When Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez left Tuesday night’s final of the World Baseball Classic after jamming his right thumb, it seemed like another great opportunity to loath the preseason event. However, people should not be so quick to blame the WBC for Ramirez’s plight.
The injury occurred while Ramirez was diving for a ground ball off the bat of Puerto Rico’s Jesus Feliciano. It was exactly the sort of routine play that easily could have occurred during one of the Dodgers’ spring training games.
That won’t make baseball fans in Los Angeles feel any better about the injury, which, according to this tweet, will require surgery, keeping Ramirez sidelined anywhere for approximately eight weeks:
Hanley Ramirez's right thumb will require surgery. Ramirez is expected to return to competition in approximately 8 weeks.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 21, 2013
Cynics will quickly suggest that Ramirez should have been in Arizona playing shortstop for the Dodgers instead of playing third base for the Dominican Republic in the WBC.
Now that the results of Ramirez's MRI have been revealed, we know for certain that this prevents him from getting needed repetitions at shortstop during spring training. The Dodgers will also be without Ramirez's services when they welcome the San Francisco Giants to Chavez Ravine in their first attempt to unseat the 2012 NL West—and World Series—champs on April 1.
Ramirez’s injury is obviously not an ideal way to start the 2013 season, especially given how big a role injuries to key players played in derailing a promising start to 2012. The Dodgers held the best record in baseball as late as June 20 last year before major injuries to Matt Kemp, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley and Kenley Jansen set in.
Still, any attempt to blame this on the World Baseball Classic is misguided. Ramirez was not engaged in any activity during the WBC that would have increased the odds of him getting hurt. If anything, getting major league players to compete at a playoff-like level of intensity in March better prepares them for the regular season.
This is especially true for a star player like Ramirez, who is an important member of the Dodgers—a team with World Series aspirations in 2013.
While Ramirez is recovering from thumb surgery, fans must temper their expectations for Los Angeles for the first two months of the season. However, the Dodgers have enough talent to survive this unfortunate setback—at least in the short term.
Luis Cruz can easily slide over to shortstop, and what the Dodgers lose in offensive production will be partially offset by Cruz's superior defense. With Dee Gordon slated to start the season in Triple A, Los Angeles would likely use a platoon of Juan Uribe, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. at third.
As disappointing as Ramirez's injury is, no one should use this injury—or the wrist injury suffered by New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira—as ammunition to shoot down the idea of letting major leaguers participate in future WBCs.