January 19, 2013

USA Baseball, Get it Together

By - Jaquan Murphy

With the World Baseball Classic right around the corner, the roster for the United States Team was released. 27 of the 28 players were named, headlined by Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey.

Although a solid squad, the resounding question is -- where are the stars at? Granted, the roster has Braun and Dickey, but the U.S. Team is lacking the star power of some of the other countries. And while still a favorite on paper, throughout the Classic will come second guessing and what ifs.

Photo by: Tony Medina
These what ifs will separate the U.S. Team from any of the other power teams in the Classic. In fact, the what ifs will separate the U.S. Baseball Team from any other U.S. National Team.

Let's take the U.S. Basketball National Teams, for example. Every time the Olympics or the World Basketball Championships come around, a who's who of MVPs, All-Stars, and emerging stars throw their name in the hat in hopes of being selected to represent their country. It does not matter if they just finished a deep playoff run or if training camp is right around the corner. NBA stars do not blink at the chance to wear the red, white and blue.

Even other sports like hockey or soccer do not face this issue. Players totally embrace the opportunity to not just represent their country, but to compete against the best of their respective sport. This mentality is the reason why our basketball, soccer and hockey teams are expected to make it to the finals of every international tournament, and are always heavy favorites to do just that.

On the other hand, USA Baseball is just a mediocre 7-7 in WBC play since the tournament's origin. Why? Well one reason is top names like Verlander, Kershaw, Posey, Trout and Hamilton opt not to play. They choose to pass on a once in a lifetime opportunity and defer to second and third tier players, while other countries have their superstars thrilled by the opportunity.

The overwhelming reason why? They do not want to risk injury.

Granted, the season is long; fatigue will set in, and injuries are possible. But, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera and Felix Hernandez are not using that line. So why should anyone else use that as an excuse?

The answer is fairly simple. American baseball players do not have the same passion to represent their country as players of other countries, or even American athletes of other sports. The thrill of hitting the diamond wearing red, white and blue is not as appealing as it is for a basketball player or an athlete of another sport. The international history is not as rich, and it makes the risk not as worthy as it would be for another athlete.

In addition, American baseball players are not worshipped the same way that international players are. When an international player makes it to the show, he becomes a national hero. But when an American player makes it to the bigs, he may not even be the most popular athlete from his hometown, downplaying his overall importance to the community.

USA Baseball needs to get the program moving in the right direction. There is no reason why "America's Past Time" should not be dominated by the Americans. The U.S. Baseball Team should dominate the World Baseball Classic like the U.S. Basketball Team dominates the Olympics.

With that said, it's going to take a conscious effort by the star players, the faces of franchises, like Matt Kemp, Buster Posey, Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg, to energize USA Baseball. The only way other stars are going to want to participate is if the superstars make the move. They need to make this type of opportunity more appealing. They have to create historic moments to make young players aspire to want to create history of their own, the same way players of other sports and countries do.

Until then, every time the World Baseball Classic rolls around, people need not expect much from a U.S. WBC roster, nor much from Team USA in the Classic itself.

So get it together U.S. Baseball -- before it is too late.


  1. I didn't realize they were just a .500 team in the WBC. Need to get that turned around.

  2. Its like you said the season is so long that the superstars dont want to risk injury plus the fact that the WBC is probably the least popular of the international sports tournaments.