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The Dark Side of the WBC

Mike SteffanosMonday, March 6, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

In his "blog" on ESPN Insider, Peter Gammons discusses the pressure players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are feeling to play in the World Baseball Classic:

Melvin Mora took so much battering from the Venezuelan media for pulling out of the World Baseball Classic that Magglio Ordonez was afraid to not play. Now even Pedro Martinez is taking heat in the Dominican Republic, and he can't even throw batting practice.

"Someone wrote, 'How could someone from Montaguayabo forget his country because of a toe?'" says Manny Acta, manager of the Dominican team and a Mets coach. "There is a lot of pressure on these players. People care that much. No one wanted to play in this tournament more than Pedro. No one cares about his country more than he does. But he cannot pitch right now."

I'm sure Bud Selig would try to downplay this, but to me this is a serious flaw in the WBC. Sure, American players aren't under any pressure to compete in this thing, but players from Latin America and Asia aren't as fortunate. Selig can argue all he wants that playing in the WBC won't be substantially different then playing in a normal spring training, but this is disingenuous on his part. Selig was not only fully aware of the pressure players would be under, to my mind he counted on it. He knew the pressure from their countrymen would ensure plenty of superstars for this tournament.

When a big name player gets hurt in this tournament, it's sure to be pointed out that big names go down in spring training every year. While that is certainly true, you can be sure that a player that feels some hamstring tightness or similar discomfort wouldn't think twice about sitting out a few grapefruit league games -- but it will be a different story if he is a Dominican, Venezuelan or Japanese player in the WBC. If Dominicans are unwilling to accept Pedro's well-documented toe injury, how much slack will they give to a star with the aforementioned tight hammy?

You can try to gloss over this all you want, but if some players are in this tournament with a proverbial gun pressed firmly against their heads, and one of them gets hurt, you have another very good reason why this tournament is a bad idea.

Mets.com: Marty's Bag
Marty Noble has a new Mailbag on Mets.com. Today's highlight is regarding the possibility of trading for Alfonso Soriano:

From what I can see, the club considers Soriano somewhat one-dimensional and rather selfish. Witness his reluctance to play the outfield. He strikes out too much for the Mets' purposes, and even though he was a productive hitter in Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium has been known to erode player's slugging percentage. He's expensive, and -- this can't be said enough -- he's not a quality second baseman.

It's no secret that Marty's not a Soriano fan. To me, Soriano would be a huge mistake. I'm not sure who the Nationals would want for Soriano, but it seems likely they'd look for at least one top talent to save face. Then the Mets would have to tie up a ton of salary to keep Soriano. His offense would be diminished by Shea stadium; his defense would be even more exposed because Delgado isn't a good fielder. Every ball hit to that side of the infield would be an adventure. This deal makes no sense for the Mets. For the money you'd pay Soriano you could sign a top pitcher next year.

Noble also has interesting answers about David Wright's salary and Pedro's toe problems. Check 'em out.

Mets.com: Better Day for the Mets
Marty Noble reports on the Mets grapefruit league victory against the Indians. A day after splitting the squad and getting mauled by the Dodgers, the Mets got 3 innings from Tom Glavine and a home run by Cliff Floyd to win 6-3.

Glavine got touched up for a run on 4 hits in his outing. Jose Lima followed and didn't fare as well, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits in 2-2/3 innings. Bartolome Fortunato,Mike Venafro and Henry Owens followed with scoreless innings.

Victor Diaz, Jeff Keppinger and Sandy Martinez had 2 hit games for the Mets, while Chris Woodward drove in a pair of runs. Steve Trachsel will start tomorrow's game against the Astros in Port St. Lucie.

More Mets Stories:
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Comments (9)

I am not sufre what makes you think that Dominicans are unwilling to accept Pedro's toe problem. I just flew in from santo domingo last night and none of my dominican friends had a bad word to say about Pedro. They didn't say anything negative about Manny or Vlad not playing either. They are way more into the WBC than most Americans. . . . .but isn't that the point really?

Sitting outside the little hotel/guest house I stay at. . . . .there was a heated basbeall discussion one evening. . . . and it was great to see the Aguilas fan listing Victor Diaz as a reason his team was better. . . .only to be countered by the Licey fan that touted Anderson hernendez winning rookie of the year. . . . .

In hindsight this just might not be a festivity suited to preseason. Much like MLB all-stars tour Japan AFTER the season, this would be more interesting if it kept interest after the WS along with the AFL/and winter leagues.

NICE TO SEE KEPPINGER!!!!! unlike most i see Kepp as the 2nd baseman. I think he is a Biggio type who could be a jeff Kent. The Mets would not know a 2nd baseman from a brooklyn bridge. Kent an all-star & MVP was once traded because he was a defensive liability.....for Carlos Baerga. Not to mention traded for 2B Juan Samuel....to play CF, then made Keith Miller a CF, and Greg Jeffries from 3rd to 2nd.....

Frankly I see Anderson Hernandez as a SS. And tho he is a gem, hype him and trade him. Then use the parts. Victor Diaz quietly is not hurting his stock. Heilman too. Conspiracy theory: Heilman will be the Spr trade, if we get a starter back. Minaya is hyping Heilman to increase his value. Anyone can see we have a slew of #4-5 starters but not enough workhorses. Zambrano can be that guy. but in case, we need another notable...A jason Schmidt.

other notables Billy Traber pitched against some of his former mates. The LHP traded away for Alomar looked OK. He lost alot of time to injuries. Keppel also showed up. Now for Grant Roberts and Pat Strange.

Pelfrey is getting paid like a ML, why not give him the 5th starter spot.

Ralph -- I'm sorry, I know this is bigger in Latin countries, but I stand behind what I wrote. I have a huge concern that players who aren't in shape are under pressure to play. Someone is going to try to play through an injury and get really hurt. A pre-season tournament is a terrible idea -- typical Selig foolishness.

Hi Ed. I've heard some talk that the Mets are thinking about giving Pelfrey a shot at the 5th slot. I still think he could use some time in the minors to work on a curve.

I like Keppinger as as Utility guy, think with Delgado Mets need a 2B with range. Plus, AH's ability at SS could come in handy if Jose decides to get brittle again.

I see Heilman as someone with a chance to be a legit #3 guy. Schmidt scares me -- the Mets don't need another older pitcher with injury concerns.

Heilman: Scouts felt he was a reliever/swingman. At Notre Dame he started and relieved. As opposed to Humber and Pelfrey who were aces or darn close. Seo was an ace at AA/A and for Korea. It shows....he battles. Benson didnt battle. Again u need look no farther than the biggest start of his life a late aug battle with Noah Lowry, and Benson wilted BIG, on the tail end of that momentous west coast-Mike Jacobs swing.....we win that game and the momentum would be different

are 3'locks"

Bannister, Heilman, irikki, traxx are next with soler and Pelfrey dark horses. Lima could warm a spot too.
If Bannister is OK, Heilman and Matsumi could be dealt together. You sound like Dallas green. Nothing wrong with Kepp. Reyes and wright make up for the range. at least he can backhand and turn2. I like AH as a AAA SS in waiting.

Most starters are broke/wore down............

I don't agree with you so I'm Dallas Green. Okay Torborg...

I like Heilman better than you do, we'll see how it plays out.

Good comeback.

iliked Torborg. he did great w/ CWS then FLa. his demise in NY was ...? (unexplanable)

That was the best ever NY team on paper. Tony fernandez at SS, Greg Jeffries, Eddie Murray, Willie randolph, bonilla, Gooden, Viola (?)wow.

If you know my schpiel, u know i believe that if Kepp..(dumdum Willie), was promoted prior to that freakish injury, (when everyone and even your aunt hattie KNEW he had won that job IN SPR TRNG...), we win the pennant. Matsui has less range-less experience-and cant hit better than Kepp. Note many other ML learn to hit the long ball in the ML. Kepp is the norm. He translates into a Gruzylanik, Todd walker, Adam Kennedy, Wally Backman, Craig Counsell, type. The very thing we need. Anderson has great hands no doubt, but then so does Luis Rivas. AH is a potential phenom, hopefully he can bring back Zito (pun intended), The team needs spark plug energy guys ala DW. One or two in the rotation, (anti-Trachsels- who is NOT mr emotion).

Interesting microsope. With Glavine and Traxx done after the season or sooner....Only VZ and pedro remain. Will Heilman and Pelfrey get those two spots?

I have nothing against Keppinger. If the job was between him and Matsui right now I'd probably take Keppinger. I still like AH in the long run, I can see him alongside of Reyes for the next few years. We'll see.

I have to believe Trax won't be back, but Glavine might be. If he has a good year. I think guys like Heilman and Zambrano get this year to prove they both belong. Depending on who are free agent pitchers after the season I could see the Mets going after one there.

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