Amidst injuries, should Mariners and other MLB Players Participate in the World Baseball Classic?

World Baseball Classic Pool D: Venezuela v Israel
World Baseball Classic Pool D: Venezuela v Israel / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

I have encountered discussions on social media suggesting that Major League Baseball teams should not allow their players to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The tragic injury experienced by Edwin Diaz of the Mets while playing for Puerto Rico has prompted some of these questions. The Mariners sent 10 players to the WBC such as Eugenio Suarez, Diego Castillo, Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, Matt Festa, Matt Brash, "King" Harry Ford, and a few others.

Injuries, unfortunately, are part of any professional or amateur sport. In baseball, they can occur in Spring Training, over the course of the season, in the post-season, and in the off-season while players are training or engaged in other activities. A second player on the Mets, Brandon Nimmo, injured his ankle while playing in the Grapefruit League: a reminder that injuries can happen any time, anywhere.  

Pro-sports teams invest a great deal of time and money into their players. An injury suffered in another tournament impacts them greatly. I remember hearing similar concerns years ago about whether pro-hockey players or pro-basketball players should participate in the Olympics, given the risks.

Matt Brash pitches for Canada
World Baseball Classic Pool C: Great Britain v Canada / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

I suggest that international athletic competition is worth the risks to professional players and teams. Many of the 2023 WBC players shared that playing with their country’s name on their jerseys is a powerful experience. (Although this might not be as true for British players whose uniforms were exceptionally unremarkable.) Sports “speak” a universal language. Even if one does not speak Spanish, for example, this does not prevent spectators and the TV audience from appreciating teams from South and Central America and the Carribean, as well as Spain. In addition, international sports competitions allow many around the world to learn about different cultures.

I suggest that preventing MLB players from joining their fellow countrymen (in this case) in the World Baseball Classic would be a shame for players and viewers. The chance to represent one’s country on the world stage is a source of pride and the opportunity of a lifetime.