Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Hanley Ramirez was right to play in the WBC
By Mark Saxon
Hanley Ramirez injured his right hand diving for a ground ball during the Dominican Republic's win over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night. The Dodgers will get a chance to examine their shortstop today to determine the extent of the damage. It didn't look bad, but you never know with the small bones in the hand.
The injury, of course, will raise some serious questions. Why was Ramirez playing at all, considering the Dodgers are paying him $15.5 million and the Dominican federation will pay him a small fraction of that? Why was he playing third when he had told two reporters right before leaving camp that he would ask to play exclusively shortstop and designated hitter?
The Dodgers wanted Ramirez to work on being a better shortstop this spring and he will have gone about three weeks without playing the position by the time he gets back to it.
Valid points, of course, but still, I have a difficult time condemning Ramirez's decision to play in the WBC after seeing the joy his teammates had in playing for their country throughout the tournament. Whether it's in Dodger Stadium or a small stadium in Puerto Rico, baseball is a spectacle, like any other entertainment. The audience's interest level is what matters.
It was beautiful to see the Dominicans celebrating on the field with the team they had just beaten. That's kind of the point, isn't it, bringing baseball to the world and togetherness to different nations?
If Major League Baseball is going to push the WBC, the teams are going to have to get used to occasional injuries that come up. Players get hurt in spring training games, too.
The risks of the WBC, apparently, outweighed the gains for most of the American players. Clayton Kershaw admitted he had some regrets about not pitching in it and said the Dodgers suggested he skip it. Buster Posey skipped it. Mike Trout skipped it. Smaller countries like the Dominican Republic and Mexico got better participation from their best players.
The Dominican infield was better than anything either league could produce in the All-Star game, with Ramirez at third, Jose Reyes at shortstop, Robinson Cano at second and Edwin Encarnacion at first. Imagine if Albert Pujols hadn't changed his mind and stayed in Angels camp.
If I were Dominican manager Tony Pena, I wouldn't have let Ramirez play shortstop either, not with Reyes and Erick Aybar on the roster. If Ramirez had made a big stink about it, it might have fractured the team togetherness that was so obvious from watching the Dominicans' games.
Imagine if Kershaw, Posey, Trout and the other American superstars had played, pitting two of the four baseball superpowers against one another (Japan and Cuba are the other two). That would have been a final worth watching, even in the San Francisco rain.
So, who's to blame, Ramirez because something beyond his control happened on the field, or the players who opted to stay home because they worried about the unforeseeable?