by Jean Gabler | March 5, 2009 • It seemed like spring training was rolling along its merry way with players, fans, and the media having a grand time. And then, all at once, it hit a wall. And the wall has a name: the World Baseball Classic.
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After spring training games last Sunday, players departed training camp to head off to join their national teams. Since Sunday, the Twins have played two spring training games and two exhibition games—one on Tuesday against Puerto Rico and one on Thursday against the Netherlands. Each national team is hosted by one of the major league teams and has been practicing at those facilities. Bert Blyleven is the pitching coach for the Netherlands team, which might explain why they played the Twins on Thursday. The Twins won both exhibition games.
The USA team plays its first game this Saturday against Canada. Both teams are part of Pool C and those games are being played in Toronto, Canada. The brackets consist of four pools: A, B, C, and D. The winner and runner-up advance to two pools: 1 and 2. The top two teams from each of these pools move on to the finals, which do not finish until March 23. It turns out to be a long, confusing schedule.
This means that players from the two teams that make it to the finals will be away from their major league team from March 2nd until the 23rd. (Although in 2006, there were only two major league players on the rosters for the finals.)
Managers and coaches say that they support the WBC but most admit that it is hard to have no control over their top players’ playing time or conditioning and there is always concern over injuries. I was listening to a MLB Network report on Francisco Liriano. They were speculating on the effect his pitching in the WBC in 2006 had on his eventual season-ending injury and the resulting Tommy John surgery. Also in 2006, many felt that the lack of playing time that Carlos Silva had in the WBC caused him to struggle all season.
Does anyone remember who won the World Baseball Classic in 2006? In case you are ever playing Trivial Pursuit and are asked that question, Japan beat Cuba. Interest in the WBC did grow as the top teams advanced. The final games were sold out and were also widely watched in other countries. Who’s going to win this year? I don’t care. I wish all the teams well and hope that no one gets hurt, and I’m thankful that it will be four more years until we have to do this again.
Correction 10/6: The team defeated by Japan in the finals of the 2006 World Baseball Classic was Cuba, not Korea as this blog entry originally stated.