PHOENIX -- World Baseball Classic pool play wrapped up Wednesday night with Team USA advancing after a 3-2 win over Colombia. The big news of the day, however, came a bit earlier when Puerto Rico knocked out tournament favorite Dominican Republic and Mets/Puerto Rico closer Edwin Diaz hurt his knee in the quick celebration afterward. It's possible Díaz misses the majority or even all of the 2023 MLB season with the injury.
The outcry on social media afterward was predictable, understandable, and, I would argue, at least slightly misguided.
First off, though, my apologies to Mets fans as a fellow fan of baseball. This unequivocally sucks for a team and fan base hoping to win the World Series this season. Díaz is one of baseball's best closers and the bullpen was already looking a bit thin. I do not blame any Mets fans for reacting emotionally and doing things like proclaiming the WBC must be stopped and never played again.
I empathize. I also disagree. Strongly.
Yes, I'm aware that any time a player gets hurt and it's not deemed absolutely essential by a person, that person is going to freak out and proclaim the player should have never been doing said activity in the first place. Car wreck? Don't drive. Ever. Slipped while getting into a hot tub (that has happened!)? Don't you dare ever get in a hot tub. Injuring himself while playing with his kids (again, it has happened!)? DO NOT EVER PLAY WITH YOUR OWN CHILDREN.
Are those false equivalencies? Maybe. I'm sure all the WBC naysayers will say so.
The fact of the matter is that players get hurt at times. Sometimes it's separating frozen hamburger patties (yes, that also happened) and sometimes a Hall of Famer tears his ACL while shagging balls in batting practice.
In the case of Díaz, he wasn't even playing in the WBC anymore. The game was over! He was hopping in a circle with teammates. Sure, there would be zero celebrations like that in spring training games, but players run through drills, weight train, and do all kinds of things where one funky movement could end their season. Sometimes weird stuff just happens. Again, it sucks in a major way, but it's a simple reality.
(On Thursday, the Mets said Díaz had a successful repair of his patellar tendon, and he's expected to start his rehab regimen in about a week.)
Wanting to cancel an entire event because a high-profile player got hurt when it wasn't even during a game seems like a major overreaction. I'm not even going to make the whole "the players care" or "fans of Puerto Rico were ecstatic" arguments or anything like that. Those aren't really relevant in this discourse. It should be noted, however, that the players really do love it. I was in a clubhouse Thursday afternoon and a middle-of-the-order hitter was going off about how big of a deal the WBC is to people all over the world. His point, which he was making vehemently, was that it isn't an event for Americans, but for the rest of the world. He was adamant that nearly every non-USA teammate he's ever had thinks of the event as a huge deal. (He's also the one that reminded me of the Mariano Rivera injury I referenced above.)
Aside from the players loving the event, though, it's just a simple matter of lining up the whole "risk" argument, for me.
That is to say, the major argument against players participating in the WBC seems to be that it's an "unnecessary injury risk."
Unnecessary isn't really debatable. No player needs to play in the WBC, even if he really, really wants to -- and, again, that player in the clubhouse Thursday was adamant that so many players really either love playing in it or want to. The players aren't paid to play in it while they are paid to play Major League Baseball. I understand the people arguing it's unnecessary. I won't argue that point.
I will argue the "risk" thing, though. There's no more risk to playing in the WBC than there is to playing spring training or doing any simple daily activity. None at all. Again, Díaz wasn't even hurt during game action -- and if he were, it wouldn't be any different than someone pitching in a spring training game. To the argument that he wouldn't have been celebrating in a spring game, while I agree, hopping around carries about as much injury risk as jogging in from the bullpen. It was simply a freak accident and those, unfortunately, happen.
It's a natural, human reaction every time some adversity happens in life to try and figure out a way from preventing it from ever happening again. I'd argue we do it far too often as a society, but, again, it's understandable. That's why it was so predictable to see a bunch of people saying the WBC shouldn't exist and/or no players of value should ever take part in it. Sometimes in life, though, bad stuff just happens and we all need to just deal with it instead of trying to fix the unfixable. The WBC didn't cause the Díaz injury any more than spring training caused every single injury we've already seen this past month.
If you want to argue the World Baseball Classic should go away, feel free, but a freak accident injury that happened after a game was over isn't a great closing argument for me.