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The WBC Strikes Again

Mike SteffanosThursday, March 26, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

Three years ago I wrote several items critical of the World Baseball Classic for this blog. No matter what spin Selig and the pro-WBC crowd try to put on it, the timing of this in spring is just terrible. No other sport (or Commissioner, for that matter) would risk its top players in a tournament like this when they are getting ready for the season.

I've stayed away from talking about the tournament this year. I know how important it is to fans from other countries and I understand it's not going away anytime soon. I just cross my fingers and hope that none of the 16 players the Mets sent to this overhyped monstrosity get hurt.

Today's news about Oliver Perez drove me over the edge again on this thing. The following from Ben Shpigel of the New York Times summarizes the situation well:

Looking back, the Mets' decision to let Perez play in the W.B.C. does not look like a good one. As supportive as they have been, Perez is the only one among the 16 participants who could have strongly benefited from remaining with the team during spring training, and not just because he is a starting pitcher. They spent $36 million on him during the off-season, and they know he needs hands-on instruction more than anyone else on the staff. When Johan Santana throws in the bullpen, he draws fewer people than the Marlins. When Perez throws, a gaggle of officials, coaches and players is on hand watching.

That is how Perez is wired, that is how he learns. The Mets may not have expected Perez to return out of shape or as behind as he is, but they also had to have known that sending him away for nearly three weeks without supervision certainly wasn't beneficial. Compounding that was the fact that Warthen said their repeated efforts to contact Mexico pitching coach Teddy Higuera were unsuccessful. They had no way of knowing whether Perez was adhering to their program or how hard he was working.

"We'd get to the stadium and get ready for the game," Perez said. "We just run on the track, we don't do PFP, don't do all the stuff."

Now, if you as a Mets fan read this and say, "Oliver Perez should have taken it upon himself to do what he needed to do to get ready for the season", I agree with you completely. That part is Perez' fault all the way.

What's disturbing, though, is the part about how Dan Warthen couldn't get the Mexican pitching coach to return a call. Are you kidding me?

The fiction that we as fans were supposed to buy into -- a fiction that has been fed to us repeatedly since the inaugural Classic -- was that the coaches of the various teams would be in close, constant contact with the coaches of the teams who are paying the huge salaries those players collect. "Don't worry," they assured us, "Your team's players will be just as well prepared for the MLB season as if they were in their own team's camp."

Yeah, right.

I don't just blame the people running this tournament for allowing this to happen -- I blame the Mets front office and ownership. I would have given the Mexican coach one chance to return my call, then I would have been on the phone with the MLB powers that be with a simple request: Either get this guy to return a call, or I am immediately pulling my player off the team.

I am not one to rant and rave about the Wilpons in this space. I do believe they care what happens with this franchise, I just don't think they're the most competent ownership in baseball.

I have to call them out on this one, though. Fred Wilpon's insistence in slavishly falling into line behind Bud Selig is a detriment to this franchise. The Mets' unwillingness to buck the Commissioner's office on the arbitrary slotting in the amateur draft has ensured that players who may have helped their farm system have slipped to those teams who are not afraid to stare Selig down.

Not saying no to Selig in this case meant the Mets shouldered a burden far higher than any other team in baseball as far as players sent and the resultant disruption of preparing for the season. Bad enough, but now we find out that, at least in Perez' case, a player was allowed to spend crucial weeks completely beyond the control and guidance of his coach. By allowing this to happen the Mets once again did a disservice to their own fan base -- the ones who cough up the big bucks for game tickets, food, merchandise, cable television, and all those other things that make Selig's WBC ego trip possible.

American fans have taken a lot of unfair criticism for not supporting this tournament enough. Forgive me, please, if I happen to think real baseball is something that happens during the major league season and playoffs. We are the losers if a player is exposed to overuse in these exhibition games (Perez, K-Rod) or exposed to unnecessary injury risk (Wright).

Now the icing on the cake is that this idea that these players will be just as well-prepared for the season has been shown to be a farce by this revelation about Perez.

Again, let me restate that Ollie Perez should have taken it upon himself to ensure that he was in contact with his coaches and following the plan. I do not absolve him of the responsibility that the contract he signed puts upon him. But what was allowed to happen here is ultimately the responsibility of those who run things, and Ollie's immaturity doesn't take them off the hook. Shame on Omar Minaya and Fred Wilpon for impotently allowing this to happen. It's time to grow a pair, gentlemen, and represent those of us who fund your little enterprise.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

Right on, Mike. Preach on brother!

mike, as one who is known to rant on this blog from time to time about the wilpons, excellent rant.i'll make my remarks short today, the wilpons are a bunch of losers, they gave a 4 year extension to a gm for no good reason, who has never won a championship and they gave 36 mill to an immature pitcher who is 55-60 lifetime and led the majors in walks.on nbc last nite on the len berman report, there was daddy fred waxing poetic about the rotunda in citifield.i'm sure the rotunda will be a nice part of the new ballpark for the fans to walk through but in the final analysis, i'd like to see the mets win another world series before i pass on to the the next world ..that's what me and most met fans dream about, not a rotunda channeling up ebbets field ..one week to mets/redsox.let's go mets!!!

I generally agree with your comments, Mike, but I'd have to say that the Mets would have to fight against Selig not as an individual team, but build a coalition of other teams that side with them in this debate. That's the problem baseball faces in dealing with their commissioner. I'll also be fair: some of the problems with the WBC are that it's a new concept that they're clearly still working out the kinks to. And some of the blame needs to fall on Ollie's shoulders. He's a big boy- and he should get some work in no matter what. At least Warthen's addressing it, and making it a case for the Mets to follow in the future. Hopefully they'll learn from this lesson.

Gary, I must say you're a bit off base with some stuff. I understand you're concerned about Ollie; I would be as well. However, early off in his career, after his first season with the Pirates, he was......a Pirate. His record is inflated/deflated by that fact. Put Maholm or Gorzelanny on any other team and watch them not suck. And while Ollie is a walk-a-thon at times, he's also a strikeout machine at times. So was Nolan Ryan. Judge him by his end results, rather than only his negatives. He's gotten 2 winning seasons with the Mets and also a successful playoff run with them. And he's only 27. And as for his contract, see the Scott Boras playbook for more information on that.

And as for Minaya- every season the Mets have winning seasons under him. He's made the Mets a profitable franchise, in which bad breaks have hurt them. Don't get me wrong, Minaya has faults, but he also has really good baseball instincts. For every bad move he's done- Alou, Willie Randloph's 2008, Luis Castillo, letting Oliver go- he's had equally good moves, like signing Beltran, Delgado, Wagner, KRod, and trading for Johan, Church, and Putz. He kept believing in Pelfrey, and traded high on Milledge. He brought in Evans, Murphy, Parnell, and Niese.

And also, who would replace him? Steve Phillips?

I am going to be hated right now but i really don't mind, first to those that don't like the WBC have no idea out it means to represent your country you only think about the season so i guess u really don't like your country, thats to bad and shameful, i have to agree that the timing for this event is wrong, but one thing that i did notice was that all the players that played in winter ball had no problem with the shape they were in, and if u notice japan had been practicing since january so im not surprise that they won, and they had major league players in the roster, to many teams baby there players too much, so i like the WBC so what hate me now,

Now lets focus on one on the mets, how come nobody is proud to say that the mets have so many good players from many different countries, that do have a feel for "patritism" and do want to represent there country in the best way posible. its a shame that u only think of your local teams a oppose to your country, that is very selfish.

So my solution to getting the players ready for the classic is have the players play winter ball before participating, why did none of the latin players get injured is and so many from team usa is that american players are lazy once the season ends, most latin players go home to continue playing and staying in shape they rest for a few weeks a play during the winter ball playoffs.

So hate if you want but the WBC is good for baseball now the world has caught up to america and u guys hate it,

look what happen in basketball the world caught up it so now u take more serious when the olimpics come around,

dominicans got beat by the netherlands a baseball powers house so when the next classic comes around they will take more personally, and u think the puerto ricans are happy that our david wright took them out than u r wrong,

I love the mets but that is only local love, love my country more then just NY, think of the bigger pictures MORANS

Lets go METS .....can't wait for the next WBC

Alfonso - I don't hate you. I didn't accuse you of being shameful. I can love my country and not get all worked up about the WBC. I don't try to force my ideas of patriotism on you, and would appreciate if you would give me that in return. If I was to do what you did and questioned patriotism, I would wonder how you could live in and make your living in NY and not think of America as your country at all. So go ahead and call other people names, I have no respect for you or your opinion.

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