What do Carlos Beltran, Alex Cora, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Feliciano, Oliver Perez, J.J. Putz, Jose Reyes, Francisco Rodriguez and David Wright have in common? Besides the fact that talk radio hosts and callers want to send them out of town? All nine of those players participated in the WBC last season.
Of those nine, seven ended up on the disabled list. Only Feliciano and Rodriguez escaped serious injury last year. If you want to play conspiracy theorist, you can still bend and strain and blame Rodriguez’ poor first season for the Mets on the WBC. He pitched fine in the first half and then imploded in the second half, undoubtedly due to the strain of pitching in the WBC.
I am not sure how much emphasis to put on the fact that 77 percent of the Mets who participated in the WBC ended up on the DL last year. Certainly Wright’s beaning had nothing to do with it. Beltran had knee problems before 2009. When the Mets acquired Putz they knew about the bone chips. But the first thing they teach you in conspiracy school is to never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
If for no one else, I do believe that Perez’ troubles last year were directly caused by his participation in the WBC. This offseason, Perez stayed in the U.S. to work out. I am sure we will hear numerous stories about how he is in the best shape of his life. Only this time it will probably be true. Perez is on a make-or-break season. If you want clubs to continue to give you chances to pitch, you have to continue to give them glimpses of hope. And for Perez, 2007 seems like a lifetime ago, especially after last year’s dismal pitching.
When the WBC debuted in 2006, much was made about how it was no good for the players to push so hard that early in Spring Training. And when a bunch of the pitchers who participated in the tournament got off to poor starts, there was much hand wringing in the mainstream media. I just think it’s a little odd that we haven’t seen it to the same level with the 2009 version.
Right now, the Winter Olympics are in progress. I have not seen one second of the action. When I was a kid, I loved the Olympics, but now I just wish they would go away. It seemed like the Olympics meant something with the specter of the Cold War hanging over the games. Now, it’s just a senseless display of nationalism conveniently packaged for companies to be the “Official Sponsor.”
I wish to take nothing away from the athletes who train so hard to be at their best. But if I never watch or care about these sports any other time, why should I care now because they are competing for their countries while Visa reminds me every 60 seconds that they sponsor a certain event (or the whole thing).
With the WBC, I care about baseball but I don’t have any interest in promoting nationalism. It was a fun idea that I am glad they tried once. Now it just needs to stop. Whether there is a direct correlation to participation in the WBC and the Mets injuries last year or not, I am glad that the stars of the team will have a normal Spring Training and I feel optimistic that there won’t be as many visits to the disabled list because of it.
And in 2012, I hope the Mets try to discourage more of their players from participating.