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Too Many Injuries, Too Early

If you're a fan of the following teams, the past couple weeks has been a little rough: The Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies, Marlins Brewers, Dodgers ... or forget it. If you're a baseball fan, your team probably has a big gun who's nursing an injury right now.

I'm not exaggerating here, spring training injuries really have been that bad this year. Just check out the roster of walking wounded from the past week, and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about:

Of course, those seven are just a start. There are plenty more -- Joe Mauer's back, A-Rod's hip,etc. etc. -- but I figured we'd focus just on new injuries. If we included all ailments, we'd be here all day.

But injuries happen every year in spring training, right? Well, they do, but it's hard to remember a campaign where such a swell of significant players all bit the dust in a short window. When glancing over the list, it's awful hard to discount the effect of the World Baseball Classic. Five of the seven notable injuries came during the World Baseball Classic itself, and while some may have come just as easily in spring training games (the Lindstrom rotator cuff injury in particular), most would likely have been avoided with additional rest.

As if that wasn't sufficient proof, now U.S. Manager Davey Johnson is openly considering pulling his team out of the competition if it suffers any more injuries at key positions, like, well, any positions.

Could this be a big blow to future WBCs? Absolutely. Think about the sheer number of players who already turned down invitations to the event -- many, like Vladimir Guerrero at the behest of their current teams -- and add in future requests that will be summarily denied because two Yankees returned injured (Cano and reliever Damaso Marte) and a number of other stars slowed their preseason development by pushing to compete for longer innings in more competitive situations earlier.

Will this kill the next WBC? Surely not. But it may cast a shadow on the start of the forthcoming season if some stars don't return to form as quickly as they anticipate. That, in truth, would be the one thing that could kill the WBC just as it breeds a tournament finally captivating enough to steal a touch of the March magic usually reserved for college basketball.

By Cameron Smith  |  March 17, 2009; 12:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

I'm a fan of the WBC but it certainly is at the wrong time of the year. midseason, or perhaps end of season, would be healthier for the players. what would kill baseball is if, in a down economy, some of the medium attended MLB teams get off to a slow start and fans walk away from disinterest. Not so much the perma-sellout teams but more the ChiSox, LAA, Phillies, etc. . . that are dependent on walk ups.

Pedroia as much admitted that he was tired and soar from going 9 innings too early in the spring, was mad at going 0 for 5, took extra hitting the next day, and stiffened up. that really is all on the WBC.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 17, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"was tired and soar " - yes, he can fly, even when tired. He can do everything.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 17, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

These games are higher stakes games than your average exhibition game during Spring Training, or even the All Star Game. Players are pushing much earlier in the pre-season than they do any other year, resulting in injuries. And this isn't good.

The WBC is poorly timed. As the NHL did once for the winter olympics, MLB should consider closing up shop for two or three weeks in the middle of the summer for the WBC to take place. Still, some players will skip, but fewer would . . . doubtful this would happen, however.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | March 17, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

If WBC management were to contact prospective MLB players shortly after the end of the prior season & say "We're interested in you as a possible member of the (insert Country) team for 2013". Don't you think that that player would have an interest in keeping himself in shape?
The problem for some teams is, they start assembling their lineups far too late in the process. That gives a slight advantage to nations that keep the majority (or all) of their players "in-house".

WBC teams need to be built along the lines of the Olympic Basketball teams - get players to give a 2-4 year commitment, then structure a team around the committed core players; Don't just throw together a "pick-up squad" of supposed all-stars.

Posted by: BinM | March 17, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Come on -- many of these "injuries" hardly qualify as anything to talk about. Neither Marte nor Cano are seriously injured. Guys like Hamels who have been injured in camp have nothing to do with the WBC. The pitch count is the big issue. Many pitchers are playing winter ball anyway so throwing a few innnings in March (which they would be gearing up to do anyway in spring training) is not such a big deal.

It cannot be mid-season because the injury risk is even bigger then. CC from the first place Yanks is not going to risk blowing out his arm in games that don;t count in July. Maybe they could do it after the season but that takes away from the Series. And at that point you are saying to pitchers that have thrown 200+ innings that you need 25 more out of them.

Preseason every 3 years is very doable. They can add a rule or two to protect the pitchers and it will work the way that it is set up now.

Posted by: dfh123 | March 17, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

"MLB should consider closing up shop for two or three weeks in the middle of the summer for the WBC to take place. Still, some players will skip, but fewer would . . . doubtful this would happen, however."

So the World Series could be held in December?

They should do what Chipper suggested and stop giving teams long layoffs between games. What the players need is consistent playing time. This would both help the players and keep interest in the event. The US has had 6 games since May 7th. In comparison, the Rangers have played 10 games, the Angels 11 and the Nats 10. Anyone see a problem with that? The WBC players don't have as many reps going into the season, which could explain the slow start many had after the last WBC and, possibly, the injuries in this WBC. SPEED IT UP!

Posted by: adampschroeder | March 18, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

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