After the 1998 season I had the honor of being asked to play for the MLB All Star team that traveled to Japan to take on their best. Every 2 years MLB sends a team there to showcase the game and its players.
Team was made up of some pretty incredible talent. Kendall, Javy Lopez, Giambi, Garciaparra, Manny, Garrett Andersion, Sosa, Delgado, Wagner, Leiter, Hoffman, Gordon and more. I think our starting lineup in game 1 had 300+ home runs .
At the time I had no real idea, but it would prove to be the wrong decision. The team took the month of October off, and met in early November to work out and fly over.
I said when we returned from Japan that I would never do it again. It was an awesome experience but I was as sore as I'd ever been (and ultimately wound up with a shoulder injury and was operated on, as were 3 other pitchers on the team) and I think the tour hurt my chances of being healthy immensely.
If I were, and I know I am not, a GM I would have some sort of protection in contracts prohibiting any pitchers on my 40 man roster from participating.
If the World Baseball Classic isn't a long-term success, it'll be due to one thing: not having the world's best pitchers available for the tournament. Let's assume for a moment that a dozen pitchers were along for that 1998 Japan trip, and that four of them really did have arm surgeries 33 percent is a terribly high attrition rate.
Obviously, we're relying on anecdotal evidence. But we don't have to. A lot of pitchers have traveled to Japan in November through the years, and an ambitious young researcher could put together a pretty interesting study of what happened to those pitchers afterward. More elementary, after this World Baseball Classic we'll have double the number of pitchers we had after just the first one. Maybe still not enough to draw any real conclusions. But if there's any significant attrition this time around, everyone's warning sensors will be on high alert next time. If there is a next time.