Who called in sick to work today to watch the World Baseball Classic?
We’re waiting …
The World Baseball Classic was the brainchild of former commissioner Bud Selig, who was voted into the Hall of Fame barely before he cleaned out his New York office, but that’s another story for another day. I was never a fan of the made-up drama that masked MLB’s real desire to market itself around the world.
After attending the finals of the first WBC, I’ve seen the real drama first-hand and have softened my stance on the WBC — despite the fact its risks of injuring players far outweighs its value beyond MLB’s bank account.But let’s get something straight: This is sheer, spring training-style entertainment. It doesn’t determine the best team on the planet.
When the reigning National League and AL MVPs (Kris Bryant and Mike Trout) decide to sit out the worldwide tournament, it’s a sideshow.
That said, there has been some real excitement, especially with the thrilling play of Team Israel. It’s fun to watch. That’s all.
For Team Canada, it’s a way to see former Cub Ryan Dempster and his cool windup back in action. Dempster, 39, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since helping the Red Sox win the 2013 World Series. Dempster and 41-year-old Eric Gagne are two of the notable pitchers on Team Canada’sroster.
“I told friends I’m going to be playing in the WBC,’’ Dempster told USA Today Sports, “and they thought it was some beer league softball tournament. They didn’t really comprehend the fact that I was going to do this.
“I said, ‘No, the World Baseball Classic.’ They were like, ‘What?’
“As my brother put it, don’t worry, Ryan, only the whole country is counting on you.’’
So, yes, the WBC will be entertaining. And fun — as long as no current major-leaguers get hurt. And evidently, it’s not going away. Commissioner Rob Manfred shot down rumors today that this would be the last edition of the WBC.
“The WBC will be broadcast in 182 countries,” Manfred said in Tokyo. “This will be a $100 million event over this brief less than two-week period. From Day 1, while it was a profitable event from the beginning, it has really grown in terms of its revenue significance and it’s popularity around the world.”
But here’s another way to look at it. ESPN posed the question of whether Team USA, a watered-down product of America’s talent which has never finished higher than fourth, could beat the Cubs.
Speaking of the WBC, Team Italy visits the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., today, which is cool, but also marks Addison Russell’s return to the lineup. Russell has been sidelined because of a sore elbow.
Anthony Rizzo, a former Team Italy star, will also be in the lineup for a second consecutive day after dealing with lower-back issues.
“He doesn’t want to miss the paisans,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The Cubs made their first round of cuts today, sending six non-roster pitchers to minor-league camp. That still leaves 34 pitchers in camp.
Wait, they had 40 before the cuts?
The Jake Arrieta Farewell Tour will be a common theme this season as the right-hander will likely handle questions every fifth day or so about this being the final year of his contract.
Here’s a piece of advice, Cubs fans: Relax. He’s under contract for this season. That’s all that matters. If he has a good year, great — he’ll hit the jackpot next offseason and the Cubs will reap the rewards in 2017. If he continues his slide, oh well — he’ll be 32 before Opening Day 2018 and doesn’t warrant a multiyear contract from the Cubs.
Which one will it be? Who knows, but the folks at Forbes think they have the inside track. They set the over/under for some major-league pitchers. Take a look. A hint: They like Arrieta and sent up a red flag over Opening Day starter Jon Lester.
ON THE SOUTH SIDE
The White Sox get a rare spring training day off today. Well, most of them get the day off.
Pitching coach Don Cooper and top pitching prospect Michael Kopech will be among those in camp today. Kopech will throw a simulated gameunder Cooper’s supervision.
RING OF HONOR
A couple of former Cubs who got limited playing time got a pleasant surprise this week in Giants camp.
Right-hander Neil Ramirez, who appeared in eight games for the Cubs last season, and catcher Tim Federowicz, who played in 17 games, got letters asking for their ring size. As in World Series rings.
“Oh, I can’t wait,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to be awesome. I’m not sure exactly when it’ll come. Even though I wasn’t with them all the way through, you don’t forget that you’re part of something like that.”
TEBOW MANIA, OH PLEASE!
Expect Tebow Mania to reach full throttle Wednesday, when Mets “prospect” Tim Tebow makes his spring debut against Rick Porcello and the Red Sox.
Some of us are already sick of Tebow Mania, but we’ll probably check in on those first at-bats anyway.
“I don’t think he’s going to make our team but it’s great for the organization and great for the fans,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He’s a pretty famous guy and it will be fun to get him out there.”
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