Friday, January 18, 2013

Rostering up for the WBC

The provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic were announced Thursday. There's no shortage of Twins connections to various teams. Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins are on Team USA's roster, Justin Morneau on Canada, Drew Butera on Italy (really) ... at least six players on Australia's roster have been in the Twins system at one point or another.

I'm rather torn on the WBC. There's something about national teams that appeals to me. The only soccer I can sit and watch is World Cup. For all its flaws -- and it is tremendously flawed -- the WBC is as close as we're ever likely to get to that kind of tournament of nations in baseball.

But it's not close to major league baseball. Not close. Too many of the best players either don't want to play in the WBC (Buster Posey and Justin Verlander, to name just two) or aren't permitted to because of injury-protection rules (Scott Diamond, for example, was ruled out for Canada because he had his elbow scoped during the winter; Johan Santana can't pitch for Venezuela because he ended last season on the disabled list).

This is the WBC's core problem: It's secondary to the regular season, to the real business of professional baseball. It's being held in spring training because nobody wants to interrupt the regular season for it. The early March schedule carries problems of its own, notably the question of athletic readiness for competition, but it is the least objectionable.

Soccer halts itself for the World Cup. The NBA and NHL have, at least grudgingly, accommodated the Olympics. Baseball wants to have an international platform of that ilk, but it's not going to build that platform unless the WBC gets an elevated priority.

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