Justin Morneau had some harsh words for coulda-been Team Canada teammate Russell Martin on Tuesday. Before a Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays, the Twins first baseman addressed Martin backing out of the upcoming World Baseball Classic because he wasn’t allowed to play shortstop.
Martin has been taking flak for his ‘selfish’ decision, but this time it came from a fellow player – a player who will be making his third appearance in the WBC.
"I guess he's made the choice he felt was best for him," said Morneau. "It's hard to see guys turn it down. That wouldn't be my choice. But when we get there, we'll be there with somebody who wants to be there, who's going to be honoured to put the jersey on and be part of it.” (USA Today)
Morneau, unlike Martin, also said he would play wherever he is needed. With Reds superstar Joey Votto likely to make the trip to Arizona for the tournament, that could mean Morneau playing first base or being the designated hitter.
Martin fired back at his critics earlier this week after his decision and foreshadowed what Morneau’s reaction would be.
"I know people are going to be pissed," he said. "If Morneau is pissed he can go catch and I'll play first base.” (Toronto Sun)
Expect the hits to keep on coming for Martin. As Neate Sager pointed out on Monday there’s an expectation that all Canadian athletes will represent their country when called upon. Martin has every right to sit out the tournament, as other big leaguers like Ryan Dempster have.
Martin’s crime, however, is the way he has gone about his decision. He only wanted to play on his terms. When he was not allowed to play shortstop – by his pro team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Team Canada – he took his ball and went home. That’s not the “Canadian Way” as it’s seen in this country.
Contrast that with the actions of other members of Canada’s roster.
Minor leaguers like outfielder Tyson Gillies, pitcher Andrew Albers, and catcher Chris Robinson happily went to Germany in September to help Canada win a qualification tournament to reach the main draw (not to mention other members of that team who were left off the team now that big-leaguers are available).
Or Twins pitcher Scott Diamond, who had a breakout season in 2012, who had to sit out the tournament because of off-season elbow surgery but will still be watching and cheering for the team.
“Having to call Greg Hamilton [the director of national teams for Baseball Canada] and let him know when the injury happened was disheartening … to call Greg, who’s such a patriotic and great guy, it’s a tough phone call to make.
“We definitely have the guys to [win]. We may not have as much big-league experience but that might be that underdog card that we really want to play.” (CBC Sports)