Team Venezuela's Jose Altuve, of the Houston Astros, was hit...

Team Venezuela's Jose Altuve, of the Houston Astros, was hit in the hand during a WBC game against Team USA and had to leave the game. Credit: Getty Images, AP Photos


Surgeons 2, World Baseball Classic 0.

That’s probably the score that matters most to fans of the Mets and Astros,  as each lost an All-Star for a prolonged period while the star was  away participating in this tournament.

Jose Altuve joined Edwin Diaz on the WBC’s operating table as Astros general manager Dana Brown revealed Sunday morning that the former MVP will require surgery to repair a fractured thumb, courtesy of a Daniel Bard fastball the previous night. He’s likely to be out two months, a serious blow to the defending world champions.

At least Altuve’s injury was baseball-related and could be chalked up to the breaks of the game. As for Diaz, blowing out his patellar tendon in a postgame celebration defied any rational explanation, medical or otherwise.

No one is blaming the World Baseball Classic for cruelly subtracting these two key players from a pair of teams with World Series expectations. Stuff happens, right?

But what these two injuries have done, aside from infuriate the respective fan bases, is raise a worthwhile question: Is there a better time of year to stage the WBC? Say in November, with the regular season safely in the rear mirror? Or maybe extend the All-Star break by two weeks, when players/pitchers are in top shape?

The short answer is no.

Despite the brutal consequences of this year’s event, with Diaz gone for the season and Altuve missing 30% of it, holding the WBC in March, toward the middle-end of spring training, is the best of all the bad-to-worse choices. There’s really no way around that with a tightly packed 162-game schedule followed by squeezing the postseason into a month-long window.

We’ll start with the NHL-inspired model of shutting down the league for the Olympics. In MLB’s case, some players find the three-to-four-day All-Star break disruptive to the regular rhythm of their season, never mind a few weeks. And for those not taking part in the WBC, staying game-sharp would be nearly impossible.

“I don’t see any way of doing it in the middle of the season,” said Team USA manager Mark DeRosa, a 16-year veteran who also played in the WBC. “To ask guys that are not playing in the event to sit there for two to three weeks — I know for me as a guy who didn’t go to All-Star Games, those four or five days off were welcomed. But that first time back in the box, I was like, ‘Whoa, we’ve got to recalibrate the fastball here.’ And that was like four days. You give guys three weeks, you’re going to have to ramp 'em back up again.”

Nolan Arenado did see some benefit in a midseason plan — pitchers already stretched out, players in nine-inning shape — but echoed DeRosa’s concern about the negative impact regarding those not taking part in the WBC, a group that represents the vast majority of major-leaguers.

“That would be really tough,” Arenado said.

Not that there’s ever a good time to lose a $102 million closer or a former MVP, but can you picture the outrage if either was knocked out halfway through the year? And in Diaz’s scenario, there would be even less chance for a team to find a replacement.

That brings us to the November proposal, which in our view would be even  less likely to happen. Around 0% chance.

It’s grueling enough to survive a six-month season, especially for pitchers. By October, playoff rosters are running on adrenaline, and the needle is pretty much on E when the World Series is decided. Then you have the complications of free agency, which begins right after the final out. Also . . .  did we mention that the players are starting their vacation?

“I think if you wait until after the World Series, the guys that go deep into the postseason, you’re going to have a hard time getting them to want to do it,” DeRosa said. “And they’re usually the best players in the game.”

This year’s WBC rosters are by far the most talented in the tournament’s 17-year history, but it’s taken a while to build up that momentum, and part of the allure is ditching the unpaid drudgery of spring training. It may be an imperfect format for an imperfect time in the baseball calendar, but there’s really no logical alternative.

Heading into Sunday night’s first semifinal, the WBC was down to its three remaining games — with every GM back in camp watching with fingers crossed, praying to avoid any repeats of Altuve and Diaz.

“It’s disappointing,” Arenado said. “Those guys are stars. We need the stars to be playing baseball. But anything can happen.”

And for the WBC, it’s all got to happen in March.  There’s no way around that.

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