Wednesday night was a pretty big one for U.S. baseball. The American team finally prevailed in the World Baseball Classic, drubbing Puerto Rico 8-0 to claim its first title in the history of the event.
I’m going to be honest with you, when the WBC was announced back in 2005, I thought there was no way the United States wouldn’t dominate the thing in the same way they dominate Olympic basketball. I mean, really, no other country has as many players in the majors as the U.S. does – so how in the world could they not do well in this type of tournament? Of course, it turns out I was wrong. Up until yesterday anyway. Japan won the first two WBC tournaments, then the Dominican Republic took the 2013 edition before the good old U.S.A. finally earned its first trophy this year.
I was fortunate enough to watch a good bit of the final rounds and I’ve got to say, it turned out to be a pretty exciting event. From Adam Jones robbing the Dominican Republic’s Manny Machado of a home run in San Diego to send the Americans into the semi-finals, to an excellent example of how to win a low scoring game that saw the U.S. knock off Japan to reach the finals, the action this past week certainly whetted my appetite for the regular baseball season to start.
I have to admit, the final game was kind of a letdown. After the U.S. eked out that victory over Japan in the semis, scoring a run in the eighth inning when Adam Jones knocked in Brandon Crawford on a hard-hit ground ball, it was going to be hard for the final game to compare. Marcus Stroman certainly gave us all something to watch, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before giving up a hit and handing the ball off to the bullpen. But the damage was already done by the time Stroman exited the game. The U.S. was up 7-0 at that point and, for all intents and purposes, the game was over.
It makes me hopeful that our national team will continue to have good showings in the tournament in the future. I am not trying to knock the other teams, most of which are made up of MLB players as well, but you just figure the United States should be the top dog in a baseball tournament. I mean, we invented the game!
I realize it is hard to get all the best players to turn out to play. This year’s team did not have the services of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts or Clayton Kershaw – four guys who are probably among the top 10 players in all of MLB. But they appeared to be a team that was constructed to win. What they may have lacked in star power, they made up for in solid defense and timely hitting.
Watching the players celebrate at Dodger Stadium after they had clinched the win made me think that maybe the people who put the team together finally have this roster-building thing figured out. You don’t need a team full of stars. You need the best team you can put on the field. Obviously, it will be a while before we see if team U.S.A. can defend its title, four years to be exact. But that should give us plenty of time to celebrate this victory, all the while eyeing the next one.