Ramirez injury puts spotlight on toll of WBC

Next big thing: Eyebrows were raised when the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a $42 million contract last year. The Cuban defector was reportedly out of shape and a character risk, and the move seemed more questionable when general manager Ned Colletti made the Red Sox trade, adding Carl Crawford and committing the Dodgers to more than $300 million for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Crawford.

But with Crawford running behind this spring, the 22-year-old Puig has been one of the most impressive players in Arizona. Scouts raved early about Jorge Soler, the Cubs' big-ticket Cuban, but it is Puig who has pushed for a spot on an opening day roster.

"To me and to anyone who has seen what he has done, he's ready," Yoenis Cespedes said after his A's played the Dodgers last week.

Puig entered the weekend hitting .521 with four stolen bases and a 1.354 OPS. His play and attitude have prompted comparisons to Cespedes and the early versions of Bo Jackson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

"At this point, he's creating an expectation that he can't live up to, that nobody can live up to," Mattingly said. "I just try to temper it, take a realistic look."

If Crawford gets healthy by opening day, the Dodgers won't have anywhere to play Puig, who probably would be sent to Double A or Triple A.

Global success: Will the MLB Network carry the next World Baseball Classic? You have to wonder if ESPN or another of the networks with a broader audience will get interested in having the event after so many people tuned in around the world this time around.

The WBC set records in the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico and Taiwan. The Dominican-Puerto Rico championship game was the most-watched sports broadcast in the Dominican in at least 10 years, and the most watched in Puerto Rico for at least the last year.

Japan's victory over the Netherlands in the second-round final was the highest rated sports event in Japan in a year. Chinese Taipei's game against Japan on March 8 was the highest-rated cable program in the country's history.

Everything was up for the WBC —– attendance, merchandise sales, sponsorships. Acceptance in the United States seems to be a glaring exception, but expanding the partnership with ESPN (games were carried on ESPN Deportes) in 2017 would be a good move. It would put the event on the table for shows like "Mike and Mike,'' who can't talk enough NFL free agency and the grinding NBA regular season.

The last word: "Talk to all managers, general managers — they'd rather have their guys in camp. Selfishly, we all want our guys here. … But from a player's standpoint, if I put myself in their shoes — I'd want to play in that (WBC championship) game. I'd want to be in that tournament. You see those guys and the emotion they played with in that tournament.'' — Mattingly.

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