It is upon us. The second year of the World Baseball Classic, Bud Selig's international baseball brainchild, is here, and much like it's first year -- come to think of it, much like anything poor old Bud has ever done -- it's causing a commotion.
The problem: Selig envisioned the competition as a contest between each country's best players. Unfortunately, plenty of those players don't want to play an extra bunch of baseball games in the time of the year they're usually resting their various baseball-playing instruments. And even more unfortunately, sports dudes like Phil Rogers think that attitude is, as he says, "short-sighted, self-interested."
This year's best local example is probably Ryan Dempster, whose decision to abstain from the WBC is making many of his fellow Canadians angry:
Larry Walker, perhaps the best position player in Canadian history, is among those criticizing Dempster for declining to represent his country. "Both the club and player have their own point of view, but the player gets to wear a jersey with 'Canada' across it," Walker told the Toronto Sun. "I wish they had it when I was playing."
The problem with that guilt trip is that Dempster is trying to stay healthy for a pretty good reason -- he just signed a big contract with the Cubs:
To those who suggest that Dempster acted out of loyalty to the team that just guaranteed him $52 million rather than loyalty to his country, the pitcher replied, "You're darn right." "I've had elbow reconstruction and fought all the way back," Dempster said. "To throw that many innings, for me, I feel like I need the extra rest. Whether people view it as right or not, I feel an obligation to the Cubs. They made a commitment to me."
That's perfectly fair! It's hard to criticize a player for that sense of obligation, even if he hadn't just signed a new contract with a team. Loyalty is loyalty, and the WBC isn't the Olympics. It's a contrived baseball tournament that sprung from the mind of Bud Selig. Even players who have no injury worries have the right to say no. It doesn't make them unpatriotic or lazy; it just makes them careful. There are far worse impulses for baseball players to have.
(HT: Snyder at FanHouse)