Chicago Sun-Times

Does wbc need an injury timeout?

Spate of players getting hurt is regrettabl­e, but you can’t blame the event for accidents


PHOENIX — Go ahead, keep cursing the baseball gods. Keep shouting to the heavens. Keep telling everyone you know that the World Baseball Classic is responsibl­e for all of these injuries, despite the severity, from Mets All-Star closer Edwin Diaz to All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman to Mets reliever Brooks Raley.

However, for Diaz and the Mets, the injury came at a big price. The Mets likely will be without their star closer for the entire season after he suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. He had surgery Thursday.

It’s time for the WBC to go away and never comes back, right?

Sorry, it’s not working.

Go ahead, you try telling tell Mike Trout and Mookie Betts of Team USA that the WBC is a waste of time.

You look into the face of Jose Urquidy of Team Mexico and laugh when he says that pitching in the WBC on Wednesday felt the exact same as when he pitched for the Astros in the World Series.

You scoff at Padres star Manny Machado when he honestly doesn’t know which would have meant more, a WBC title for the Dominican Republic or a World Series championsh­ip in San Diego.

You tell those passionate fans in Japan and Korea, and Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and everywhere else outside the U.S border that the WBC is nothing more than an exhibition.

The WBC may have flaws. It drives managers crazy with the restrictio­ns placed on players by major-league teams. Pitchers still get nervous ramping up early. And there are teams infuriated by the preferenti­al scheduling treatment for Team USA.

Or didn’t you happen to notice that the U.S. was the only team in their pool which didn’t have to play a day game after a night game, and that Fox-TV shifted the schedule so USA can play on prime time Saturday night, giving them and extra day of rest.

Yet, try to find a single player critical of the tournament, and who won’t be volunteeri­ng to do it all over again in 2026.

“This is the funnest experience,’’ Trout says, “I have had on the baseball field, to represent your country. It’s been a blast.’’

Says Betts: “This is so much fun. It’s so much fun. This is way better than getting four at-bats in the back fields.

“I encourage those who are watching, come join, come play for Team USA, because this is a lot of fun.’’

Yeah, but about those injuries? Is it dangerous to play October baseball when the calendar says March?

“Obviously, there’s risk involved,’’ Trout says. “You’re still playing baseball, and it’s spring training. For me, being part of this atmosphere, it’s special. It means a lot to me.

“I knew going in it was going to be a fun time. But I never knew it was going to be this fun.’’

This passion, this pride, this feeling of patriotism is why Diaz celebrated on the field in front of a sellout crowd Wednesday night in Miami. He listened to the roar of the thousands of Puerto Rican fans screaming when the last out was made, dancing in the aisles, and the look of sheer exultation on their faces.

So he jumped up and down right with them.

He just happened to land awkwardly, perhaps pushed or pulled by one of his teammates, and his knee buckled.

Come on, you really want to blame that on the WBC tournament?

Or Freeman feeling a twinge in his hamstring when he merely took a swing?

Or Raley, who felt a slight hamstring strain when he was throwing a side bullpen session.

“I mean, those things, they can happen to anybody at any given time,’’ Betts said. “And you can always try and place blame on the WBC, but that’s just a freak accident.’’

It’s a video clip that will keep owners and general managers awake at night, already plotting their course of action to keep their players from participat­ing in three years.

Let’s be honest, teams hate the WBC. They are scared to death that something will happen to one of their stars. The players are all insured for the tournament, and the Mets will fully recover the $17.25 million salary they’re paying Diaz if he misses the entire season.

But what’s the price tag for the loss of World Series championsh­ip hopes?

Will teams try to make more of a convincing argument for their players to stay home in spring training?

“That’s more of a [Commission­er] Rob Manfred question,’’ says Mets reliever Adam Ottavino of Team USA, “because they can’t really stop you from playing if you’re not hurt the year before.

“They can threaten you all they want, but I mean, guys are still going to want to play. You can see the passion in these games.

“Nobody really wants you to play in it, and that’s always been the case.’’

The furor and outcry over Diaz’s injury will eventually die down. Common sense will ultimately prevail. Baseball’s version of the Zapruder film may emerge, showing just how Diaz sustained his injury, proving it could happen to anyone at any time.

Crazy injuries happen all of the time in baseball, from tanning beds, to massages, to gardening, to washing dishes, to being chased by wild boars.

They always have.

And they always will.

Even in a WBC tournament. ✶

 ?? ERIC ESPADA/GETTY IMAGES ?? Mets closer Edwin Diaz tore his patellar tendon celebratin­g a victory while playing for Puerto Rico. He’ll miss the season.
ERIC ESPADA/GETTY IMAGES Mets closer Edwin Diaz tore his patellar tendon celebratin­g a victory while playing for Puerto Rico. He’ll miss the season.

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