospects to keep an eye on this season.  One is a former Natural who might be back this year, while the other 4 are on the way up and could hit Arvest Ballpark at some point this season.

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