Over the past few weeks, debate has sparked the baseball world surrounding Andrew Miller‘s decision to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. The most recent update by MLB Network’s Jon Morosi is that Miller will be available throughout the tournament. Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti supported Miller’s decision, trusting his ability to take care of his body, but there has to be concern based on Miller’s injury past and prior workload.
Masahiro Tanaka said he would skip the World Baseball Classic in order to prepare for the upcoming season, which had to make the New York Yankees breathe much easier. Like Miller, Tanaka has had injury concerns, but the difference with Tanaka is that he can opt-out at the end of 2017, which I believe is the primary reason Tanaka has decided to sit out.
In 2016, including the postseason, Miller pitched 93.2 innings, the most since he was a starter nine years ago. Obviously, the deeper you go the more innings, but this workload has to be in the minds of those in the Indians’ organization. With this decision to participate in the WBC, Miller will now pitch even more innings before Opening Day.
While with the Yankees in 2015, Miller had to be shut down for a month in June due to a flexor muscle strain in his left forearm. Miller told reporters that it was a fatigue injury that rest would solve, and it did. But coming off the season that Miller had, wouldn’t resting for a few weeks in March seem more logical than being shut down for three to four weeks mid-way through the regular season like he was two seasons ago. Not to mention, Miller throws in the upper 90s with a slider that has to put pressure on his arm, especially with his unique sidearm delivery.
Aroldis Chapman was also worked extensively in the postseason, and when he was removed in Game 7 of the World Series, Chapman was caught massaging his arm as if it was sore. The Cubs were almost certain that they would not retain Chapman, so they could use him to their luxury, and whatever happens in the future is some other team’s problem. Could the same be said for Team USA manager Jim Leyland?
Team USA’s deepest run in the WBC was finishing fourth in 2009, and this year’s roster has a legitimate shot to win the entire thing. Leyland is here to win, and if Miller is the best matchup for top left-handers such as Freddie Freeman of Canada, Carlos Gonzalez of Venezuela, or Robinson Cano of the Dominican Republic, Miller will be on the mound.
I completely understand why Miller wants to participate in the WBC. Many players take pride in being able to wear USA across their chest and represent their country. However, the Indians write Miller’s paycheck, and all focus should be on winning the World Series after coming so close last season. As much as winning this tournament would mean to these players, what is valued more, this or a World Series ring?
If Miller gets hurt this year, all eyes will go towards his decision to play in this event whether that is justified or not. Overall, the negatives simply outweigh the positives.