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Stop Worrying About the WBC

There’s no reason to be upset about Cardinals representing their country.

With Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, and Yadier Molina either playing in or considering the World Baseball Classic, many fans have voiced concerns. My message to these fans is simple: don’t worry.

Trust me, I get it.

You want to make sure the Cardinals start the season with their stars healthy and ready to go. It is an understandable fear, but unwarranted. The WBC is an opportunity for players to return to their roots and put on the jersey for their home country (more or less, we’re looking at you Freddie Freeman). For many players, this brings their careers full circle, giving back to those who have taught them how to love the game.

For a Cardinals team that was often dull, there is nothing better for morale than to have their best players happy. If Yadi wants to catch for Puerto Rico, let him. If Martinez and Reyes want to suit up for the Dominican Republic, by all means, go right ahead. The Cardinals made an effort to boost the clubhouse atmosphere with the signing of Dexter Fowler, and letting their stars pursue the WBC would be right in line with that move.

There is no inconvenience to offseason routine by playing. The WBC begins March 9th, synchronizing with Spring Training. Players who join their nation will not be rushed into play, as this is the same time that games begin in Arizona and Florida. Report dates in February will not be changed much, if it all. Participating players will be able to spend time with the team to establish relationships with newcomers before departing. I like to think of the WBC as a more exciting version of Spring Training.

In fact, playing in the WBC should be encouraged for young players. It allows them to play on a bigger stage, experience in a high leverage situation, and get fired up for the season ahead of them. Not to mention the invaluable opportunities to learn from fellow Major Leaguers from the same country.

All this is not to ignore the risks.

The injury concern is real and valid, but that can’t be the reason a player gets held back. In the unfortunate event that Reyes or Martinez injures their arm in a WBC game, there will be no reason to point fingers. The injury would have been just as probable if they had remained playing back in Spring Training. After an offseason of rest, they will be playing with fresh arms that should withstand the games. For Yadi, adding innings to a tiring body is not of concern. He would be catching in Spring Training as well, so the net difference in additional catching is a moot point. With Yadi at the WBC, it gives more of an opportunity for the Cardinals to evaluate Carson Kelly and Eric Fryer, better preparing the team for the season.

What is not up for debate is that the WBC provides baseball players with the opportunity to feel like Olympians, wearing their country’s colors on their jerseys for just a few short weeks as they strive to make their families and friends back home proud. It would be wrong to rob them of such an opportunity.

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports