Last Wednesday in the win-or-go home World Baseball Classic (WBC) game, Puerto Rico faced off against the Dominican Republic game. Edwin Díaz came in for Puerto Rico, closed the game, and his team won 5-2. Amid celebrating, Edwin Díaz fell to the ground and was unable to get up without the assistance of staff members.
The next day, it was confirmed – Díaz suffered a tear of the patellar tendon and will be out for the year.
This sparked the debate of “Is the World Baseball Classic worth it?” Some Mets fans and others took to social media to voice their displeasure with star players playing in games that are “meaningless.”
What some fans have a hard time comprehending is that the World Baseball Classic is not the only way players can get hurt before the season starts. Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux tore his ACL earlier in spring training. Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo suffered a low-grade ankle and knee sprain in spring training.
“People get hurt in Spring Training games every day right now, and no one says we shouldn’t have Spring Training,” said Lance Lynn, pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. “So that’s the unfortunate part of the game, people will get hurt, but the beauty of the game is to see the fans, see the passion that players have this time of year, especially in these events. That’s what this game – that’s why you play the game.”
The players thought it was anything but meaningless. Philadelphia’s new shortstop, Trea Turner hit a grand slam to give USA the win over Venezuela. Turner said the atmosphere in that game was “probably the loudest game” he’s ever played in. Turner played in and won the World Series with the Washington Nationals. Randy Arozarena made a game-saving catch against Puerto Rico and said, “That was better than any home run I’ve hit in the big leagues. That was better than any home run I hit in the World Series.” Many other players shared a similar sentiment.
One thing that’s for sure is the World Baseball Classic is good for baseball. As I noted in a previous blog post MLB has a marketing problem. World Baseball Classic has been able to grow the game and market the sport in a way that MLB has not been able to. Shohei Ohtani, the MVP of the WBC, and arguably the best player in the sport, gained over two million Instagram followers by the end of tournament.
Speaking of great talent, to end the World Baseball Classic, baseball fans dreams came true when Angels teammates Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani faced each other for the final out of the game. Outside of spring training, or Ohtani possibly signing elsewhere after this season, this matchup featuring the two best players wouldn’t have happened. While every player in both dugouts looked on from the top of the dugout, Ohtani struck out Trout to bring Japan their third WBC championship.
In my opinion, the World Baseball Classic offers an energetic and intense environment driven by the players and the fans. The WBC offers more competitive at-bats than spring training, and yet, the same level risk of getting injured – while also marketing the best stars in the game and delivering an unforgettable experience for all that have the opportunity to witness it.
Jeff Passan said it best in a tweet he posted this past Tuesday – “Baseball is about more than Major League Baseball. And the World Baseball Classic unequivocally proves that.” Passan couldn’t be more correct.