By Blaidd Drwg
I like the idea of the World Baseball Classic, but I really can’t get into it. Because it is held during spring training and there are limits on the pitchers, it seems like it is watching either a spring training game or an all-star game.
Historically, the US team has really not taken the tournament seriously, and has sported a less than stellar 7-7 record in the previous two events. This is partially because the managers have treated this like an all-star game and felt the need to get everyone in the game rather than trying to win. The rosters were announced recently and a good number of big names, especially on the US side (Trout, Posey and Verlander, just to name a few), have opted not to participate.
Right now, this is the projected US lineup:
RF Ben Zobrist
C Joe Mauer
LF Ryan Braun
DH Giancarlo Stanton
3B David Wright
1B Mark Teixeira
CF Adam Jones
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Brandon Phillips
That is pretty good, but not as good as it could be. The pitching staff is a little suspect though:
Starter: RA Dickey, Kris Medlen, Ryan Vogelsong and Derek Holland.
Bullpen: Jeremy Affeldt, Mitchell Boggs, Steve Cishek, Tim Collins, Luke Gregerson, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Perez, Glen Perkins and Vinnie Pestano.
The bench however is soft:
Jonathan Lucroy, J.P. Arencibia, Shane Victorino and Willie Bloomquist.
The US is having such a hard time convincing players to participate that they didn’t fill one spot on the roster AND needed to get Willie Bloomquist to fill the super-utility role. That is never a good sign.
The Mariners are sending 9 players to the tournament – mostly minor leaguers. There are 3 of concern – Felix Hernandez (for injury concerns), Michael Saunders and Alex Liddi. To me, the move does not make sense for Saunders and Liddi – the Mariners have an extremely crowded roster since they have more players than positions in the OF, 1B and DH slots. Liddi is 24 and should have a legitimate shot at making the big club and I fully believe that this is the put-up or shut-up season for Saunders after his up and down season last year. By neither of these guys being in camp with the Mariners, it just means that there is an opportunity for someone else to step up and take a roster spot away from them. I understand all of the country pride and everything, but since neither of these guys is guaranteed a job with the big club this year, it might be in their best interest to skip the tournament and play with the team in AZ.