Jan 18, 2013, 6:43 AM EST
Fernando Martinez stands as one of several players in the mix to make the Houston Astros’ outfield. But he has more up against him in that quest than just competition from Rick Ankiel, Justin Maxwell, J.D. Martinez and Brandon Barnes. He has up against him his participation in the World Baseball Classic, where he will play for Spain.
His general manager, Jeff Luhnow, admitted as much. From Brian McTaggart’s story at Astros.com:
“The big challenge is … a guy like Fernando Martinez, who’s trying to make our club, [being] gone for an extended period of time. I think that potentially hurts him, even if he does well in the Classic,” Luhnow said. “It hurts him because he’s not there with our coaches, being seen firsthand. It makes it a little bit more difficult. The fact he’s playing for Spain means he’s not going to be gone the whole month. Nothing against Spain, but they’re not likely to make it past the first round.”
I understand that we’re supposed to be all-in on the World Baseball Classic and that players who don’t take it seriously have the wrong attitude and are otherwise “idle heroes,”** but I’m sorry: if a general manager for a baseball team is saying that participating in it is going to have negative implications for you, you should not be playing in the WBC. If I’m Martinez’s agent I have him call the Spanish manager, say “smell you later,” and make sure my client’s butt is in Osceola County Stadium from the first day of Spring Training until the team breaks camp so as to give him the best chance to win a job.
As for what this says about the Classic itself, yes, I acknowledge that Martinez is a borderline major leaguer at best, and I acknowledge that Morosi’s point yesterday was that the big stars should be participating, not the Fernando Martinez’s of the world. But this little example is still telling with respect to the WBC’s true place in the baseball hierarchy and still explains why many big stars, quite understandably, choose not to participate.
For one thing, for Spain anyway, Fernando Martinez is a big star. He’s the best they can do in their outfield. And if the WBC is to become what Morosi and everyone who rah-rahs it wants it to be, every team has to put its best possible lineup out there. Watching all the American, Japanese, Korean, Cuban and Dominican superstars trounce the relatively empty rosters of other teams — which is what will happen if Jeff Luhnow’s sentiments are shared by GMs of other players like Martinez — will not turn this into the World Cup Part Deux, which is the ultimate aim Morosi and those who think like him about the WBC want it to be. It will keep it as a curious exhibition, best ignored until the late rounds at the most.
But more broadly, this little episode reveals that the teams and executives don’t value the WBC anywhere close to how they value the MLB season, even if they’re strongly encouraged to say they do by Major League Baseball and strongly wished to by WBC backers like Morosi. That has direct consequences for guys like Martinez, but you can’t tell me that superstars aren’t impacted by this too. They want to win in the MLB season and they want to be on the same page as their manager, their coaches and, yes, their front office. No, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper won’t lose their jobs if they don’t play for Team USA, but it’s bleedin’ obvious that they have greater priorities and, if forced to be truthful, Jerry Dipoto and Mike Rizzo would prefer them to be in camp all spring rather than playing in the WBC.
It is not a lack of patriotism or a poor attitude that keeps all the superstars from playing in the WBC. It is the disconnect — the tremendous, tremendous gulf between the importance of the MLB season and the importance of the WBC — that keeps all the superstars from participating. And, contrary to what Morosi and other say, this gulf cannot be crossed merely by putting a nation’s colors on the uniform and simply asserting that it matters for flag and country.
**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.
Dec 19, 2014, 4:47 PM EST
All baseball moves the Yankees make must be construed as pro-A-Rod or anti-A-Rod. There are literally no other reasons the Yankees make baseball moves.
Dec 19, 2014, 3:45 PM EST
Howie Kendrick’s replacement?
Dec 19, 2014, 3:25 PM EST
Minor League Baseball’s top lobbyist wants minor leaguers classified as if they were babysitters and seasonal farm workers.
Dec 19, 2014, 3:10 PM EST
He’s owed $2.75 million for 2015.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
It’s complicated. But you can bid on his deferred compensation, payable by the Mets.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:14 PM EST
Hart was one of the best right-handed power hitters in baseball for the Brewers from 2010-2012.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:42 PM EST
Dec 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
The Padres have made a flurry of moves in the past few days. It may help them win some more baseball games. But it will undeniably fire up a fan base that has had nothing to get excited about for years.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:13 PM EST
Furcal is actually a year older than Jimmy Rollins at 37 and hasn’t been healthy since 2012
Dec 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Bud is still going to be CCd on all the imporant emails, it seems.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:12 PM EST
Rollins waived his no-trade rights to facilitate a move after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Acquiring every player so the other teams can’t get any players is the new inefficiency.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:31 AM EST
File this under “wild speculation” but it makes all kinds of sense.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:14 AM EST
Baldelli, who’s still just 33 years old, joins 37-year-old rookie manager Kevin Cash’s coaching staff.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
A third base hole filled in San Diego, a good defensive catcher goes to Boston.
Dec 19, 2014, 10:47 AM EST
Albers is headed back to MLB after a rough 2014 season in Korea.
Dec 19, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
According to the team president, at least.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:43 AM EST
The Padres have gone crazy this week. The latest: acquiring Justin Upton and his big bat for a couple of prospects.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:05 AM EST
But one insider says the package the Rockies are asking for Tulo is “bats**t”
Vin Scully lost his 1988 World Series ring at Costco but got it back. And talks about how Costco is cool.
Dec 19, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
He doesn’t say so, but I have this feeling he’s a chicken bake man. Chicken bakes are pretty underrated.
- The Padres have given their fans something to talk about. Which is badly needed in San Diego. 45
- Justin Upton traded to the Padres for three prospects 78
- Bud Selig will get a $6 million a year pension. Which is obscene. 133
- Jake Peavy agrees to a two-year, $24 million deal to stay with the San Francisco Giants 22
- Matt Kemp has officially been traded to the Padres 29
- Padres acquire catcher Derek Norris from Athletics 35
- St. Petersburg City Council votes down deal to allow Rays to look for new stadium site 90
- What will the future of Cuban players in MLB look like? 25
- Baseball’s highest-ranking Hispanic woman employee sues for discrimination (163)
- The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba (144)
- Bud Selig will get a $6 million a year pension. Which is obscene. (135)
- Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers, and Astros interested in Phillies’ Cole Hamels (111)
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade (97)