MLB insider believes WBC future on shaky ground

Baseball fans who have flocked to the Valley this spring for their annual dose of great weather and Cactus League Baseball are getting an added bonus this year.

The World Baseball Classic is here in Phoenix as the city was selected a host site for countries like Italy, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. All are competing in hopes of attaining world supremacy on the diamond. The event, which takes place every four years and was founded by Major League Baseball in 2005, has both its proponents and detractors. Some believe this could be the beginning of the end for the WBC.

“I know in talking to some people in the game they actually wonder if the World Baseball Classic will be around in four years,” ESPN MLB insider Pedro Gomez said Wednesday. “It hasn’t gotten the traction maybe [MLB] envisioned at one time.”

Part of the problem Gomez believes is many of the MLB clubs are not allowing their top players to compete in the WBC. He said the event will likely never receive the buzz and publicity of World Cup Soccer as long as franchises hold out some of world’s top players.

“If you’ve got a $23 million a year investment in someone how are you gonna realistically let them go play for Venezuela the way Seattle’s not allowing Felix Hernandez to go?,” Gomez explained. “You can’t have him go play for Venezuela who’s paying him nothing and have the risk for injury.”

Other notable players who aren’t representing their country include Americans Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout, as well as Angels teammate and Dominican Republic slugger Albert Pujols.

Gomez said this dulls the overall appeal and initial premise of the event.

“You can’t call it’s the best of the best when the best aren’t playing.”

Other WBC venues include San Francisco, Miami, San Juan, Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Taichung.