The Diamondbacks may be without some of their players come spring training this season. If we’re lucky, some of the D’Backs we enjoy watching throughout the summer will be hand picked to play for their country in the largest baseball tournament in the world. That tournament would be the World Baseball Classic which is set to take place in March 2013 for the first time since 2009.
Just so we’re all caught up on the Classic: The WBC is an international baseball competition consisting of 16 teams in a double elimination tournament format. This year’s Classic has expanded to include a double elimination qualifying round with 16 teams that will see the top four countries advancing to compete in the round of 16. Beginning on March 2nd with both Pool A and Pool B beginning play in Japan and South Korea and ending in San Francisco’s AT&T Park for the finals March 17-19th. The United States, in with an automatic bid for finishing in the top 12 during the 2009 Classic, begins play in Phoenix on March 7th. The U.S. will compete against Mexico, Italy and one of the qualifying teams to be decided in the next two weeks- the final two spots will be decided on November 18th and 19th. Spain and Canada have already won their qualifying pools and will play in March.
Here are the top 12 teams from the 2009 WBC that have received automatic bids to the upcoming Classic: Australia, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, the United States, and Venezuela. Japan has won both of the Classic’s in 2006 and 2009. The United States has never made it farther than the semi-finals losing in Round 2 in the inaugural Classic and then being knocked out by Japan in the semi-finals in 2009.
Now, for most players it is an honor to be picked to represent the United States for the Classic and they’ll jump at the opportunity. However, there will be plenty of players that turn down this unique opportunity so they can continue with their typical spring regimen without interruption or others that fear injury and still others that will have their own organization tell them to decline. Here is a list of the current D’Backs that played on 2009 WBC teams:
All four of these pitchers could be asked to return although I would think that either Bell or Putz (or both) won’t be returning just based on their age and the closers that have come along in the last four years. Parra would be a great fit for the Venezuelan’s once again and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him join the club this March. Another Venezuelan for the D’Backs that we won’t see at [most of] spring training is Miguel Montero who has already been selected to represent his home country.
I personally would like to see Justin Upton take the challenge- maybe it would take some of the pressure off of him ‘leading’ the D’Backs and loosen him up for the regular season. Other players that would be good fits are reliever David Hernandez (born in USA), Paul Goldschmidt and rookie Ryan Wheeler. I also think it would be fun to see either Patrick Corbin or Tyler Skaggs asked to represent the U.S. team in March. I realize that they will likely be battling for a rotation spot and for that reason Gibson and/or Kevin Towers may ask that they pass on the opportunity but they seem like they would jump at the opportunity if the timing were right.
The D’Backs could afford to see Ziegler, Upton, Montero and even Parra all go to play in the Classic this spring. And who knows, maybe the experience they bring back to the clubhouse could be just what the team needs to propel them back into contention for a playoff spot.
There has, of course, been controversy surrounding this tournament as it asks these players to play at ‘game speed’ at a much earlier point in their training program and therefore increases their chance for injury. While this may have some validity to it, there is nothing that says a starter won’t get injured during their two innings of work on the mound or two at bats in a spring training game and therefore I say, stop making excuses. Get behind the World Baseball Classic this spring and enjoy the opportunity to see some serious All-Star teams that carries with it a ton of national pride in each team competing.