Thankful that no Yanks pitchers headed to WBC

Lose an arm; gain an opening
The Presinal/A-Rod connection starts an avalanche

As Mike mentioned in the open thread, game action is starting a bit early this year. That’s because of the World Baseball Classic, an event which MLB officials attempt to hype, and about which the American public, from what I can gather, doesn’t care for the most part.

I understand MLB’s desire to see this tournament succeed. They think it can get people around the world hyped about baseball the same way they’re hyped about soccer and specifically the World Cup. While the WBC will never be the World Cup, it could be a successful tournament if it were run properly. Unfortunately, there are a few too many snags at this point for it to be feasible.

Most notable is the detriment it causes to MLB teams. Yes, the opening of the season might be delayed by a few days, but that won’t give the WBC players the time in camp they’re used to. Players don’t show up in mid-February just because. They show up to be around the team and to get in shape for the new season. The WBC represents practice for these players, but it’s not practice with their respective teams. Exactly how important that is I don’t know, but it has to be of some significance. This goes especially for catchers, who are tasked with learning an entire pitching staff in a month and a half.

Pitchers, though, seem to suffer the most harm from WBC participation. Just look back to 2006 and you can see what I’m talking about. A number of pitchers who participated in the WBC either befell injury or had horrible years. This is why I’m thankful that the Yankees aren’t sending any of their arms to the international tournament. They’re keeping them in camp where they can monitor their workload and ensure that they perform at peak ability for the 2009 team. That is, after all, what they’re paid for, and the entire reason why they were selected to the WBC in the first place.

Look at the starters for Team USA in 2006: Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis. Roger pulled his half-year thing with Houston that year, so we’ll set him aside. Dontrelle Willis had a superb 2005, and if not for Chris Carpenter would have won the NL Cy Young award. Yet in 2006 he faltered a bit. Yes, he pitched 223.1 innings and threw to a 3.87 ERA. That doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but his walks shot up from 55 in 236 innings in 2005 to 83 in 2006. That brought his WHIP up to the 1.4 range, making his ERA seem out of line with his actual output (true, true, his FIP was 4.31). This set the stage for his bed-crapping in 2007, and his injury-riddled 2008.

Jake Peavy has had exactly one bad year since 2003, and you’ll never believe what year it was. Yep, 2006. In the years 2004 through 2008 he had an ERA over 2.88 just once. His walks, hits allowed, and home runs allowed were far out of line with his career totals. Thankfully for him and the Padres, he rebounded with a Cy Young performance in 2007.

Not satisfied with a two-player sample? Bartolo Colon pitched 222.2 innings in 2005, (undeservingly) winning the Cy Young. After pitching for the Dominican Republic in 2006 managed just 56.1 innings in the majors, succumbing to injuries. He hasn’t crossed the 100-inning barrier since. Jae Seo threw 90.1 innings of 2.59 ERA ball for the Mets in 2005, but after participating in the WBC he managed a 4.56 ERA in 2006 split between the Dodgers and Rays. Joel Pineiro, while crappy in 2005, was even crappier in 2006.

Clearly, there were players who weren’t adversely affected by the tournament. Kelvim Escobar, coming off an injury in 2005, pitched 189.1 stellar innings after a WBC appearance in 2006. Erik Bedard lowered his ERA by a quarter point and pitched 50 more innings after a WBC stint. Yet, despite these improvements, the trend tends to be that if you pitch in the WBC, you’ll see diminished returns during that season.

I’m glad, then, that the Yankees’ pitchers are staying in camp and working like a normal Spring Training. Like the Hall of Fame, I don’t get much enjoyment out of the WBC. It seems like a marketing ploy by MLB. Get the best players in the world together every three years and drum up worldwide interest in the sport. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the end they will achieve. It looks like the timing of the tournament might have a generally detrimental effect on pitchers, which doesn’t bode well for the games that actually count. Clearly, we’ll need a larger sample to make any definitive conclusions, but considering the results from 2006, I couldn’t be happier that the Yankees’ pitchers will go through the spring supervised by team personnel.

Lose an arm; gain an opening
The Presinal/A-Rod connection starts an avalanche
  • Rafi

    Luis Ayala says hi.

    • Mike A.

      Eh, TJ was probably inevitable for him with that slinging, borderline sidearm delivery.

      • dan

        So? If you want to earn any respect in this town you need to sling some unfounded BS.

  • Tom Zig

    What other Yankees are playing in the WBC? I know A-rod and Jeter are, but is Cano playing?

    Oh and Matsuzaka is pitching for Japan, not wishing injury on him or anything, I’d just like to see him get lit up

    • Ben K.

      Cervelli’s on the roster for the Italian team, and the two Chinese players the Yanks signed a couple of years ago are on the China roster. Cano is playing for the DR.

  • Januz

    The WBC has about the same amount of interest to me as the Fed-Ex Cup Golf tournaments at the end of the year. It is an artificial tournament that if given choices between that, the NCAA Tournament, late season NHL & NBA, Pre-season Yankee games, and golf, the WBC comes in LAST place. Just like choosing Pro & College Football, hockey and late season baseball over golf.
    I understand MLB & The Players Association want to grow baseball globally, and it is worthwhile goal. But when you see Mark Teixeira who is on the Executive Committee of the MLBPA decide to focus on the YANKEE SEASON and opt-out of this tournament, without being injured, it tells me the WBC is not the avenue to do it.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I wonder if they’d be better off doing the WBC in, like, November or December.

      Might get more players to play if it’s a postseason tourney rather than a preseason tourney, and for youngsters it could take the place of/supplement the defunct winter leagues (like Hawaii).

      Its hard to compete with the NFL during it’s stretch run, but maybe they could schedule most of the games during the week, or on Saturdays after the college regular season winds up.

  • steve

    i worked a few of the games during the last go around in 06 and I have to say it was fun …. the players seemed to enjoy it as did the fans … but I gotta say it just not a good time of year to have it going on …. unfortunately there really isn’t a good time of the year to have it.

    • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

      Why not early November in a warm locale? Players are already in shape from the long season, and even if they get hurt, they have 4-5 months to recover before next season.

      The Arizona Fall League is going right around then, as is the Hawaiian Winter league. Maybe they could even do something in Puerto Rico and Mexico.

  • Januz

    The way to grow the game is to try and increase the scholarships available in college baseball, and build facilities right here in the United States (Particularly in the inner cities and other economically disadvantaged areas). There is a lot of discussion about the lack of black ballplayers in the Major Leagues, and that is true. But one reason for that is the opportunities in college football and basketball are much greater (Although NOT in NYC, where college sports interest is limited, so most guys go out of state). The amount of scholarships is pathetic. For example: Rice NEVER has had full scholarships for baseball (Brett Marshall would have been the first if he decided to go there).
    If stuff like that could be done, the game can grow, and the need for International Expansion and the WBC would be lessened.

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Title IX

      • jsbrendog

        title IX is poorly implemented. I am all for equality of everyone but when it is forced and at a detriment to others and even then still not completely successful i am opposed to it

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I am all for equality of everyone but when it is forced and at a detriment to others and even then still not completely successful i am opposed to it.

          The history of this (and basically every country everywhere) is pretty clear: if you don’t “force” equality, you’ll never ever get anything remotely resembling equity, much less equality.

          Title XI may be imperfect, but it’s perfect in it’s demand that the pre-existing imperfection it seeks to correct was much worse and cannot stand.

        • Januz

          I agree with you 100% about Title IX, it may be one of the WORST decisions ever by the Supreme Court (40% QUOTAS for women (Most of whom are WHITE), at the expense of MINORITY men). It is funny that Sharpton, Jackson & all the Civil Rights “Leaders” NEVER complain about that. You would THINK they want more young black males (The ones they refer to as an “Endangered Species”)to get an education?
          Baseball is starting to make positive changes such as the Baseball Academy’s in Compton & South Florida. But there is a lot more that is needed to be done. I know Alex Rodriguez talked about helping Dominican kids here, in Manhattan (I really hope he follows through with it).

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            The fact that affirmative action programs have benefited white women more than black men does not mean that black men think affirmative action programs should be ended. The struggle for equality embodied in the civil rights movement and the struggle for equality embodied in the women’s rights movement are not enemies of each other, they are compatriots.

            Moreover, the implementation of Title XI didn’t decrease African American enrollment in college, nor did it decrease athletic scholarship dollars given to African Americans. Both of those numbers continued to increase following the adoption of Title XI. The event that decreased black enrollment in colleges wasn’t Title XI, it was Bakke v. California.

            Where are you getting these historical abstracts that you draw your conclusions on, Januz? They don’t jibe much with reality.

            • Andy In Sunny Daytona
              • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Heh. Before I even clicked on the link, I knew what I did wrong.

                Epic Fail: ME.

                “Hey, that’s great… but who are the Chefs?”

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
                • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                  You rarely make an error, so when you do, I have to pounce.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  I did choose milk that one time…

                • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                  Especially on such a hot day.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      FWIW, football and basketball are about the only two college sports that provide a large number of full scholarships because they’re revenue sports. Once college baseball draws a fanbase large enough to bring in a net positive revenue, then perhaps they’ll start getting more scholarships.

      I don’t know that the shortcomings of the collegiate baseball system, though, is truly what’s to blame for the declining numbers of African Americans in the MLB. Decades ago, when there were more black big leaguers, there were FEWER black college players, and segregation on college campuses was either still in existence or only recently ended.

      • Januz

        I am not going to blame the college system alone for the absence of black major leaguers, but it plays a role (I remember Dave Winfield saying that “If I started out today, he would not have chosen baseball”). Decades ago basketball was not as big in many areas of this country as it is today (Mens and Womens Hoops in Oklahoma comes to mind). So kids who want to attend college and who are economically disadvantaged, will gravitate towards basketball (Along with football) at the expense of baseball.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Yes, but kids who are economically disadvantaged don’t want to go to college, they want to not be economically disadvantaged. College is merely a means for that to happen. But, back in the late 50’s-early 70’s, when it was by and large harder for economically disadvantaged black men to attend college, there was still a greater number of black players in the MLB, and most of them were signed as highschoolers. There seems to be fewer of those high-school age black kids who go pro in baseball now than there were back then.

          I agree with you that this is probably due to the rising influence of basketball and football, but I think the correlation ends there and doesn’t have much to do with any failure of college baseball to provide adequate scholarships to black baseball playing kids (or, much less, any inanity of Title XI preventing black kids from becoming big league baseball players.

          You’ve got the right idea, but you’re taking your conclusion way too far afield.

          • Januz

            My basic conclusion, is that there is so much of globalizing eveything, and trying to force feed stuff like the WBC down our throats, in the name of globalization, instead of growing interest in the USA. This is not just a baseball issue, you even see it in the Academy Awards/Oscars, where everything is “International” so they are nominating films that have limited appeal (Frost/Nixon), and actors that the average American would not notice if they walked down a street (Penolope Cruz). Guess what happened? The ratings for telecasts and advertising revenue went down. You see it with pushing soccer down our throats, when I have heard for THIRTY years, that soccer would be the biggest sport going. Guess what? It has not caught the NHL, let alone the NFL, MLB, or NBA.
            I do not claim to be an expert, but I am willing to believe that seeing black stars such as Howard and Sabathia, smiling, signing autographs, and having baseball clinics, will do more good in developing fans and new players than the WBC.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Your basic conclusion is flawed, because you’re creating a false dichotomy (and a red herring). Growing international interest in baseball does causally or even correlatively lessen domestic interest in baseball, it’s not an either/or. There are other factors much, much, MUCH more central to the declining interest in baseball locally.

              Recognizing the work of foreign actors and filmmakers does not decrease television ratings or ad revenue, the two have virtually nothing to do with each other. Domestic fragmentation of the media streams and increasing entertainment choice (not to mention the recession) are larger contributions to that.

              (BTW, I find it ironic that your two examples, Frost/Nixon and Penelope Cruz, are 1. a foreign movie about a domestic, American subject that many Americans remember and were interested in, and 2. a Spanish movie star in a American film by an American director named Woody Allen, and that Cruz, who is a long-established star here in America, is playing an American woman in the film. But I digest.)

              I do not claim to be an expert, but I am willing to believe that seeing black stars such as Howard and Sabathia, smiling, signing autographs, and having baseball clinics, will do more good in developing fans and new players than the WBC.

              Again, false dichotomy. You’re portraying those two things as mutually exclusive (Howard and Sabathia promoting the game domestically and the WBC promoting the game internationally.) That’s just not a true statement. Both of those things can happen simultaneously.

              • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                Penelope Cruz is not playing an American in that film. She plays an crazy ex-wife of a Spanish man who is trying to bang two American chicks.

                That’s twice today Tommie.

  • BigBlueAL

    I still dont understand why they dont play it in November. When they used to (dunno if they still do it anymore) send an All-Star team to play a 7 game series vs Japan All-Stars in Japan those games were pretty good AND alot of superstar players used to go (Bonds, Piazza, Giambi and Big Pappi off the top of my head from rect trips).

    So it may hinder FA’s who dont want to get hurt, thats a very small size of players. Players are still in playing shape come November compared to March. Plus please dont talk about injuries, I think its alot safer to pitch in November than force yourself to pitch in “real” games in March.

    I think playing it in November which comes right after the WS and will only be opposed by the first month of NBA/college basketball and football games only on weekends it would garner more attention.

    • Artist formerly known as ‘The’ Steve

      Some FA’s may WANT to play. If they missed a big chunk of their walk year in the hope of having a big WBC, further increasing their value. For the others who dont, as you said its a small percentage of players as a whole.

      • jsbrendog

        plus you choose to play or not, you dont have to so i feel like its kinda invalid whether they want to or not. if they dont then they dont. there are enough superstars to go around for most places and the countries that dont have many or only have 1 well then youd think the pride of being “that guy” would make him play regardless

  • RobC

    I like the idea of playing in Nov too.
    Actually since baseball is out out of the Olympics and the strike of 94 forever screwed up the record books I would not mind a WBC in mid season. However besides the prolonged work stopage the fear of injury would be even bigger.

  • jsbrendog

    unfortunately it will never be as big as the world cup. or probably even the eurocup. soccer isjust too ingrained into everyone else in the world but us and maybe canada where its ockey eh.

    but i did just get my cable set up this weekend and i will be watching mlb network and fox soccer channel like no other til yes starts reg season games

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The WBC was started in 2006, and in the shadow of long-established, financial behemoth pro baseball leagues in the US and Japan.

      The World Cup was started in 1930, when not only pro soccer leagues were in their relative infancy, but when ALL pro sports leagues were in their relative infancy and the supreme sporting events of the world were the Olympics.

      It’s easy to see how and why the World Cup would have taken root on the international consciousness while the WBC is behind the eight-ball.

  • Whitey14

    “Joel Pineiro, while crappy in 2005, was even crappier in 2006”

    Thanks Joe, after snowblowing and shoveling for three and half hours, I needed a damn good laugh!

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  • Senor A. Boy

    Isn’t Marte pitching in the WBC?

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