The 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC) recently announced rosters for its 16 participating countries, and it was immediately apparent that the Milwaukee Brewers could be negatively impacted by the international tournament.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt reported that the Brewers will be sending 14 players to participate in the WBC, which is the maximum allowed from any one organization.
Yahoo!Sports’ Dave Radcliffe reported that the players participating from Milwaukee’s 40-man roster include: John Axford, Taylor Green and Jim Henderson (Canada); Marco Estrada and Yovani Gallardo (Mexico); Hiram Burgos and Martin Maldonado (Puerto Rico); Carlos Gomez (Dominican Republic); Jeff Bianchi (Italy); and Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy (United States).
Haudricourt also reported that several minor league players who were invited to spring training were named to teams. They include: Mike Walker (Australia); Rene Tosoni (Canada); and Hainley Statia (Netherlands).
Players will report to spring training around February 12 and remain in camp until March 1, when the WBC players will join their respective teams. The tournament ends on March 19, just two weeks before the start of the major league season.
Milwaukee general manager Gord Ash told Haudricourt that the organization sees the players’ participation in the WBC as both positive and negative:
It is a significant number of players. That is both a credit to the organization and a little bit of a concern.
We remain supportive of the World Baseball Classic, and when you look at the players involved, most of them are not trying to win spots on our team this spring.
Despite Ash’s optimism, it’s hard to imagine the team not being negatively impacted by having more than a third of their 40-man roster missing for a major chunk of spring training.
In addition to the importance of team bonding, having veteran stars like Braun and Gallardo around to mentor youngsters will be missed.
Lucroy and Maldonado, the team’s starting and backup catchers respectively, will miss valuable time working with the staff, which is headlined by a young starting rotation.
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that three of Milwaukee’s rotation spots could go to Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers. With 36 major league starts between the trio, any work they could get in with the catchers, or training with the likes of Gallardo and Axford, would be extremely valuable.
Ash told Haudricourt that he believes everything will ultimately work out:
The greater good is being served here.
The timing this year is going to work out Okay. The players will report to camp February 12 and will be there until March 1. They will get in seven (exhibition) games before they go and will be back again at the end.
There still will be time before and after for these players to work together. Lucroy and Maldonado have caught the potential starting rotation guys. There's a couple of new bullpen guys they haven't caught, but they will have time to work together.
The possibility of a player getting injured should also loom over the Brewers. If any player of significance were to lose time during the major league season because of something sustained during the WBC it would cast the team’s complicity into further doubt.
Although many of the WBC teams will be training near the Brewers, their proximity won’t mean much because of their completely different focuses.
The WBC is seen as a way to spread appreciation for baseball around the globe. However, it’s potential impact on major league teams trying to prepare for a 162-game season and playoff run has to be taken into account.
Playing in the NL Central, the Brewers don’t have an easy road to October. Having so many players missing during spring training when important team dynamics and skills are formed is a major risk.
While the Brewers can be commended for their role in supporting the WBC and marketing baseball, they should also be questioned for that decision. As the 2013 season nears, they will have to cross their fingers that their aspirations aren't undone by a show of good will.
Statistics via BaseballReference