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Morosi is disappointed in U.S. stars for dissing the WBC. Here’s why he’s wrong.

Jan 17, 2013, 11:05 AM EDT

150px-World_Baseball_Classic_Logo_with_out_text

The U.S. team for the World Baseball Classic was announced this morning and, no, not all of the big U.S. stars are on the roster. Not present are Buster Posey, Mike Trout, Bryce HarperJustin Verlander,Clayton KershawDavid Price and many, many more.

Some may view this as a matter of professionals putting their professional obligations first. Jon Paul Morosi, however, finds it to be evidence of a bad attitude on the part of the big stars:

We should want to reassert our supremacy in the sport, particularly when considering our all-time WBC record suggests precisely such a statement is needed. Instead, it seems several American stars see the WBC as a matter of convenience rather than an obligation to country and sport. They don’t want to play entering their walk year. They don’t want to play if they just changed teams, signed a big contract or went to the postseason. They will do it, only if the timing is exactly right.

For just about every other participating nation, the opposite is true …

Morosi slams the non-participating players like Trout for making “lame excuses” and being “idle heroes.”**

All of which is pretty weak sauce to me.  Morosi says that worries about injury risk some non-participants have aren’t reasonable, but his argument that playing in the WBC somehow better prepares players for the season aren’t very convincing themselves (note: perhaps the reason more non-WBC players were on the disabled list the April after the last WBC was because they were also less than 100% at WBC time). And at no point does he acknowledge how important a normal routine is to baseball players. These guys are the ultimate creatures of habit, and to think that radically messing with their habits is no big deal is to fail to understand what makes ballplayers tick.

But his larger point is that there is some unique obligation on the part of the U.S. to go full-bore into the WBC:

The US remains the structural center of the baseball universe, producing more than 70 percent of current major-league players and serving as the base for 29 of its 30 teams. The game is richer, greater and more diverse than it’s ever been. Those are manifestly positive developments. Yet, because of how the history of our nation is intertwined with the history of the sport, the US bears a unique responsibility to grow the WBC as the sport’s premier international tournament.

A large part of that obligation is showing up. And it would be nice to win once in a while, too.

Actually, I see those facts as reasons why U.S. players don’t have to show up for the WBC. Unlike some other countries, the U.S. has nothing to prove in baseball. No one will argue that Major League Baseball isn’t the pinnacle of the sport, and that it is here, in the MLB, where a player’s mettle is truly tested.  And yes, it is true that the game is more diverse than it has ever been. Indeed, MLB has become a wonderful melting pot of nationalities and its diversity is ever-increasing.  Which makes country-against-country tournaments like the WBC seem like some sort of anachronism, really. A nationalist contest that is really beside the point in this increasingly international sport.

The WBC is kinda cool. Not gonna doubt that.  But to suggest that it is somehow more important than the MLB regular season, and that players who prioritize that regular season over the WBC are making poor choices, is frankly laughable.

 

**An earlier version of this post characterized Jon Paul Morosi’s criticism of players who do not participate in the WBC as one based on the players’ lack of patriotism. My reason for saying so was that it was my view, based on the entirety of his column, that he was, in fact, questioning players’ patriotism even if he did not intend to.  

In the past few hours Morosi and I have had an offline discussion in which he explained what he was getting at with yesterday’s column. Rather than lack of patriotism, he explained, he was criticizing the attitude of players who have an “insufficient perspective and awareness” of their obligations and the importance of the WBC.  While Morosi and I still likely disagree about all of this, I appreciate that questioning the patriotism of others is a serious charge and that, whatever my takeaway from Morosi’s column was, it was not his intention to do such a thing.

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Isn’t it probably good for MLB if the US doesn’t win this thing on a regular basis? Aren’t other nations more likely to show interest in baseball if there’s a competitive international tournament? If the US just beats up on everyone else it just reinforces the idea that this is an “american game”, rather than a game with international appeal, and that’s not good for the sport at all.

    Not that I think Mike Trout is sitting out of the WBC for the good of baseball or anything, but there’s plenty of upside in a competitive tournament, and nothing good about a lopsided victory.

    • braddavery - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      You just assume that if all the best U.S. players played they would automatically dominate and win the thing every time?

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    I don’t think the WBC is more important than the regular season, but to me, it’s a little odd that really young guys like Trout and Harper can’t take the time to play. I know it’s a business, but at their age, they should be loving just playing the game and should not be able to use the tired excuse. I think for the pitchers, they should never really go because they may have a routine factor to keep in mind and they are a little more fragile than guys like Trout and Harper.

    But at the end of the day, they are adults and can do whatever they want. Morosi is wrong to call anybody out in print for not playing in the WBC.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM

      It seems like young guys are the ones who shouldn’t get tired, but it also seems like they’re invariably the guys who are dragging late in the season. In fact, Trout himself was regularly criticized in the whole crazy MVP debate last year because his August and September were weaker than his May-July. Does that have to do with exhaustion due to “the rigors of a full MLB season”? Who knows? But if you’re an Angels fan, you probably want to see that Trout is doing everything he can to make sure he’s at his best in September (and onward) for his team.

      • Old Gator - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        And anyway, who gives a damn what the President of Egypt thinks?

      • jarathen - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        In 2011, Trout was dogging it in the AFL, and every single report I read talked about how tired he was.

        While it seems odd on the surface, I’ve read from many baseball writers that playing from late February through the end of September at least is an endurance run that takes time to adjust to.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        Punks!

  3. dkphilly1122 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Who cares whether they wanna play or not. It is THERE choice whether they want to or not. If they are worried about the MLB season and being healthy and rested for that than so be it. That is where they make their living at the end of the day. So suppose they get hurt in the WBC, than what??

    • aceinthehole12 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      THEIR*

      • blacksables - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I believe capitalization of a mis-spelt world cancels out the error.

      • blacksables - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        Since I didn’t capitalize ‘world’, it does count as an error.

        ”” word ””’

    • JB (the original) - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      “then” not “than” as well.

  4. oldnumero7 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    There’s nothing wrong with being a patriotic American nationalist and wanting to see your country win (as we all do with the Olympics). But to invent reasons other than our own selfish desires for these guys to play is contrary to every other message we send them (which is MLB team first).

  5. kopy - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Well, as a Twins fan, I don’t know what he’s talking about. Unless, they wanted Willingham (and that’s a pretty crowded outfield), Team USA got the best from Minnesota.

    ^That sentence has a dual meaning because Perkins and Mauer grew up in Minnesota in addition to being Twins players. *pats self on back*

  6. mazblast - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    I’m sure the opinion of Jon Paul Morosi, who/whatever he may be, is of paramount importance to the players. Their careers, indeed their lives, hinge on what he thinks.

    • professormaddog31 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:38 AM

      Also, you just know that if someone like Verlander got his arm tweaked during a WBC game, Morosi would be one of the first to ask why he was out there in the first place.

      You can’t win for losing with these guys.

  7. Ben - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    I really like the idea of the WBC a lot, and I enjoyed it the last time, but it really isn’t fair to rake these guys over the coals for not participating. They’ve got an incredibly long season coming up (no other sport comes close to playing as many games a year as baseball) and it just doesn’t seem reasonable to expect guys to participate.
    If there were a better way that didn’t potentially interfere with the regular season, then maybe, but as stands, these guys entertain me 162 days a year, that kinda seems enough.

  8. cktai - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    I would contest both your points Craig.

    First of all, the fact that the MLB is strong does not mean the USA has nothing to prove. A national league can be strong without the national players being good. When was the last time England even remotely threatened to win any international competition? Brasil on the contrary has a fairly weak national league compared to most European leagues, but they are a true international powerhouse. I have yet to see if the USA can really measure up against the Dominican Republic (although they lost to the Netherlands twice) and Japan. From an outside perspective it almost seems as if the USA is afraid that it cannot measure up to it’s reputation as a baseball powerhouse.

    Second, I would think that one league with many nationalities does not make an international sport. All the truly international sports such as association football, cricket, basketball, ice hockey, and rugby all have league s with many different nationalities (English Premier League, Indian Premier League, NBA, NHL, French Top 14) but the international competitions are the pinnacle of the sport. Untill baseball can create it’s own top level international competition, it will never be a truly international sport.

    Here in the Netherlands, there is more attention for the baseball world cup than the MLB, so if the sport wants to grow here, the WBC needs to grow.

    • cktai - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      it’s = its (twice)

  9. professormaddog31 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    You know, I can kinda see why Trouty and Harper would want to sit this one out; they’ve had a year that would be mentally and physically draining on a lot of 19, 20 year old kids. Physically they are probably fine, but let the boys have a breather for crying out loud. We forget how young they really are. We shouldn’t treat them like old veterans yet. Allow them to adjust to big league life. I bet in a few years they’d be honored to be part of the WBC.

  10. dkphilly1122 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Thanks Dad aka Ace.

  11. paperlions - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Every ball player that grew up in the US (and many other countries) grew up dreaming of winning the WS. None of them grew up dreaming of winning the WBC. You can’t force weight/importance on a tournament, either it happens (as it did eventually with the World Cup) or it doesn’t….and most of them don’t.

  12. El Bravo - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    “The WBC is kinda cool.” This is where your premise lies and why I disagree completely. I think the WBC should be and could be extremely cool. I’d much rather see premier players in the WBC than the ASG. It means more and I’d like to see that reflected by the players’ choices. Of course there’s high risk to play, but I think the MLB and teams should be as accommodating as possible to the players and create incentives for them to play for their national teams. Incentives could be monetary or whatever. IF, and hopefully when, the vast majority of elites play for their national clubs, come back again and tell me that it would be only “kinda cool”. IF the US won it, I think there would be much more appreciation here too. In fact, that’d be f@cking awesome.

  13. hisgirlgotburrelled - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    “the US bears a unique responsibility to grow the WBC as the sport’s premier international tournament”
    because inventing the game and the MLB wasn’t enough?

  14. bricktop02 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    Someone get Morosi a binky & blanket.

  15. vallewho - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    contrived tournament. fake supremacy.

    • Ben - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Yeah, ’cause the World Series has always existed, since the dawn of time (and perhaps outside it), waiting for a sport to discover it. No way the World Series was contrived or anything.

  16. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Is he also ripping on Ichiro and Kuroda for not playing for team Japan? It is not an exclusively American phenomenon. Guys have obligations to the teams that sign the paycheck. Plus, most of these guys have the opportunity to play against each other all the time even without participating in the WBC.

  17. philliesblow - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    WBC = Selig’s Folly. Cancel the stupid thing.

    • thebadguyswon - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:41 PM

      Yeah….wake me when its over. Couldn’t care less.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      Either cancel it or shut down all the top leagues for a month every 4 years and really make it the World Cup of Baseball. Right now it seems pretty M-I-C-K-E-Y…

  18. dowhatifeellike - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    A player’s primary obligation is to the guy signing the checks. Secondary is that the government gets their share of said checks. Paying taxes is more patriotic than some international baseball tournament; it’s all just a p!ssing contest anyway. Being great doesn’t require consistently displaying that greatness at every opportunity.

  19. bklynbaseball - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Personally, I think that the team the USA sends to the WBC should be all Minor League players. They’re really the ones with something to prove.

  20. bklynbaseball - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Choose AAA players, as well as the guys in spots 26-40 on the MLB rosters. You could probably field a damn good team with these guys.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      Except for Don Kelly.

  21. zzalapski - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Wouldn’t it be funny if Morosi used abstinence from the WBC as his rationale for voting against some of these guys for the Hall of Fame later on?

    No, of course not, it would be fucking idiotic. But after what we’ve seen from the BBWAA in recent years, it doesn’t seem so farfetched.

  22. bh192012 - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I’m not going to rake these guys over the coals, however, I’m not going to look up to them as much either. Adam Jones stock has gone up, Trouts has not. I will compare Bryce Harpers patriotism.

    You try to argue that US baseball is clearly the best. That it is so much better than the other countries, that it has nothing to prove. Yet it has never won this tournament. It hasn’t won any medal in it. If we’re so good, prove it. I think US teams went 1-4 vs Japan teams in exhibition games last spring. 1 gold and 2 bronze in 5 opportunities at the Olympics. Cuba, Japan, South Korea and Venezuela are not chumps. Apparently the US produces a lot of 2nd best players.

  23. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    “Dad, why was your baseball career so short?”

    “Well son, I couldn’t let down the fans, so I went out and played hard, tore my UCL, and…well, son, not everything is permanent.”

    “Did you guys at least win the pennant that year?”

    “Um, no, it was actually the World Baseball Classic.”

    “…I think I’ll ask Mom to drive me to school today.”

  24. crackersnap - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Oh. I see. NOW Morosi is a fan of Mike Trout!

    “The BBWAA membership (rightly, in my view) recognizes MVP candidates who make the greatest impact on a team’s effort to reach the postseason…”. Yeah, because having the impact of winning MORE games, against MUCH TOUGHER division, over LESS TIME in the season, mean nothing. Nope. Nothing at all. Unless, of course, you want Trout playing on your team.

  25. kalinedrive - Jan 17, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Put me down in the “who cares” column. Well, I don’t suppose anyone is counting votes or anything anyway, because who cares? The WBC is worthless and meaningless and useless. I’d much rather see my team together in spring training.

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