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The Rant

WBC plagued by many problems, set up to fail

Posted: Wednesday February 22, 2006 9:59AM; Updated: Thursday February 23, 2006 1:11AM
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Spring training is here; pitchers and catchers reported last week, and most position players will be in their respective camps in the next few days. There's nothing like the excitement of baseball to take some bite out of the cold winter chill, and you know spring is just around the corner when you hear the sounds of baseballs popping in gloves.

Baseball officials hope to give us an added treat this spring with the inaugural World Baseball Classic. The idea -- a round-robin tournament featuring 16 countries and some of the best players in the world -- is a good one. But the timing of the event and recent comments from some of the participants lead me to believe that the WBC will fizzle.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love for the WBC to match the excitement of the World Cup, but I can't see how it will. The players will have less than two weeks to get in shape, and most of that time with be spent in their major league camps. And when games begin on March 3, you can bet the participants won't be ready to play nine innings. In fact, more than two dozen players have already pulled out of the event, and many stars have said that they will only play four or five innings. Can you imagine David Beckham saying he'll only play a half of England's World Cup Games?

The problem is that players won't be in shape and don't want to risk injury. George Steinbrenner sent a message to his All-Stars by saying that they were taking a chance by playing in the WBC, and you can believe that if Derek Jeter or A-Rod feels the slightest bit tired or tight, he will take himself out.

So many WBC games -- especially in the early rounds -- will be glorified spring training exhibitions. Do we really want that? In order for this event to work, it needs to be played after the season or, better yet, during a two-week break following the All-Star Game.

On paper, the WBC has plenty of star power. But I just can't see the top players going all out, with so much money invested in their major league careers. That's too bad, because the event has so much potential. Unfortunately, I can't imagine the inaugural World Baseball Classic being anything more than a big tease.

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