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WBC vs. Spring Training

Okay, so the Red Sox are only 7-7 going into today's game versus the Orioles, however, lets keep in mind that Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jason Bay, Daisuke Matszuaka and eight minor leaguers are playing in the World Baseball Classic this year, making spring training a little lackluster for fans and making it hard for Terry Francona to arrange a competitive lineup. WBC seasons have been seen as unnecessary to some, who say the game merely weakens players and messes up spring training. Some players, specifically pitchers, are asked by their respective MLB team managers not to play a certain number of innings or pitches, even with current WBC rules. However, the WBC only happens every three years and thus is still very important to the players and fans around the world, and in actuality is good practice for players in preparation for the start of the MLB season.
In terms of baseball, the WBC is really just spring training for those who are lucky enough to make it there. Sure, they have to step their game up and be prepared to compete for a title every game [unlike spring training] but they get the practice they need as they would any other spring training game, just simply in a more competitive atmosphere. With all the offseason training players go through, losing a couple of spring training games and practices is not going to affect the start of the major league season in the long run, and the risks are not any different than competing in a spring training game.
The WBC is about more than just baseball, but about culture. Baseball is known as "America's pastime" however, the sport is growing vastly around the world. With MLB teams in Canada, baseball is continuing to spread all over the world, as many Japanese players come to the states to play, and even some American players go to Japan and play. Exhibition games are also starting to take place overseas, which similarly is happening in other sports such as basketball which is notably followed in China. Sports are universal and to acknowledge this, baseball tournaments and competitions have gone international, and the WBC is part of this effort. The WBC is about representing your ethnic team and bringing the game of baseball to other parts of the world, which is why it is an important aspect of the game today.
The Red Sox are really just trying to avoid injury at this point. With Mike Lowell coming off of rehab and Brad Penny's questionable start in Boston, Francona's task is to get the team on the field, then he can work out the logistics. True, team chemistry doesn't get to begin working until many players return from the WBC, but players get the chance to play in a competitive atmosphere and get back into the game, rather quickly at that. Even though the Red Sox are breaking even in spring training, in the WBC, players are prospering. Youkilis has shined, picking up where he left off last season, batting .375 with 8 at bats and 7 runs scored. Youkilis is also tied for first with 2 homes runs and tied for second with 3 RBI. His fellow teammate, Pedroia is showing every body why he's the batting champion, with a .364 BA ad only 1 strikeout. While Ortiz and his team have been struggling in the WBC, they are getting a second chance to get back in it after losing their first game to the Netherlands. However, Ortiz also has his shaky risk, so a little rest for Papi isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bay, who lost to the US in his first game with Canada, has also done exceedingly well in the WBC, with a .500 BA, 1.528 OPS and 2 RBI. However, it will nice for the Red Sox and Francona to have Bay back in the outfield come opening day. Lastly, Matsuzaka, who has been a little worrisome in the WBC with a 4.50 ERA is one of those players who needs to be watched closely during the competition. Pitching arms are something coaches are always wary so surly he is under a strict mandate. However, Dice-K has one of the two wins for Japan under his belt.
In short, the WBC is and should continue to be, a past time for the world to appreciate. WBC seasons are confusing but players get a chance to entertain a wider spectrum and play for the countries who raised them, which should be appreciated. For baseball fans, it's a chance to get into the action earlier as the games are very competitive and actually mean something to players and fans. It is the perfect segway into yet another long-awaited baseball season.

Rani Smith

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