The World Baseball Classic took its toll on another everyday major league player this week, as word came down that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will miss the first month of the season because of a strained right shoulder he suffered while fielding his position for the Netherlands.
The injury is a big blow to the Yankees, who were hoping to have Gregorius at short stop to build upon last year's success where he led the Bombers in batting average, .276, and came around with the power late in the season to produce 20 homers and 70 RBI. Now the Yankees are forced to look at either former Met, Ruben Tejada, or prospects Ronald Torreyes, or Tyler Wade. By all accounts, neither Torreyes nor Wade are ready for the Majors at this point.
The injury underlines a concern that Major League clubs have with the World Baseball Classic in general for years. Just this season alone, a number of quality starters have gone down to injury. Kansas City's Salvador Perez hurt his knee. Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera hurt his back. Marlins short stop Martin Prado pulled a hamstring, and Diamondbacks pitcher Silvino Brancho also suffered a hamstring injury.
Four years ago, Mark Teixiera went down with a wrist injury in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA. He would miss most of the 2013 season.
While none of the injuries this season are as serious as the one sustained by Gregorius, the fact is teams are crossing their fingers when the players they are paying millions of dollars to do not get hurt.
However when there is a tournament in the middle of spring training that is pumped up to the level of postseason baseball, it is hard for players not to want to go all out. It is in their nature to go out there and play hard. Playing half way is never an option, even in preseason games.
This is not to say that injuries can't happen in regular exhibition games, but what has always been a troubling fact about the WBC is that is seems like it is too much pressure-packed baseball played way too soon. Most players are still trying to get their bodies in baseball shape at this point of the year, especially pitchers.
Granted this year's WBC has been fantastic. It has drawn high television ratings, and stadiums are getting sold out. The run by team USA, notwithstanding has been a huge boon to the tournament. There just has to be a better way to do this tournament, rather than take players out of Spring Training. Perhaps moving the WBC to the end of the season should be an option.