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Quit using the WBC as an excuse


Quit using the WBC as an excuse
Thank goodness for the World Baseball Classic.

If it wasn't for the WBC, pitchers such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Edinson Volquez, Matt Lindstrom, Roy Oswalt and Ian Snell and their ballclubs would have to accept responsibility for their early season problems, instead of having the WBC be the fall guy for the failures.

Matsuzaka failed to retire a batter for Boston in the second inning on Tuesday, struggled to throw 22 strikes among 43 pitches and allowed five of the 10 batters he faced to score.

On Wednesday, the Red Sox placed him on the disabled list because of a mild right shoulder strain.

Manager Terry Francona indicated the problem was the result of Matsuzaka's involvement of the WBC, where he won his second MVP award and pitched Japan to its second title.

The Red Sox had club officials with Matsuzaka to monitor his preparation for the season, but Francona said they couldn't control the preparation the same way they do players taking part in the traditional spring training.

"It's frustrating," he said. "We knew going in. We talked about it. It's there. You do the best you can. ... We're not thrilled about it. What are you going to do?"

What about dealing with reality? Injuries and slow starts have been a part of baseball long before the first pitch was ever thrown in the first WBC.

If the WBC is to blame for what happened to Matsuzaka and Co., does it deserve credit for Armando Galarraga opening the season 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in Detroit? What about Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly, who survived the grueling WBC challenges to open this season 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA, including seven innings in which he allowed Colorado one hit on Monday.

Was the WBC a benefit for Felix Hernandez in his season-opening start for Seattle, when he worked eight innings and allowed one run? And must have been the WBC, not the 131 pitches thrown in that opener in Minnesota, that came into play in Hernandez's second start in Oakland, where he allowed five runs in five innings.

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Ditto Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado, who overcame the WBC-created struggles to allow just one run in his season debut in the warmth of Arizona, but then managed to get through only 3 2/3 innings in which he walked six batters against the Cubs on Monday, obviously more a WBC issue than the sub-freezing weather for the native of the Dominican Republic.

Puhleeze.

Why does there always have to be someone or something else to blame?

What was Boston's excuse last year when Matsuzaka missed the bulk of June with a rotator cuff injury?

Pity Colorado. Jeff Francis never even got to the WBC training camp with Canada. He had to pull out because of surgery for a torn labrum, and doesn't even have the tournament to blame for it.

Get real.

Matsuzaka pitched a total of 14 2/3 innings in three starts over a 17-day period during the WBC. He went four innings in a 14-2 victory against Korea on March 7, and was on cruise-control once Japan took an 8-2 lead in the top of the second inning. Eight days later, he came back with six shutout innings in a 6-0 victory against Cuba, and it was another week before Matsuzaka got the call again, and worked 4 2/3 innings in a 9-4 victory against Team USA in the WBC semifinal game.

Florida closer Matt Lindstrom has been limited in his early season availability because of rotator cuff tendinitis, which flared up during the WBC, but also resulted in Lindstrom returning to the Marlins on March 15 -- more than three weeks before the season started -- instead of staying with team USA.

Volquez was 1-1 with a 9.04 ERA in his first two starts for the Reds, but could any of that be the fact that maybe a second full big-league season has a few more challenges in light of the fact other teams have a familiarity? Ever heard of a sophomore slump?

Houston All-Star Roy Oswalt was 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA after two starts. Truth be told that's a better start than a year ago, when Oswalt opened the season 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA his first three starts, and there was no WBC to be blamed that time.

Outrage in Pittsburgh over Ian Snell and his 0-2 record, 7.20 ERA? Take a deep breath. Then look at the back of Snell's baseball card. Yeah, the one that shows he is 32-40 with a 4.72 career ERA, and was 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA in WBC-free 2008.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 17, 2009

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