Source: OC Register
Is World Baseball Classic worth the risk of injury to players like Edwin Diaz? Bill Plunkett %%item_date%% %%item_source%%
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The debate started as soon as Edwin Diaz hit the turf Wednesday night.
The New York Mets closer suffered a serious knee injury while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday in Miami, bringing out critics who call the World Baseball Classic a “meaningless exhibition series” not worth the risk of injury to star players like Diaz.
“I think it is (worth the risk),” said Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson, who rejoined his teammates after playing four games for Great Britain in the WBC. “Freak things happen. My brother (NBA star Klay Thompson), for example, he did a normal step – just a step, not any crazy athletic move, just a step and injured his Achilles. Accidents happen.
“Obviously if you’re a Mets fan or a member of the Mets, you’d rather him get hurt on your terms. But it is what it is. I think the whole baseball community feels for him and hopes he comes back fast and recovers well.”
Thompson said he loved everything about his WBC experience and called it “very humbling” to see how much it meant to players from so many different countries.
The Dodgers have had seven players from their 40-man roster participate in this year’s WBC. Five of them advanced to the quarterfinal round – Mookie Betts and Will Smith (USA), Austin Barnes and Julio Urias (Mexico) and David Peralta (Venezuela). Freddie Freeman ended his participation with Team Canada early when he suffered a minor hamstring injury.
All of that risk is “absolutely worth the benefits,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“That’s something that had nothing to do with the game. That’s not a baseball or a WBC issue,” Roberts said of Diaz’s injury. “It’s a very unfortunate happening. But you look at the attendance, the viewership, the players talking about this experience – for me, it’s been good for baseball.”
Dodgers infielder Miguel Rojas agrees and thinks it might be good for baseball to start thinking like other sports have for years.
“You look at other sports, this is what I’m seeing,” Rojas said. “How important is the World Cup for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mbappe, all of those guys? They put everything aside – all their careers, their clubs, people who pay them a lot of money – to go there. And they play all the games like it’s the last game of their life. You see that in other sports. You see Dream Teams going to the basketball competitions like the Olympics.
“To me, baseball shouldn’t be any different. I know for us this tournament is kind of new. It’s been going for 10 years or so now. So for me, it’s a little bit difficult for baseball players to buy in.”
Rojas said he is “suffering” watching Venezuela play on without him. He withdrew from Venezuela’s roster before the WBC began when Gavin Lux’s injury put him in position to be the Dodgers’ primary shortstop – an injury that happened while Lux was running the bases in a meaningless exhibition game.
“I mean, that could have happened to him literally walking down the stairs,” Rojas said of Diaz’s injury.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw planned to play for Team USA this year but had to withdraw when insurance issues couldn’t be satisfied. Each MLB player in the WBC is insured against the potential for injury.
“That’s horrible. Nobody wants that to happen,” Kershaw said of Diaz’s injury. “I understand teams’ reservations behind it. I get it. Especially on the pitching side. But it seems like a pretty fun event, a pretty intense atmosphere. Miami and Arizona, you haven’t seen crowds like that during the regular season.
“I think it’s both – I think it’s tough on teams and I think it looks like a really good thing.”
FIRST AND SECOND
Early in spring training, Roberts said he was considering moving Betts out of the leadoff spot. That move doesn’t make sense now, Roberts said.
“I think it’s fair to look and see are there different ways to make your lineup more productive,” Roberts said. “But it still goes back to – what’s the other option? Right now, I just don’t see it happening.”
Roberts acknowledged the other option that made it worth considering early in camp was Gavin Lux. But Lux has been lost for the season to a knee injury.
“He was a name that I was thinking about and thought that potentially giving him three at-bats against a righty to start the game potentially could make sense,” Roberts said. “Now that’s off the table.”
Roberts has also backed off his early projection (during an interview with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated) that Betts could play as many as 40 games at second base. Roberts now says that he doesn’t recall saying 40 and that even 30 would be “aggressive.”
“I could see Mookie playing 20 games,” Roberts said now. “I thought that (40) was aggressive. I don’t remember saying that. But things can change. This is just a conversation about how you project, but projections change with situations or whatever might happen. But I think for Mookie to play 20 games, I think that’s more fair than the 30. Thirty was aggressive.”
Roberts said “Miguel Vargas is going to be the second baseman” and Betts would only play there if Vargas needed downtime.
Freeman was at the training complex receiving treatment for his hamstring injury Thursday. Roberts said he expects Freeman to DH in Saturday’s Cactus League game then play first base on Sunday.