No one cares about the WBC as much as the pundits do

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From Jim Bowden, another call for people to rally to the World Baseball Classic:

Bowden’s ESPN colleague Buster Olney, however, passes along an anecdote which shows that, for baseball players and their teams, this is not a “major problem” at all:

Recently, a player went to a team employee and asked for some advice on whether to participate.

“I can’t say anything,” the official responded. “I do have one question for you: How do you pay the bills?”

Major League Baseball is about Major League Baseball. The WBC is an initiative that is important to the league office, but simply doesn’t compare in importance to the regular season in the minds of the teams and the players.

Yet we keep hearing stuff like this from Bowden and, last week, from Morosi.  They insist that the WBC is important and that non-participation in the WBC is a “major problem.” But why? And to whom?

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.