Playing in the World Baseball Classic every three or four years for your respective country is a great honor that every major league ballplayer has to have in the back of his mind.
This March, the third annual World Baseball Classic will take place. Spring training begins on March 1 for the Orioles, and the first game of the WBC is on March 8.
The Birds’ center fielder and team leader, Adam Jones, will be representing team USA, reliever Luis Ayala will be playing for Mexico, reliever Pedro Strop will sport the Dominican Republic colors and Jonathan Schoop will be on the Netherlands squad.
Last season, Jones broke out the home run bat and belted a career-high 32 long shots. He was leading the team until Chris Davis jumped one in front with seven home runs in the final week of the season.
Although he failed to set a career mark in RBI, the former Mariner drove in 82 runs—one shy of his career high, which he posted the year before. He finished the season batting at a very respectable .287 average, which was another career mark. The previous season, he tapered off towards the end of the year and finished at a .280 clip.
The question this week is whether playing in the WBC will be detrimental or helpful to begin the season. I think it could be very helpful for Jones to play with a new squad and see new looks on the mound. But there are also a couple of negative aspects of playing in this tournament
There are 25 games on the schedule for spring training, and the WBC only guarantees a team at least three games in the tournament (March 8 to March 10). The United States participates in Pool D in the Classic. It will square off against Mexico in the first game and will also face Italy and Canada.
Then, in the second round, the runner-up and the winner of Pool D will play on March 12. In the championship round, the loser will play the following day, and the winner will play two days later. The winner of that game will then play on the March 15, and the overall winner will be decided the next day.
In the finals, the runner-up from the last round will either play on March 17 or 18, which is true for the winner of the last round as well. The overall winner will be decided on the March 19.
If Team USA makes it all the way to the championship game, it will play only nine games. Meanwhile, in spring training, he would have already participated in 15 games.
In 2006, the first year the World Baseball Classic took place, the United States went 1-2 in the first round and barley advanced to the second round. However, it lost two out of three and was eliminated. Coincidentally, the only team the U.S. defeated in the second round was Japan, who eventually won the 2006 WBC title.
In 2009, it was a different story for the United States—it was able to advance to the semifinals. Although the team finished in fourth place overall, it still accomplished more than the first year. Japan defeated South Korea for its second title in as many opportunities.
This is Adam Jones’ first time being honored with the opportunity to play on the World Baseball Classic team. Read on the negative aspects of his involvement with the team.
The San Diego native has never participated in the Classic and has no idea what to expect. It's one thing for a player to know what he is getting himself into, but this will be a learning experience for Jones.
Although I do not think he will have trouble adjusting to a new team, there is always the possibility. That should not interfere with his play in the field or batting, but there is always a chance.
Not to mention, there is pressure playing in this type of tournament because you want to do well and represent your country by playing as hard as you can.
Another major negative is the fact that Jones will be playing fewer games throughout the tournament than if he were to stay with the team. He will miss out on about six or seven games spring training games, at least, if Team USA goes all the way.
The last possible detrimental aspect of leaving his team during spring training is the fact that he will be playing in a different league with pitchers he has never seen before. It could be difficult, and that might lead him to get off to a slow start.
Think about it. If he struggles throughout the tournament because he has never seen the pitching and it throws his timing off, he will not have much time to return to the States and work out his batting woes before the start of the season.
There’s no telling how he will adjust to playing with athletes he has never seen play before, new hurlers and possible different playing styles.
It will definitely be a great learning experience, but it could do more harm than good.
Personally, I think Jones playing in the WBC will not affect him at all. The 27-year-old is just entering the prime of his career, and I’m sure he has been working out in the offseason. Of course, playing in a game is different, but if he has been active and working on his skills, he is ahead of the game.
Although I mentioned this aspect as a negative, it can also work out to be beneficial for Jones: He’s going to see a diverse pitching staff and new looks. I think new pitchers and different looks will be a good idea for Jones to practice.
There are going to be some pitchers he has faced and recognizes, but there will also be pitchers he has never heard of before.
I think this could work to his advantage. And if he gets on a hot streak, maybe he will ride that into the beginning of the season.
Another negative that also works true as a positive: He’s going to be with a new team, and that will be a great opportunity to show his leadership skills, leading the team like he has with the Birds.
We all know that Jones is a great leader and is definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest, players on the team at such a young age. But how will he do with a different team and a new team dynamic?
It will be interesting to see if he steps up and chooses to lead this team and how he responds at the dish. I think this could definitely work out in his favor as well.
The last beneficial aspect of Jones participating in the WBC is that, even if he doesn’t play that many games with the WBC due to elimination, he still will be able to return to the Orioles and get in some final games (at least 10-15 games depending when the U.S. is eliminated).
The last game of the tournament is March 19, and the last day of spring training is March 31
Overall, I think this would be a great experience for Jones, and he deserves this opportunity. He should definitely seize the chance. I’m sure he will excel no matter how much people scrutinize or praise his decision.
I think the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. Even if he spends some time away from the Orioles, he will be with the team both before and after the tournament. It’s not as if he is abandoning the team for the entire spring training, which some people might think.
Over the last two seasons, Jones has grown so much, and he has become a much better player than when the Birds first acquired him five years ago from the Mariners. It has definitely proved to be one of the most beneficial moves the Birds have made in recent memory.
I think he will be productive and continue to adjust and grow at the major league level whether or not he participates in the tournament.
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