Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Focus on MLB, end the WBC

Rays closer Fernando Rodney was used by the Dominican Republic so much during the World Baseball Classic (all eight games), the Rays now have to ease back on his preparation, then hope and pray he will be effective — not only in April but late September.

Catcher Jose Molina was used so little by Puerto Rico in the WBC, the Rays are scrambling to find him extra at-bats in minor-league games just so he will be ready for the start of the season.

Then there are the injuries that occurred during the WBC. Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez is out two months after tearing a ligament in his right thumb while playing third base during the championship. Mets third baseman David Wright tweaked his back playing while American teammate and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira messed up his wrist.

And all for what? A tournament that holds little-to-no interest for many major-league players and most major-league fans.

You could make the argument Ramirez could just as easily have hurt his thumb diving for a ball in a spring training game as he did in the WBC. And it would seem the injuries to Wright and Teixeira had little, if anything, to do with the WBC.

But what about Rodney's heavy workload or Molina's light use? Those are just two of many examples of players across the majors either playing too much or not enough over the past couple of weeks to play in a tournament that most fans have already forgotten.

Look, I have nothing against international competition. And I do understand Major League Baseball is trying to grow the game. In addition, you could see how much this tournament means to countries other than the United States, including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Japan.

But when it starts to affect the Major League Baseball season, you have to wonder if it's worth it. There's a reason why stars such as David Price, Justin Verlander, Buster Posey, Prince Fielder, Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout didn't play for the United States, and it has nothing to do with a lack of American spirit. They made Major League Baseball their No. 1 priority.

Maybe Major League Baseball should do the same. Scrap the WBC. It does more harm than good.

Ronde's decision

Ronde Barber certainly has the right to take as much time as he wants to determine whether or not he will return for a 17th season. But the safety won't be doing the Bucs any favors if he doesn't make a decision before the NFL draft.

If Barber returns, he likely would still be a major contributor, playing perhaps as many as half the defensive plays. If the soon-to-be 38-year-old decides he isn't coming back, the Bucs either have to draft someone or sift through what is left in free agency to fill that role.

But if Barber doesn't have a decision by the draft, which starts April 25, he will put the Bucs in a tough spot — at least for the short term.

Remembering Wheldon

IndyCar drivers can't help but think of the late Dan Wheldon (top) whenever they come to town for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Wheldon, who was killed in a crash during a Las Vegas race in 2011, lived in St. Petersburg, and there's a monument on the course honoring his memory.

"Dan is on the drivers' minds,'' said Will Power, who won the 2010 race here. "It was such a sad thing what happened. He was a great guy and good husband and good father. He is dearly missed and will be forever.''

Power was involved in the crash that took Wheldon's life and admitted he was greatly affected by it.

Did he ever consider if racing is simply too risky?

"It is something that is on your mind,'' Power said. "IndyCar is a dangerous sport. Anything can happen. At the end of the day, you have to switch that off when you get in the car. You can't be thinking like that, or you could probably put yourself in a bad situation when your mind isn't on the job. It's about being mentally tough and just accepting what you do if you love it enough. If not, you shouldn't be racing.''

Random thoughts

Is making the NCAA Tournament always better than making the NIT? Not necessarily. It was way more memorable for Robert Morris to beat Kentucky inside its little gym in the NIT than it would have been to make the NCAA Tournament and, probably, get waxed in the first round. … Speaking of which, I found Kentucky coach John Calipari way more wise and admirable after that loss than after winning the NCAA Tournament a year ago. … It's still not quite clear to me how schools such as Marquette, Butler, Minnesota and Wichita State consistently can put together decent basketball teams but USF, in a sunny and beautiful place such as Tampa, can't seem to put together a consistent NCAA Tournament team.

tom jones' two cents

   
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