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.
Jul 11, 2014, 12:02 AM EDT
Kershaw’s streak is the third longest since 1990.
Jul 10, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Grady Sizemore was released by the Red Sox last month, but he’s getting another chance with the Phillies.
Jul 10, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
The original plan called for Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara to get a cup of coffee in the big leagues for a couple of days while Darwin Barney was away on paternity leave, but his big game against the Reds this afternoon has changed things.
Jul 10, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT
The diagnosis is in on Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and it’s not particularly promising.
Jul 10, 2014, 9:05 PM EDT
Derek Jeter’s farewell tour continued this evening at Progressive Field in Cleveland and the Yankee captain walked away with some pretty cool gifts.
Jul 10, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Marco Estrada was scheduled to start Saturday, but he’s been terrible all season while serving up an NL-high 27 homers in 18 starts.
Jul 10, 2014, 8:10 PM EDT
Carl Crawford was the Dodgers’ primary left fielder prior to landing on the disabled list in late May with a left ankle sprain, but now he’s a really expensive bench player.
Jul 10, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
The field for next week’s Home Run Derby is officially in place.
Jul 10, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT
The Cardinals and Reds were both dealt some tough blows on the injury front today, but the Brewers are doing their part to let them hang around in the National League Central.
Jul 10, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon is out for the All-Star game because of a wrist injury, so MLB has named Angels shortstop Erick Aybar as his replacement on the American League roster.
Jul 10, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
Viva democracy. Especially Chicago-style democracy.
Jul 10, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Wilson failed to make it out of the fourth inning yesterday and hasn’t made it past five innings since June 19, allowing 22 runs in 16.2 innings during that span.
Jul 10, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Hardly anyone throws it anymore. Why?
Jul 10, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn repeatedly expressed confidence in his ability to get No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon signed despite the North Carolina State left-hander being a Scott Boras client and sure enough the two sides have reached an agreement.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
A tough, tough break for the Cardinals and Yadier Molina.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT
Carlos Beltran was scratched from the Yankees’ lineup last night when a ball he hit during batting practice bounced off the screen protecting the pitcher and struck his eye. And now he’s been diagnosed with two facial fractures, but they’ve been classified as “small” and the Yankees think he’ll avoid the disabled list.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Cincinnati’s injury woes keep getting worse, as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips will be “out a while” with a ligament issue and possible tear in his left thumb.
Jul 10, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Braun has hit exclusively second (37 times) or third (32 times) in the lineup this season and has a grand total of just three career starts in the fifth spot, all of them coming 2008.
Jul 10, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
It’s a magical realism thing: features a coach putting Jeter at second base.
Jul 10, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
Could be bad news for the Reds and Bailey
- Masahiro Tanaka diagnosed with partially-torn UCL in elbow 53
- Yadier Molina to miss 8-12 weeks with a torn thumb ligament 29
- Carlos Beltran placed on concussion disabled list after batting practice mishap 16
- Derek Jeter is the most popular MLB jersey this year 16
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 52
- The Rockies “aren’t looking around very hard” for a trade of star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki 29
- Jury finds the Dodgers partially negligent, awards $18 million to Bryan Stow 48
- Masahiro Tanaka injured: Yankees ace to undergo an MRI exam on his right arm 60
- Shocker: the Red Sox publicly criticize A.J. Pierzynski after cutting him (187)
- John Lackey on Nelson Cruz: “Not even going to comment … I’ve got nothing to say about him” (143)
- The 2014 All-Star rosters have been announced (103)
- Giants broadcaster says Angel Hernandez “does not belong in the big leagues” (101)
- David Ortiz is not pleased that his name got pulled into the John Lackey-Nelson Cruz thing (99)