Players Are Dropping Out of the 2023 World Baseball Classic Left and Right

We are just a little over two weeks before the start of the 2023 World Baseball Classic, the first WBC to take place since 2017. This year’s event is set to feature a lot of stars, but that list is starting to dwindle. A number of notable participants have pulled out in recent weeks, highlighting the challenges that Major League Baseball and international baseball federations must deal with when putting together an event of this kind.

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Who’s Out of the WBC

We knew before the rosters were announced that Phillies OF/DH Bryce Harper would not participate for Team USA, even though he stated his intention last year to play. Harper underwent UCL reconstruction surgery in the offseason, which will keep him out until around the All-Star Break.

However, a number of notable names have taken their names off rosters in recent weeks. Toronto Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano was set to pitch for Team Italy this spring, but dropped out just before the confirmation of the rosters. Romano isn’t the only Jay to pull out, as Alejandro Kirk also bowed out. Kirk, who was scheduled to suit up for Team Mexico, has yet to arrive to Toronto’s camp as he awaits the birth of his child. Once he does, he will need to focus on getting ready for the 2023 season.

Then there’s Team Canada, a team that has took a big hit in recent months. Besides the fact that Canada won’t have slugger Josh Naylor, potential team ace Nick Pivetta bowed out after an illness. Pivetta, an expected member of the Red Sox rotation, should not miss any time in the regular season.

Getting back to Team USA, left-handers Nestor Cortes and Clayton Kershaw also pulled out. While no firm reason was given by Kershaw — who reportedly dealt with “complications” to get cleared for the event — Cortes sustained a hamstring strain in February.

What it Means

While the World Baseball Classic is an exciting event, it’s very difficult to compare it to the likes of the FIFA World Cup or the Winter Olympics when NHL players participated. Why? Besides the fact that there are very few baseball superpowers in the world, it’s hard to call this a true best-on-best. That’s because much of the top talent does opt not to participate in the event altogether.

Sure, fans this March will get to see the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Sandy Alcantara all don their international colors. However, other top-of-the-line stars like Aaron Judge, Corbin Burnes, and Emmanuel Clase — all names that could have easily made their country’s roster — won’t be playing this spring in the WBC.

It’s tough to put on an international tournament right before the start of the regular season, for obvious reasons. Now, would moving the World Baseball Classic to the end of the year be a possible solution for getting all of the game’s best players involved? Perhaps, but doing so would also throw a wrench in the rest, recovery, and training for the following season.

Plain and simple, the World Baseball Classic is a fun event and should be treated as such. However, players pulling out of the event shouldn’t shock anyone — especially when the more important prize will be crowned months after the end of the tournament.

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