Not wanting any type of freak injury or something mess up his mega-contract negotiations, Felix Hernandez has dropped out of the World Baseball Classic.
Venezuela, which takes the WBC very seriously, is not happy. At all. How not happy are they?
Well, here’s an image of what a sports newspaper in Venezuela looks like today. According to Google Translate, that headline basically says that Felix has devalued Venezuela, or no longer appreciates Venezuela, or something like that. The news also is on the front page of the two Venezuelan newspapers on the Newseum website, and Venezuelan journalist Efrain Ruiz Pantin tweeted that for many Venezuelans it was a bigger deal than that country’s recent currency devaluation. Another Venezuelan journalist reported that the chairman of the Venezuelan Baseball Federation wants to veto/ban any teams from signing Venezuelans if they won’t collaborate with international competitions. It is presumably only a matter of time before Hugo Chavez himself comments on the situation, assuming that he isn’t in the hospital again.
And this is what leads to a tough situation for Latino players in the WBC: they have left their homelands, where they often lived in poverty, for riches in America. They are literally playing for a way to have their families have a better way of life. So they cannot be blamed for passing on the WBC when it could possibly endanger the riches that could keep help their family for generations. This is (more or less) what Felix Hernandez himself tweeted out shortly after the news came out: the financial security of his family was what was coming first.
But, on the other hand, the WBC is a big deal in the Caribbean, and if a player backs out, they appear ungrateful to the nation that had been supporting them and has been holding the player as a national hero. You could not blame a player for risking a big contract to play for such passionate fans.
And so, players like King Felix are in a no-win situation. Don’t play in the WBC, and an entire nation questions his patriotism (or worse). Play in the WBC, and you could run a risk- however small- of ruining the chance to have yourself and your family being set for life.
Felix made his choice. It will be interesting to see what follows.