Jan 18, 2013, 6:43 AM EDT
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.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:32 PM EDT
Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick is serving as the Phillies’ interim president and CEO while David Montgomery recovers from surgery for jaw cancer and chatted with reporters at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday for the first time since assuming the gig.
Sep 2, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is batting just .210/.295/.240 since the beginning of August and newly-promoted prospect Joc Pederson is starting over him on Tuesday night against the Nationals. Which gives you some context for this string of tweets from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times …
Sep 2, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton picked up his 35th home run of the season and 100th and 101st RBI with this blast to left-center field in the bottom of the third inning Tuesday night in Miami …
Sep 2, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT
It’s usually an honor reserved for players who have recently had their number retired, or been elected to the Hall of Fame, or died. But the Yankees want to sell some merchandise, people …
Sep 2, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT
MLB.com’s Scott Merkin wrote last month that there was a “better-than-average” chance of left-hander Carlos Rodon — who was selected third overall in this year’s draft — joining the White Sox as a September callup. But it’s not going to happen.
Sep 2, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT
Chris Owings and A.J. Pollock are back with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday after lengthy disabled list stints.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
It’s particularly rough timing, as Milwaukee hosts a four-game series with St. Louis beginning Thursday.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Michael Wacha’s recovery from a shoulder injury has gone so well that the Cardinals just announced he’ll come off the disabled list to start Thursday against the Brewers.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Before being shut down in mid-July the 25-year-old rookie from Japan went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts, including a 135/19 K/BB ratio in 129 innings.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT
If it weren’t for expanded rosters for September, he’d probably be on the DL.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Morrow has been exclusively a starter for Toronto since 2010, including what looked at the time like a breakout season as a starter in 2012.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Wrap your head around THAT for a second.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Young flopped with the Mets on a one-year, $7.25 million deal.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Not too many managers seem to be on the hot seat. Part of that is because being a manager today is very different than it was back in the day.
Sep 2, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT
Bring out yer dead!
Sep 2, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT
Raburn struggled mightily before going on the DL, hitting .173 in 70 games after playing well enough in a part-time role last season that Cleveland handed him a two-year contract extension.
Sep 2, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
From a baseball to a slip of paper to a giant statue of the biggest baseball star who ever lived.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT
Please keep in mind that the Twins are currently in last place at 60-77 following three consecutive 95-loss seasons and only the Astros have fewer total wins since 2011.
Sep 2, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT
Polanco went 4-for-26 (.153) during his brief demotion and was in a nasty two-month slump before being sent down, hitting just .204 with a .564 in his last 40 games.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Toronto transferred infielder Brett Lawrie from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list, which means he won’t be eligible to return to the active roster before the season ends.
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- Michael Wacha to start Thursday for the Cardinals 4
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- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 50
- The Cardinals have moved ahead of the Brewers for first place in the National League Central 37
- No-hitter! Four Phillies pitchers combine to blank the Braves 61
- Bo Porter fired by the Astros 56
- Settling the Score: Sunday’s results — and a reminder of what Labor Day is all about 48
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- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (75)