I have not watched a full World Baseball Classic game since 2009. I only watched a few minutes of a few games in every WBC since and looked at highlight reels as they became available during each tournament since.
Having never seen Shohei Ohtani pitch live I was able to catch the end of the WBC Championship game and see him get the save recording the final out against his LA Angels teammate Mike Trout. That was a only the second time he ever closed a game in his professional baseball career. Seeing him play live in a couple of WBC games really has me rooting for the Angels to surprise the baseball world this year and make a serious run at the World Series.
That said, I have two problems with the WBC and believe that changes are needed before the next one is played in 2026. So here goes…
My first problem with the WBC with the new rules that MLB is enforcing there is absolutely no reason the WBC should be played under the original rules with players under major league contracts playing in the games.
I’ve had my other problem since 2006 when MLB introduced the WBC would be played during Spring Training. And that is the thought that the intensity of the games could cause serious injuries to players under contract at the Major League level. Such as the hand injury Jose Altuve suffered while at bat, and the season ending knee injury to Edwin Díaz suffered two weeks ago celebrating following the final out. It goes without saying that both Altuve’s injury is likely not season ending.
Let’s look closer at the injury to Díaz, though. Could such an injury have occurred in a regular spring training game? Sure, it likely would not have been at the end of the game since he’d have been simply getting his work in for the day. Generally speaking he could still suffer an injury even in a normal spring outing that does not have the level of intensity of a WBC game. However, chances are pretty high there would not be a celebration would be occurring during or after a Spring Training game that would lead to a season ending injury.
You might be saying… hold up though Díaz could suffer the same injury off the field while celebrating something completely unrelated to a game he played in. While that is true I would not feel as bad for New York Mets fans and my fellow writer, Steve Leblang, who now are left wondering how far their team will go without Díaz closing games after their wild offseason. Without their closer the Mets could find themselves just short of a deep World Series run.
Realistically they will never change the rules for the WBC to match the new rules being enforced during MLB games because most of the players who play in the WBC are not in the major leagues. So, the way to fix both of these problems would be to not allow active major league players to play in the games. While doing this would probably cause uproar in the MLB Players Union I do not care as a fan I stopped watching the games after the 2009 WBC. Why you ask? Simple, it came out before the 2010 season that Daisuke Matsuzaka suffered a leg injury during the 2009 WBC. So, at the end of the day, MLB players should not be allowed to play in the WBC anymore. That’s my take and I am sticking to it.
If you cannot play with them, root for them!