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Is the World Baseball Classic Responsible for Dice-K’s Injury?

April 20, 2009 07:20 AM
by Denis Cummings
The Red Sox blame the WBC for an injury to Daisuke Matsuzaka, but overall the tournament has not caused a rise in injuries.

“Arm Fatigue” Forces Matsuzaka to DL

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The Boston Red Sox placed pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list recently with a shoulder strain, a day after he was pulled after just one inning due to “arm fatigue.” Manager Terry Francona suggested that Matsuzaka’s participation in the World Baseball Classic, the often-criticized international tournament held during spring training, is to blame for his injury.

“We talked to him a couple of days ago and he expressed some general soreness and fatigue in the back of his shoulder from the WBC,” Francona told the Boston Herald.

Matsuzaka, who won the WBC MVP trophy, made three starts for Japan, throwing 65, 86 and 98 pitches. Francona believes that Matsuzaka was “ramped up too quick” during the WBC, while pitchers in the Red Sox training camp pitched at a less strenuous pace designed to prepare them for the season.

The WBC, which has been played in 2005 and 2009, has been a source of concern for major league teams who feel that the competitive play exposes their players to injuries.

“Guys can obviously get hurt in a spring training game as well, but it's different here playing meaningful games, and playing nine innings,” said Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who suffered a muscle strain while playing for the United States, according to CBS Sports.

Players and coaches have suggested that the sporadic game and practice schedule makes it hard for players to adequately prepare for the season. “Hitters, in particular, appeared to get out of sync when they left behind the constant activity of spring training,” writes the San Francisco Chronicle.

Many notable players suffered minor injuries during the WBC, but most were fine by opening day. Overall, there were far fewer MLB players injured during the spring, as just 69 players were on the DL to start the season, down from 106 last year and 97 in 2007.

Some writers believe the WBC's impact on injuries has been overstated. Many players in Spring Training were injured or have had poor starts to the season and many in the WBC have started the year fine.

“Injuries and slow starts have been a part of baseball long before the first pitch was ever thrown in the first WBC,” writes Tracy Ringolsby for Fox Sports, who then asks whether the classic deserves “credit for Armando Galarraga opening the season 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in Detroit?”

Related Topic: Injuries and international basketball and soccer competitions

International competitions have affected other professional leagues, such as the NBA. Earlier this month, the San Antonio Spurs lost star guard Manu Ginobili for the rest of the season due to an injury he originally suffered during the Summer Olympics. The loss of Ginobili effectively ended their chances for an NBA title.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is one of the few executives who has spoken out against NBA players in international competitions. “I have been saying for years that international competition should be for amateurs or players willing to un-guarantee their contracts. … there is no upside and tons of downside for the teams and their teammates.”

In soccer, professional clubs frequently have conflicts with national reamss over the availability of their player for international competitions. In 2005, Belgian club Charleroi sued FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, after an injury while playing for his national team meant midfielder Abdelmajid Oulmers was out for several months.

Charleroi demanded compensation for Oulmers over the wages they were forced to pay the injured player and the money they lost by finishing lower in the standings without him. English club Newcastle considered a similar lawsuit against the English Football Association after star striker Michael Owen was injured in the 2006 World Cup.

The G-14, an organization of the most powerful clubs in Europe, has joined Charleroi in the lawsuit. The potentially landmark case remains in the European Court of Justice.
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