“When’s the Best Time to Play? Would They All Play Then?”
Petco Park was rocking Tuesday night.
Songs, flags, chants, yells. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic did not disappoint in the opening game of the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
So much for the idea, these are just exhibition games.
Ask the fans who stood and let the umpire have it, cheered, booed, caught foul balls, dove for home run balls, drank and ate and bought lots of gear.
Guys diving for ground balls. Players stealing bases head first. Screaming line drive home runs. The dugouts emptying to salute Yadier Molina’s rocket shot home run.
Even Puerto Rico manager Tony Pena getting ejected for night long barbs with the home plate umpire over balls and strikes.
Much has been said and written nationally about these games, this global tournament.
You sat in the dugouts yesterday during the workouts, and you were impressed with what the players said. Wearing their hats, with their country flag on the side, putting on that jersey, means alot.
They called it, ‘their Olympics’, and they were not meaningless phrases.
But the great debate will continue. Is the 2nd week of spring training the right time to hold this baseball festival? How concerned should teams be that their pitchers have to amp it up and go 4-or-5 innings in these games, when normally they’d be throwing 2-innings in a Cactus League game? And what about the injury factor?
Tons of big names decided not to play. Team USA is without Clayton Kershaw. Bryce Harper watched the games on TV, not from the USA dugout. And it’s the same with lots of other teams.
Some players weren’t ready for the intensity of these exhibition gmes. Pitchers for sure weren’t going to put themselves at risk for this, no matter how much they love their country.
Would baseball be better served to play this tourney, the final week of spring training, when most everyone is in game shape?
Could you put the tourney around All Star game week, but would that mean shutting down all of baseball for a good 10-days to play all the games?
Is the end of the season the right time, after players have grinded thru a tough 162-game regular season?
Do you play in post World Series, but in what venues then?
There are no solid answers. The WBC is evolving, stupid rule changes not with-standing. But you can feel the spirit, get grabbed by the energy, experience the passion, on the field and in the stands.
It would be something if all the great players, representing all the flags, were included on all the rosters, for all the games.
Finding the right time on the calendar is the next big thing for Commissioner Rob Manfred to figure out, because baseball has come upon something really special, regardless of which flag you wave, which song you are singing, which beer you are drinking at Petco Park.
The World Baseball Classic, a pretty cool place to be.