The World Baseball Classic hype train is running full steam ahead and we’re about a month away from the games actually starting. I love the World Baseball Classic as much as everyone else, possibly even more. I’m also very excited about Team USA and the potential of the tournament as a whole. However, it is well established that the tournament does pose risk to players, and it seems no team is putting more at risk in this tournament than the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals are allowing the following players to compete in this year’s World Baseball Classic: star first baseman Matt Carpenter, staff ace Carlos Martinez, and top prospect and future ace Alex Reyes. Added up, thats 11 WAR created from 2016, with just 46 innings from Reyes.
That’s also a lot to risk in a one-month tournament. To be fair, a career-ending or season-ending injury hasn’t happened to a player in the WBC yet, but with more and more data coming out every day on how usage (especially with pitchers) contributes to longterm health in a big way, everyone can see that there is inherent risk in letting your ace, future ace, and best position player compete.
Obviously, the Cardinals are confident in their players and are confident that they are in tip-top shape, or there’s no way the DeWitts or general manager John Mozeliak would let these guys even think about playing. As a fan, though, there is still the concern, as so much success for the actual season really hinges on these three players alone.
Carpenter isn’t as much of a worry, as he has had a relatively clean bill of health over the last few years, but he did deal with a few nicks and an oblique injury last season.
Martinez, on the other hand, had his season shut down in 2015 due to a shoulder injury, so there is some concern there. There’s also the fact that the Cardinals just handed Martinez a five-year extension worth $51 million, a long term investment that you obviously don’t want to lose a year of due to injury. Again, it’s important to reiterate that Mozeliak obviously has confidence in Martinez and his ability to stay healthy, and the WBC does have restrictions on how often a pitcher can go out and pitch in order to preserve their longterm health, and that is in place to assuage the fears of fans and management alike.
The fears are still there, though, and even though fans will be cheering on their respective countries in full force, team management and some of those fans will be nervously watching their favorite players as well.