It's strange to see Team USA pull into Hammond Stadium without Brian Dozier.
You would think that a second baseman who has been an All-Star and who belted 42 home runs the year before would get the opportunity to represent the Stars and Stripes.
But Dozier will be in the Twins lineup tonight, playing against Team USA as it prepares for the World Baseball Classic.
Ian Kinsler and Daniel Murphy are the second basemen for Team USA. Dozier let it be known that he would love to be a part of the cause, but never heard back as the roster was being assembled. He would have been happy in a utility role. Team USA went with Josh Harrison and Alex Bregman in that role.
Dozier didn't make a big deal out of it before Wednesday's game. "I've never had the chance to represent Team USA at any level," was all he said.
This is the fourth WBC, and it continues to be a hard sell to some U.S. sports fans as well as club officials. I mean, Mike Trout is in line to be the next face of baseball in the post Derek Jeter era and declined to play. Part of it might be because of nudging from his manager, but the big names need to buy in to help build the event. Bryce Harper is on that list to be the new face of the game, too.
Harrison is on the roster. Bregman just broke into the league. Dozier, who has never played for Team USA, was willing to be a role player. Who is better?
I've stated this before. The WBC is blend of my favorite sport (baseball) and my favorite event (the World Cup). But if it is going to take a great commitment from players and owners to grow. What owners must come to grips with is that a tournament with 60-pitch limits stinks. The final rounds of the event need to be moved to the middle of the season. Perhaps a whole week off for the All-Star Game, the WBC semis and then the WBC finals.
Early round games would likely have to be played during spring training, there's no way around that. But the semis and title game should be played when pitchers are stretched out and the game can be conducted like a real game.
With four months from qualification to the semis, fans would have time to plan to attend games and cheer on their countries. It could work. An in-season WBC could be profitable, which makes that format worth pursuing.
MLB actually is cracking that door open.
The 2018 season will start mid-week, to create more off days. Once you go there, it would not be much more of a stretch to start a week early every four years for the WBC.
I didn't mean to ramble on like this. But I've been wondering how Dozier was left off the roster for months. And I've been staying up late and getting up early to watch WBC games, wondering how to nudge this thing to the next level.
Team USA is on the field right now mingling with Twins players. Waiting for the gates to open to see what kind of crowd shows up. Fans here come out to root for their teams, not All-Stars. Hearing ticket sales estimates anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000.
Trevor May is on the mound for the Twins. Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Belisle, Ryan Pressly and Craig Breslow on the list to pitch. The Twins are supplying Team USA with Drew Rucinski, Alex Wimmers, Aaron Slegers and Jake Reed as extra pitchers.
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Adam Jones, CF
Nolan Arenado, 3B
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Buster Posey, C
Daniel Murphy, DH
Andrew McCutchen, LF
Brandon Crawford, SS
Luke Gregerson, RHP
Byron Buxton, CF
Joe Mauer, 1B
Brian Dozier, 2B
Miguel Sano, 3B
Max Kepler, RF
ByungHo Park, DH
Robbie Grossman, LF
Jason Castro, C
Jorge Polanco, SS
Trevor May, RHP