With no baseball to play, Marcus Stroman is looking ahead — not to the 2020 season, whenever that starts, but to the 2021 World Baseball Classic, scheduled for a year from now.
Stroman started a conversation about who will play for the United States in the WBC with a series of Thursday afternoon tweets that he called “recruiting season.” The Most Valuable Player when Team USA won the 2017 tournament, Stroman is already amped for the next iteration — an enthusiasm that appears to be shared by a bunch of American-born All-Stars who also want to play.
Among them? Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who had yet to play his first full professional season at the time of the last WBC.
“If @USABaseball named me to the national team, I might cry,” Alonso wrote on Twitter. “I tried out for the 18u team a while back and didn’t make it. It would be an honor to put the red, white, and blue on and rep the Stars and Stripes.”
The volunteering began with several members of the 2017 championship team who want to try to repeat: Stroman, Brewers outfielder/2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich and Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Then the would-be first-timers started raising their hands. Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer said he is “10000000% in.” The Rays’ Blake Snell, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018, asked, “What I gotta do to play for team USA!?!?”
Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler of the Dodgers, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story of the Rockies, Mike Clevinger of the Indians, Whit Merrifield of the Royals and Joey Gallo of the Rangers also all showed interest.
Stroman tweeted: “I thought the @USABaseball squad was scary in 2017...2021 about to be unreal. Sheesh!” He also had unanswered Twitter requests out to Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge and Bo Bichette.
For USA Baseball, Major League Baseball and other WBC-invested parties, significant interest from players — a year ahead of time — is a welcomed development. Since the WBC began in 2006, it has struggled to gain traction with players, especially Americans, many of whom preferred to sit out for the sake of a more normal spring training, prioritizing the commitment to their team/employer over national pride. For example, the U.S. rotation behind Stroman last time was Chris Archer, Danny Duffy, Drew Smyly and Tanner Roark.
In the first three WBCs, the best finish by the United States — the world’s top producer of baseball talent — was fourth place in 2009.
That changed in 2017 when Stroman & Co. beat Puerto Rico to take gold. The starting pitchers in the championship game? A pair of current Mets mainstays: Stroman for the United States, Seth Lugo for Puerto Rico. Stroman took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished the tournament with a 2.35 ERA in three starts.
The 2021 WBC is scheduled for March 9-23. The field is expanding from its usual 16 teams to 20.
As Stroman wrote: “Dream Team coming soon!”