CLEARWATER, Fla. -- As the good vibes from another World Baseball Classic reverberate through San Pedro de Macoris, here's a fascinating suggestion from a two-time WBC participant from the U. S. of A. on how this event can build on the groundwork it's already laid:
Play this thing every two years, not every four.
That's Jimmy Rollins' take, anyway. The Philadelphia Phillies shortstop played in the 2009 and 2013 editions of the WBC, and he's concluded that players would be more likely to buy in -- and take part -- if this were an every-other-year event.
His reasoning: Players get caught up in the magic of the WBC when they get a chance to play in it -- or even watch it. So those who play can't wait to play again. And many who watch think, "I'd like to be a part of that." And if the next edition were two years away, "maybe there'd be slightly more anticipation," he said, "because it's still relatively fresh."
But by the time the next one rolls around, if it's a four-year wait, all that passion, all that momentum, has faded away, Rollins theorized. So getting the best players to play becomes a harder sell than it would be if the next WBC was just over the horizon.
"Four years, especially in this sport, where you play every day, is a long time," he said. "So you've got guys who are 28 [and didn't play]. But now they'd know they'd get another shot when they're 30, instead of when they're 32. Big difference. When you've got four years of baseball in between, a lot can go on. Four years is a long time.
"Wasn't it (Bryce) Harper who said he definitely wants to play in the one in '17?" Rollins went on. "If there was one in '15, then he could have that first real big-league spring training (this year) and get that out of the way. Now the next year, he knows he's on the team. He waits a year. And then the following year, he'd be able to play in it."
Rollins knows there are players around him who will never buy in to the WBC. But all he can tell them is: They don't know what they're missing.
"When you see it, when you feel the environment, man, it's something else," he said. "Every game is an elimination game. There are no series. It's like Jimmy V said in that (30 for 30 film): It's survive and advance.
"And as a player, you play for competition, not for exercise. So now, instead of just playing to play in March, it's for something. And as players, that's what we enjoy. You're not just playing. You've got a chance to get locked in."
Two other Rollins observations about the WBC:
• March is the best time: "You can't do it any other time," he said. "After the season? No way. Guys are going to be tired. Organizations definitely are not going to let any pitchers go with all those innings on their arm (because of) the injuries that are going to happen. You are fresher coming into spring training because you've worked out. You're feeling real good. You're feeling strong. I feel like there's actually less chance to get hurt because you haven't put all the stress on your body."
He knows the USA's chances were hurt by injuries to Mark Teixeira and David Wright. But he shot down the notion that they got hurt because of the WBC, saying: "Teixeira messed up his wrist right away. He took two swings and he was out. So something obviously was going on. And David Wright's injury could have happened anywhere. That had nothing to do with the WBC."
• Fix the first round: USA players, he said, didn't understand why their first-round game was against Mexico, which had already played a game against Italy, instead of Canada, which hadn't played yet, so all teams in the first round were on equal footing.
"I talked to Adrian Gonzalez (of Team Mexico), and he even told me, 'We had the advantage because we already had a game under our belt,'" Rollins said "And they came out swinging. They weren't taking R. A. Dickey's knuckleball. They'd already gotten their rhythm. They weren't trying to work their way into the game. They were in a good game against Italy to begin with. Now they're game-ready. They're tuned up.
"So I think it's unfair for any team to be put in a situation where your first game is against a team that's already played. They knew they had the advantage. Not because they're a better team, but because of that one simple fact: They'd already gotten one in. It's not like you're (playing) 162 games. You have to win today. You lose, you have to win the rest of the way out. And that's the tough part. So it's a disadvantage for any team that has to do that.
"And it's so simple. There are only four teams. It's not like you have to juggle 30. It's only four. So that's really the only thing I would change. Other than that, it was a great experience."