Max Scherzer says World Baseball Classic would benefit from move to in-season format: ‘It would be a real game’

Team USA is expected to play its third game of the 2023 World Baseball Classic on Monday night, taking on Canada in what is now a crucial contest. Regardless of how the Americans fare against their northern neighbors, one topic of conversation is sure to remain: what exactly can Team USA do to convince the country’s top pitchers to attend the next WBC?

To be clear, this conversation stems from Team USA’s loss to Mexico on Sunday night. We here at CBS Sports noted ahead of the American’s first WBC game, a win over Great Britain, that “if [the pitching staff] seems underwhelming compared to what it could be, that’s because it is. There is no Max Scherzer or Shane McClanahan or even Spencer Strider. In other words, there’s no surefire ace guy.” The Americans have since received underperforming from starters Adam Wainwright and Nick Martinez, fueling the discourse.

One of the aforementioned missing aces, Scherzer addressed his absence and what the WBC could do to lure Americans’ best guns on Monday. “I’m not ready to go into a quasi-playoff game right now. When I do that, I throw my arm,” he told reporters, including SNY.

Scherzer added that moving the WBC to the summer, after the Major League Baseball season has started and pitchers have had time to stretch out their arms, would make the tournament more attractive.

“If the WBC happened during the season I think you would get more pitcher attendances and more importantly I think it would be more exciting for the fans because you would actually have pitched starters,” he said. “You wouldn’t have guys for pitch counts or whatever. You would actually have real boys going for it. It would be a real game.”

You can understand Scherzer’s explanation and his thinking, but it’s unclear whether moving the tournament would have the desired effect. Finally, pitchers would likely pass an inseason WBC for workload reasons to take advantage of MLB’s “shutdown” period to rest for a postseason run.

Also, other countries have fared better in recruiting their best weapons. Japan, to cite just one example, has a stacked rotation that includes two top MLB pitchers, in Shohei Ohtani and Yu Darvish. as well as two of the top hurlers in Nippon Professional Baseball, in Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

When it comes to America’s elite pitchers and their lack of interest in the WBC, it might be more about incentives and priorities than timing. Consider what current Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Noah Syndergaard told reporters in 2017 when he explained his lack of interest in promoting Team USA, saying, “No one put it in the Hall of Fame or the World Series that plays WBC there.” Fair enough.

It’s okay for American pitchers to put their professional pursuits ahead of international competition; They are adults who can make their own calls. The responsibility rests with Team USA to figure out how to overcome this stumbling block, just as American organizations have done in basketball over the years. That it becomes a topic of conversation ahead of a potential early exit might even make it more likely that a few top arms will toss their names when the next tournament rolls around in 2026. Everyone loves a redemption story.

And hey, to be fair, the situation probably seems worse than it is: Two talented lefties, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the New York Yankees’ Nestor Cortes, were forced to retire from the roster in the spring. Maybe if Kershaw and Cortes had taken the ball to start the last two games, that conversation would still be ongoing, or maybe not. It’s difficult to say.

In any case, expect the topic of conversation to stay alive and well until Team USA either wins another title or starts attracting the likes of Scherzer.

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