Some people don’t like the World Baseball Classic, which is fine. It is a tournament meant to spread the game around the world and help develop fans and cultivate new international talent, while showcasing the best player in the game. But for some fans, all that matters is a World Series championship, and the World Baseball Classic is an unnecessary distraction from that. And when players get hurt, as Salvador Pérez did when Drew Butera collided with him in a game between Venezuela and Italy on Saturday night, then fans get upset at the World Baseball Classic for even existing.
Fans lament when players are lost in games that, to them, don’t even matter. The World Baseball Classic is an exhibition tournament, after all. But it is just one of a number of exhibition games that players will participate in - the entire six-week spring training schedule is a slate of exhibition games. Would it be any better if Salvador had been injured in a random game against the Giants in Surprise, Arizona? Should we cancel the All-Star Game, since it is an exhibition game whose only meaning is the artificial construct of awarding home field advantage for the World Series?
Perhaps the players in the World Baseball Classic are trying a bit harder than in some random spring training game or even the All-Star Game (perhaps because...it is not actually an exhibition game and actually means something?) But the problem with this particular collision is not that Butera is going all out - it is that he is awkwardly undecided about how exactly to approach home plate.
Salvador Pérez is clearly blocking home plate, and with new rules on home plate collisions, he doesn’t want to go in high on Pérez , but he can’t slide. The result is an awkward half-slide/half-barreling move by Butera that results in the worst outcome - a knee injury for Pérez.
We would like players to be tucked away in hyperbaric chambers once the season is complete, in suspended animation until Opening Day, ready to be awakened for baseballing. But players need to get ready for the season, whether it is through meaningless exhibition tournaments that are pretty exciting, October-like baseball environments, or meaningless exhibition spring training games. Heck, Salvador Pérez once injured his knee in spring training practice, and was out for half the season. Brian Flynn didn’t even wait til spring training to get hurt.
We live in a society where, when bad things, we look for something to blame. “If this had not happened, this bad thing would not have happened.” Many times, there are good reasons for this - many injuries and deaths are easily preventable. But life will never be risk-free.
Salvador Pérez had just hit a two-run home run to give Venezuela - his native country, a country he loves - the lead in a tournament on the world stage. Watch him hit his home run. You can’t tell me he views this as a meaningless exhibition game.
Injuries happen. It appears as if this will be a minor injury with no structural damage and hopefully Salvy will be okay and return to the Royals lineup by Opening Day. In any case, the World Baseball Classic is not to blame for Salvy getting hurt - being human is.