A player approached the manager of his major league team and asked for some guidance in deciding whether to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The manager carefully explained that he was not allowed to tell the player what to do and that it was the player's decision to make. But he added this, as a thought: "Who pays your bills?"
That's really how perspectives on the WBC are shaped, and what they come down to: Who pays your bills?
There is incredible irony in the narrative that players and teams should put aside their self-interest and participate in the WBC for the sake of growing the game. The event is a business venture, not a charity drive; it's all about self-interest, and who benefits depends entirely on your perspective.
If you're the manager of an AL team and you are being evaluated on wins and losses for your team, you don't want to risk losing a star player in exhibitions, for the sake of your team's business agenda -- and for the sake of your business agenda. If you're an executive involved in developing the sport in international markets, you want the stars to participate in the WBC because that helps your business agenda.
If you are a player, you are asking yourself: What's best for me? In some cases, as with David Wright, you've signed your last big contract and there is zero risk in participating in the WBC -- so he's going. So is Shane Victorino, who just signed what probably will be his last significant deal. Justin Verlander's last big professional hurdle is to win the World Series, and sometime in the next 18 months, he could sign a deal that probably will set some sort of financial record for right-handed pitchers -- if he can stay healthy. So he's staying in the Tigers' camp, which is in his best interest as he endeavors to win a World Series, and set himself up for that last big payday.
Nobody is willing to make the sacrifices to make the WBC as great as it could be. If the WBC is of utmost importance, why doesn't MLB shut down all of the sport's business for weeks to ensure that players will be available to the WBC teams, as the NHL has done for the Olympics? (Of course, the NHL might be stopping that practice for the 2014 Games.) Because that would not be good for the financial health of spring training partners in Florida and Arizona.
Why isn't the sport shut down for three weeks in midsummer, when the players are in peak condition and the sports calendar is basically wide open? Because baseball owners wouldn't want to surrender prime home dates when kids are out of school.
How come this event isn't happening after the playoffs and World Series? There are a lot of reasons, including the players' desire to have time off, to rest and heal, in preparation for the upcoming season -- to put themselves in the best possible position to further their respective careers.
Everybody involved is making WBC decisions based on money and self-interest. And that's fine.
So nobody should expect the players or managers or general managers to sacrifice their self-interests for the sake of others when baseball owners and MLB executives aren't doing the same.
And let's not pretend the WBC is some sort of philanthropic effort designed to fuel the love for baseball worldwide. If it were, everybody would get to watch for free.
Another thing: Regardless of whether the WBC happens, the game of baseball is growing internationally. The greater concern for the sport should really be about building the sport at the amateur level in the U.S., as the general managers have discussed in their annual meetings.
The WBC has its challenges, as Tyler Kepner writes.
• Bruce Rondon, the Tigers' young closer candidate, struggled Friday, while Verlander was dominant, as John Lowe writes. The Tigers are starting to see the risks of lining up Rondon as the closer, writes Lynn Henning.
Rondon's numbers so far this spring:
Innings -- 2 2/3
Hits -- 3
Walks -- 4
Strikeouts -- 5
• I watched a lot of Roy Halladay's start against the Yankees on Friday, and it looks as if he is making progress toward getting back to something closer to what he's been in the past. The movement is there, and the repertoire of pitches, and his velocity is respectable, in the 88-90 mph range. I'd bet that with more time building arm strength, and with some regular-season adrenaline added in, his velocity should climb even more.
The past couple of springs have been miserable for the Phillies, but so far, it's coming together for them in 2013.
Tim Kurkjian, on Friday's Baseball Tonight podcast, related some interesting stuff he heard from the Phillies' players.
• The Yankees are 1-7 this spring and playing terribly, but as Reggie Jackson notes within this David Waldstein piece, it's a different time.
From the story:
On the other hand, if the 1977 Yankees had started out 1-7 and committed 12 errors in their last three games, as the 2013 Yankees have done, then George Steinbrenner would have made his displeasure known, in no uncertain terms, to the players, the coaches and the manager.
"Oh, he'd be in here bellowing," said Reggie Jackson, a star back then and a special adviser to the team now. "It's not like that anymore."
Today, Steinbrenner's son Hal, the team's managing general partner, prefers a more low-key approach. Some of the Yankees' mainstays, like Derek Jeter, are not in the lineup yet; none of the regular starting pitchers had taken the mound until Hiroki Kuroda did so on Friday; and many of the errors have been committed by minor leaguers who are just filling in.
The fight for jobs
1. Anthony Rendon won't break camp with the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore writes, but he impresses the heck out of rival evaluators. Davey Johnson used him at shortstop in Friday's exhibition, and you wonder whether it's possible that, as this season goes along, he eventually could be promoted and used in some sort of super utility role -- as Johnson used Kevin Mitchell for the 1986 Mets.
2. A Red Sox fan is trying to make the Red Sox, as Brian MacPherson writes.
Moves, deals and decisions
5. A top prospect changed agents, as Juan Rodriguez writes.
Dings and dents
1. Injury issues are a concern in the Dodgers' outfield. Crawford fully expects to be ready by Opening Day.
Dings and dents
The Mariners have been hitting a ton of homers.
A Royals pitcher is looking to add a curve to his repertoire, as Bob Dutton writes.
Red Sox fans should get ready for Jackie Bradley, writes Michael Silverman.
Desmond Jennings's focus is on getting on base more often.
An important young player for the Rockies is learning patience.
A Brewers pitching prospect is standing tall, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• Ron Gardenhire was reunited with an old acquaintance.
• A Vanderbilt pitcher had a huge day. His uncle, John Ziomek, works with us at ESPN.
And today will be better than yesterday.