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Two Guys Talking Mets: Is World Baseball Classic blessing or curse?

In the first installment of a semi-regular conversation, two of our writers go at it over the WBC

A.J. Carter: Very soon, 10 Mets – including the entire starting infield, one of their catchers, the closer, the main setup man and a starting pitcher – will leave Port St. Lucie to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Notably staying behind are Justin Verlander, who said he felt he couldn’t ramp up to competition level that quickly, and Brandon Nimmo, who is mindful of the 2017 Classic hamstring injury that cost him about a third of the regular season. The different perspectives raises the question: should Mets fans be excited to see the orange and blue so well-represented in baseball’s United Nations tournament, or apprehensive about the potential effects on the Mets’ regular season championship run?

John Coppinger: They should be excited, because the WBC is a great competition. But I can understand the apprehension, especially when the Mets’ championship window is wide open. The last thing they need is for Edwin Diaz, for example, to ramp up his preparation too quickly and then be out for three months because he gave a slider to Ronald Acuna a little extra juice. So as much as I love the WBC and am always excited to see the Mets play in it, I totally get why guys like Verlander, Nimmo, and Kodai Senga have put their priorities squarely on the Mets and this season.

A.J.: The one argument against the WBC that I don’t buy into is that it will hurt the team for so many players to be away from camp for so long. Baseball isn’t like football – there’s no playbook to be learned, for example – and I actually think the 10 will benefit from playing at a high competitive level for the month of March instead of facing pitchers or hitters destined to spend their summer in AA ball. In a perverse way, however, I’m hoping that while my team’s players stay healthy, there are a few hamstring pulls among the other NL East representatives. Does that make me a bad person?

John: Yes. But we knew that. On a more substantive note, I agree that there’s really no “playbook” to be learned. And honestly, there’s something to be said for not facing the Marlins and Nationals 15 times in March. But I do think it’s another story entirely for the pitchers. Jose Quintana has dealt with lat and shoulder issues in the past. And if Colombia makes a run in the tournament somehow and Quintana is asked to face the United States in a big pool game in Phoenix and he’s going max effort, Mets fans are going to hold their breath that A) he doesn’t hurt himself right then and there, and B) that the cumulative effect of this won’t give him a dead arm in September.

A.J.: Actually, there’s a different point involving the pitchers that bothers me. They won’t be playing under the new MLB rules. I don’t think that will be a problem for the hitters, who will still have to deal with the shift, but I think there will be a big adjustment for pitchers suddenly faced with a pitch clock and limited pickoff throws when they return. I wonder how much Diaz in particular will be thrown off by this early in the season. (As an aside, I am convinced that the pitch clock is why the Mets didn’t aggressively pursue keeping Chris Bassitt).

John: I’d add one cautionary tale going forward, looking at previous experience: In 2017 after pitching in the WBC, Jeurys Familia’s ERA jumped close to two runs, and Hansel Robles’ ERA jumped a run and a half, and both dealt with injuries that season. J.J. Putz also had a terrible season in 2009 for the Mets, but his decline might have started the previous season. The pitcher you would have expected the World Baseball Classic to affect but really didn’t? Pedro Feliciano, who had one of his best seasons after pitching in the 2009 WBC.

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Feb 26, 2023

Great stuff. Also Oliver Perez, after signing a big free agent deal to stay with the Mets pitched over 100 pitches in a game for Mexico in the WBC and ended up getting hirt and was never the same after that.

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