As Yahoo! sports, and fellow Bleacher Creature Jim Neveau, reported earlier, Alex Rodriguez will play in this year's World Baseball Classic. He just won't be suiting up for the red, white, and blue.
Rodriguez's parents are from the Dominican Republic, the team he will play for, but A-rod himself was born and raised in the US, which is why he can choose either side. He played for the US team in 2006, hitting .333 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in six games, which made him the team's eighth best hitter in terms of OPS. It's hard to interpret from just six games worth of stats how much of a contribution he made, but its safe to say that while hewasn't the best player on the US side, he was a definite asset.
Even so, losing A-rod won't hurt the US team. Third base is one of a handful of positions where Americans dominate: A-rod, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Chipper Jones, and Troy Glaus are all top-shelf talents. Even though I did have A-rod as the starter in my projected roster, Longoria could have easily taken his spot leaving David Wright as the best back-up in the world.
I respect A-rod's decision, and while I disagree with it, I can see where he's coming from. He is not a traitor; he, like many Americans, has strong loyalties which are divided between two places. Once every so often, the two come into conflict and, this time, his heritage gets the place of honor over the country of his birth.
Even so, the US won't suffer much, and may be better off. A-rod is a fearsome competitor, if the commercials are to be believed, but I wonder how much these games mean to him.
There are plenty of other guys who would love to make a great start to their season by lifting the in the colors of their country. Someone like Wright, who has suffered some of sport's worst collapses over the last two seasons, may be hungrier for a trophy. Chipper Jones, the other third baseman in 2006, could be looking to avenge the team's poor showing last time out, the list goes on and on.
I'm unwilling to say that the loss of A-rod will make the US a better team come March, but I will say this: Don't be surprised if whoever the US chooses to replace A-rod on the squad makes a better showing than Rodriguez does himself.
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