An epic tragedy of mythical Greek proportions struck Puerto Rico and the baseball world on March 15.
After delivering a dominant top-of-the-ninth performance against the rival Dominican Republic in a win-or-go-home pool-stage game, all-star closer Edwin Diaz suffered a devastating injury to the patellar tendon in his right knee while celebrating. Yes, while celebrating. Diaz will most likely be out for the entirety of the MLB season.
The great thing is that this injury does not take away from the massive success of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). I say this wholeheartedly — even as someone who couldn’t look at his Twitter for days after the incident because of the surge of hateful Braves “fans” mocking the injury and stupid baseball “fans” calling for reform.
After going through all five stages of grief — aptly beginning with denial — I’ve reached a point of clarity never before known to mankind. I would like to share that awakening with you all now: stuff happens. You can hopefully infer what expression I’m going for here.
When given the opportunity to play for their country, to bear their nation’s flag on their helmets and duke it out for the glory of their country, a bunch of prideful and wealthy, desensitized multimillionaires could not say no. Of course, these players are going to care more about representing their home country than for Cincinnati.
The WBC has quickly become what the World Cup is to soccer — and a freak injury is not going to stop baseball’s rising international popularity and momentum.
Even the pool stages of the global tournament resembled playoff atmospheres. It is no easy feat to fill up Loan Depot Park (formerly Marlins Park), seating 37,000 people, yet these games have broken several baseball records.
According to MLB, “Puerto Rico’s game against [the] Dominican Republic averaged a 62% share of people watching TV at the time.” Beating out Olympic-sized ratings and crushing all sorts of metrics set by previous competitions, the WBC might be the best thing that has happened to baseball and MLB in quite some time.
Yet, in spite of the success of the tournament, many people are still angered by Diaz’s unfortunate situation, blaming the timing of WBC on his injury. Some have even gone as far as to argue for a complete absence of major league participants in the tournament.
These concerns are not entirely illegitimate. Many MLB players, specifically pitchers, opted not to play in the WBC because of the potential strain induced by intense, playoff-esque games in March.
Brandon Nimmo, Mets outfielder and teammate of Edwin Diaz, spoke directly to these concerns at a Spring Training press conference.
“The most important thing for me right now is being on the field and ready for opening day. That’s my most important thing right now— is the Mets,” Nimmo said.
Only a few days after his comments, Nimmo suffered what looked to be a serious injury to his leg sliding into second base…in a Spring Training game.
Nimmo luckily received positive news concerning his ankle, and he should be ready by Opening Day for his highest priority, the Mets. However, Nimmo should now realize that “stuff happens” regardless of location or environment.
The absurdity of the human experience extends far beyond the baseball diamond. It stretches from toe-stubbing a bed frame to slipping on hazardous black ice. A baseball player could just as easily burn his hand cooking pasta than take a two-seamer to the thigh. Baseball is unpredictable, and so is life.
If what matters to these players is representing their country on an international stage (pending access to Fox Sports or pirating websites), then let’s embrace that. “Stuff” may happen, but so be it. The WBC has proved to be nothing less than magical, and Diaz’s injury helpfully portrays that existential push we all sometimes need — however tragic.
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