COHN: World Baseball Classic just doesn't feel right
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 8:42 p.m.
The World Baseball Classic is all wrong, and as far as I can tell, it isn’t so classic. It’s mostly a big interruption.
I wrote that paragraph knowing I contradict Bruce Bochy — highly risky — also knowing I will cover the WBC when it arrives in San Francisco next weekend.
The WBC is still an interruption.
Think about that now infamous brawl between Canada and Mexico, an absolute low point for the WBC, a low point that was the fault of the WBC. Chris Robinson, a Canadian player, bunted for a single in the ninth inning even though Canada was ahead by six runs.
In baseball ethics, bunting with a big lead in the ninth is a sin. Every baseball fan knows that. And the team that gets bunted against always retaliates. Always. Baseball has a don’t-show-me-up code, and that kind of bunt violates the code.
Mexico’s third baseman, Luis Cruz, a member of the Dodgers, appeared to tell pitcher Arnold Leon of the A’s organization to throw at the next batter, Rene Tosoni. Leon, who needs to work on his control, tried to hit Tosoni but missed with the first two pitches. Ignoring an umpire’s warning, Leon blasted Tosoni in the back with his third pitch and the fight was on.
Mexico was perfectly correct to retaliate for the bunt single. In terms of the baseball code, it was Leon’s duty to hit the guy.
It’s just that in the WBC, the total amount of runs a team scores matters. There’s some formula or other. So, it was in Canada’s interest to score more runs, to bunt in the ninth and, yes, to show up Mexico. That means, two baseball codes were in direct conflict and that led to a fight, a real fight with real punches to the face, not one of those phony, for-show-only, milling-around baseball non-fights.
Whose fault was all that? It was the WBC’s fault for coming up with a formula that goes against baseball ethics — score as many runs as you can regardless of the situation. I’m saying the WBC created the problem that led to the fight.
And remember, this was no hypothetical issue. Someone could have been hurt. Many of the players you watch in the WBC — if you even watch the WBC — represent multi-million-dollar investments by major-league teams. Imagine losing a star player because the WBC didn’t think through the serious implications of its crummy rules.
The irony of that fight should not be lost on Bay Area baseball fans. The A’s sent Leon down to the minors first thing Monday morning. I am not saying he got sent down as payback. He is not ready to break into the A’s pitching staff. But he certainly gave the A’s a bad look. Now he can improve his look in the minor leagues.
Or think about this. On Sunday night, the Dominican Republic played — and defeated — Puerto Rico in WBC play. If you watched the game on TV, you saw Santiago Casilla, representing the Dominican Republic, pitching to Angel Pagan of Puerto Rico at a crucial moment of the game. It was fascinating. They are teammates on the Giants — and they are friends — but now they were opponents. It was a sports moment filled with complexity and tension, something we like.
But certain things about it were all wrong. Both men — Casilla especially — were putting out World Series-like effort. This was no mere spring game. This was championship stuff.
In early March?
The whole idea of spring training is to train, to get into things slowly and rhythmically and methodically, to get into game-shape gradually. The whole idea is not to stress the arm or the body or the mind. And there was Casilla giving it everything — you saw him sweating and concentrating and worrying. You wonder if this tournament will affect him, not in April or May, but in September when he needs to be sharp and strong and right when the Giants make their push to the playoffs.
Why in the world was he throwing so hard now? How does any of this help the Giants — his employer? This kind of tournament would be appropriate in a period totally unrelated to the regular season, in some meaningless moment of the offseason. Think Team USA in basketball.
But spring training is when players bond and go through whatever they go through to become a team for the long season ahead. Even the world-champ Giants do that. The Giants shouldn’t have to worry about Sergio Romo hurting his elbow pitching for Team Mexico or Pablo Sandoval violating his diet with Team Venezuela.
Excuse me, but I don’t get this WBC shenanigans, can’t see how any good comes of it.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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