Derek Jeter has been the face of American baseball for nearly two decades. When the World Baseball Classic (WBC) came knocking, he played not once…but twice. Jeter batted a combined .347 in the 2006 and 2009 tournaments.
Jeter will not play in this year’s WBC. It’s barely six weeks away, and he’s still recovering from a broken ankle. Otherwise, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reports, he would play. Morosi reports that the decision would be based heavily on the fact that his mentor Joe Torre is managing Team USA.
Team USA’s roster will include young, charismatic stars including the Orioles’ Adam Jones. However, what’s shocking is who is not there. Are they getting pressured from their teams? Are they considered with injury? Morosi reports that MLB research shows there were more April disabled list assignments, by percentage, in ’06 and ’09 for players who did not play in the WBC than for those who did.
We haven’t done well in the tournament. Team USA’s WBC performance has, to date, is 7-7 with zero appearances in the title game. Shouldn’t we want redemption? Who cares that you’re in your walk year?
For every other participating nation, the opposite is true: Players offer an immediate yes unless they are injured. Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval were the first players to commit for Team Venezuela. They will be joined by ace Felix Hernandez, who is as close to free agency as Kershaw and Verlander. The later two are still wavering about joining the roster. What are they waiting for?
Morosi presents a theory. “How about we lend greater legitimacy and profile to the event by sending the best of our best, the way the other countries have, and then accept the results as they are?”
We present to you USA Basketball. After a highly disappointing 2004 Olympics, they have a 16-0 record and two gold medals. How did that happen? They demanded it. Kobe and LeBron got an edict, and they came through.
Is it time for baseball to demand more? Morosi calls for a LeBron-type figure to emerge as a “Captain America.” It’s not going happen in 2013.
So, we’re due for another ho-hum WBC. Why should we fully invest if they don’t? It’s probably easier to take the loss that way. America, when it comes to our national pastime, the world is catching up to us.
Yes, the US remains the technical center of the baseball universe. It still produces more than 70 percent of current major-league players. It also serves as the base for 29 of its 30 teams. Nonetheless, game is more diverse than it’s ever been. This is positive.
Nonetheless, because of how the history of our nation is intertwined with the history of the sport, Morosi feels that the US bears a unique responsibility to grow the WBC as the sport’s premier international tournament. I agree. I also agree that a big part of that obligation is showing up.
It would also be nice to win.
For more on Jon Paul Morosi’s work, check him out on Fox Sports.