We’re back in Surprise with @JLester34 on the bump.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 5, 2017
Javier Baez will join Team Puerto Rico on Monday to work out in Scottsdale before beginning play in the World Baseball Classic.
Baez was expected to play second base for Puerto Rico, which opens play Friday against Venezuela in Jalisco, Mexico.
Javy is just one of many very interesting players on a Puerto Rico team that may yet surprise again, after coming oh-so-close in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Javy, of course, is very excited for the opportunity and I’m glad the Cubs let him participate.
The runner-up in 2013 to the Dominican, Puerto Rico will try to repeat that magic run, albeit with a much different roster. Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez will now anchor the infield instead of Mike Aviles, Irving Falu and Andy Gonzalez.
That infield defense is about as close to airtight as you can get, even better than the historically great defense the Cubs showed last season. The USA team is loaded as well and is considered one of the favorites, albeit without one elite pitcher:
Noah Syndergaard with some honesty about the WBC. I find this refreshing: pic.twitter.com/QiV7XEcUOg
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) March 3, 2017
You have probably seen many a story of teams not wanting their players to participate (and possibly get hurt) in what they consider to be a meaningless exhibition, but this is one All-Star Game that actually counts for something, at least to those with some national pride. This is particularly true for a territory like Puerto Rico, which used to be flush with baseball talent, but now has to export their talent to Florida to get better exposure due to having their development stunted by the Rule 4 Draft, and which could be further affected by new international spending guidelines. There is talk that the WBC may be eliminated after 2017 if fan interest and revenues wane, but if there are plenty of fun personalities and elite talent on each of the WBC teams to deliver exhilarating baseball throughout spring, the WBC will likely continue on to enrich global baseball fandom.
It all starts this coming week, with some quirky rules, of course. But if you’re looking for a true All-Star Game (that matters!) with the best each region has to offer, it doesn’t hurt to root for Team Puerto Rico if Team USA stumbles. Heck, all the teams look good. Just hope for great baseball.