03/21/13 — WBC doesn't generate excitement among USA pro players

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WBC doesn't generate excitement among USA pro players

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 21, 2013 1:47 PM

Priorities are best defined in how we use our time and where we spend our money.

For professional athletes, commitments outside of playing for the organization for which they are currently under contract must be considered carefully. Representing your country on the international stage should not be a privilege that requires much consideration.

Until donning this nation's colors in the World Baseball Classic becomes as much of an honor as it is in the Olympics, the United States' performances on the diamond will continue to be mediocre.

NBA stars line up in droves to compete for a spot on our country's national team. America's best golfers jump for an opportunity to play against Europe in the Ryder Cup. When it comes to the World Baseball Classic, the top American-born talent is largely missing in action.

The United States entered this year's WBC with 2012 National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey as the ace of its staff. Beyond Dickey, there wasn't a single front-line starter in the rotation.

Major League Baseball's aces Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Stephen Strasburg, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, David Price and Matt Cain were noticeably absent. Expecting to knock off the likes of contenders the Dominican Republic and Japan with mostly mid-level starters and middle relievers turned out to be wishful thinking.

Even the position players for Team USA were serviceable at best, but far from the top talent our nation has to offer. The USA struck out 46 times in six WBC games. Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer were the only two players on the American roster who finished among the top-10 batters in Major League Baseball in 2012.

Philadelphia Phillies' starting pitcher Cole Hamels recently said "I think winning the World Series is a little bit more important than whatever trophy they give for the World Baseball Classic. The World Series is ultimately the goal that I would go for no matter what they are throwing out there for the champions of the World Baseball Classic."

When some of our nation's best players approach international competition with this lukewarm mentality, it should be no surprise that Team USA plays its WBC games in stadiums largely filled with raucous supporters of its opponents. Maybe it will take the USA breaking through and winning a WBC championship before more fans and top-level players find the time to care.

Until then, our country will continue to approach a tournament centered around a sport we invented like it is a meaningless Grapefruit League game in March. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has embraced the true meaning of the phrase "World Series."