A day after Edwin Diaz helped propel Puerto Rico to the finals of the World Baseball Classic, he had to make one of the biggest calls of his life. He had to call the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday and convince Jerry Dipoto to let him be available for an inning of work in the finale. The Mariners approved the one inning of work for their closer in Wednesday’s matchup with the United States, which happens to come on his 23rd birthday. This is great news for Mariners fans like me, but also for all baseball fans. I totally agree that this is the right call. Here’s why.
Yes, the Mariners have plans on making the playoffs in the near future, and the end goal is always a World Series. But tonight’s game will be the biggest game Diaz may ever be a part of. Yadier Molina said in an article by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that winning the WBC would mean just as much if not more to him than winning the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
As Americans, we don’t truly understand the passion and pride these guys have playing for their countries. Kids in these countries don’t root for teams, they root for the players born in their country. They want to be Yadier Molina, Edwin Diaz, Francisco Lindor, or Carlos Correa when they grow up. In some cases, they see playing in the major leagues as the only way they are ever going to make it in life. Baseball is life in countries like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. If Puerto Rico were to win the WBC on Wednesday night, the whole country will forget about everything happening in their lives and know that their native sons defeated the greatest baseball players in the world. If the United States can knock off Puerto Rico, people would celebrate, but it wouldn’t hold a candle to what it’d mean for the people of Puerto Rico.
Why would the Mariners say no to Diaz’s request to possibly close out the biggest game of his life and his country’s history? To preserve him for the season? Sure. But is this one inning going to make him falter in September and possibly October? Maybe, but it’s more likely that him having to make a lot of appearances in May and June would be more of an issue come September than this one inning. I get it, the Seattle Mariners are a business and they want to win because winning means money and you can’t have a successful business if you don’t make money. Sometimes doing the right thing, even if it may cause a bump in the road later on, is what you have to do. Showing confidence in players builds trust and loyalty which could far outweigh the possible bad, if any, that could come from this.
Imagine this scenario had the M’s said no to Diaz requesting to pitch in the finals: Puerto Rico is leading 4-2 in the ninth inning, they can’t use Diaz, and their new closer gives up a three-run home run and they end up losing. Not only does an entire nation now dislike the Mariners, but so does every player on Team Puerto Rico, and you don’t think Diaz would hold a heavy grudge against the M’s for many years? Even if he never publicly said it, he would. As an owner or general manager, sometimes you have to be the bad guy, but this isn’t the time nor the place.
Players and organizations can’t operate if all they are worried about is who might get injured throughout the season. The work the players and training staff do in the offseason leading up to the season helps prepare each and every MLB player for the grind. All of the players in the WBC knew they were going to go harder than normal during spring training, so hopefully they prepared for it. And if the M’s didn’t think Diaz was in shape to do so, they would have shut him down and not granted his request.
If you still disagree, that’s fine; it’s your right to do so, but you and I have no idea what a WBC Championship would mean to these guys and their country. I can tell you one thing: judging by the determination, hustle, and celebrations I’ve seen from Molina, Diaz, and Javier Baez, I think I have a pretty good idea that it means the world to them.