The 4th World Baseball Classic has had exciting moments, with great hits, recoveries, excellent fielding averages and outstanding performances from the mound. The tournament has been highly acclaimed by the public and attendance records have been broken in stadiums. Moreover, cash prizes have also gone up, but for some teams this event has become a bad memory, since they couldn’t meet their fans’ expectations. Which have been the main letdowns in a championship where the true world champion of balls and strikes prevails?
The Sleeping Bats from South Korea
The South Korean team, runner-up in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and champion of the first Premier 12, in 2015, was the great favorite to win the event’s B group, organized in Seoul.
Nevertheless, since day one it was obvious that the team wasn’t in its best shape. Many people were expecting a rain of hits against Israel; however, the US pitchers—with any Israeli relative in the genealogical tree—prevailed over the South Korean batters. The game went to extra-innings, matched by a run. In the tenth inning, the Israeli players took the lead and held it, 2-1. This win can be described as one of the main surprises in the history of the World Baseball Classic.
The South Korean bats were still sleeping against Holland. It was a life-or-death duel for the locals, but they couldn’t score and fell 5-0. That’s how they were left out of the tournament. At the end, the champions of the Premier 12 defeated China’s Taipei, in extra-innings, and at least guaranteed their presence in the 5th World Baseball Classic, in 2021.
Mexico: A Polemic Local Elimination
Mexico was another disappointing team. Charros de Jalisco stadium, in Guadalajara, was crowded by the fans of that country to support their players, led by Adrian “The Titan” Gonzalez, who could finally join the team; but everything was wrong for the locals since the very beginning.
During the opening game, the Mexican players were good at batting and made to the ninth inning against Italy, 9-5. With the closer of the Toronto Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna, the fans believed victory was guaranteed; but the Italian team spectacularly recovered the pace by scoring 5 times and the Mexicans were left on the field. This setback sunk the hopes of Edgar Gonzalez’s team.
In the next game, against Puerto Rico, the Mexicans were also defeated, 9-4, so they were forced to defeat Venezuela. That duel was undoubtedly the most polemic game in the decade of the World Baseball Classic, not because of the outcome, but what happened later.
The Mexican players were inspired and batted against Venezuela, thus scoring 32 runs! In three games. After the last out and winning 11-9, the Mexican team thought they had the ticket to go against Italy; nonetheless, the organizers of the World Baseball Classic explained that they had applied the tiebreak coefficient (runs allowed divided by innings played), the extra game would be played by Italy and Venezuela. The Mexicans felt they had been deceived, because the fateful inning against Italy was not counted as an inning played. They vehemently protested and even “the Titan” announced that he wouldn’t play in any other edition of the World Baseball Classic; but there was nothing they could do. Therefore, Mexico fell to the fourth position of the group and it will have to win the ticket to the 5th World Baseball Classic in a qualifying tournament. The final decision had a negative impact, but the team was far from expectations.
Canada Went Blank
What can you expect from a team that brought pitcher Ryan Dempster as starter in two of the three games? A 40-year-old man that had spent 36 months off the field. That was the sad reality of Canada, a team that couldn’t put together its main players from MLB and, with a mediocre lineup, lost the three games played at the Marlins Park, in Miami.
The Canadians barely scored three runs and allowed 21. Therefore, Ernie Whitt’s players will have to win their ticket to the 2021 World Baseball Classic in a qualifying tournament.
Cuba: Out of Action
Cuba can be pointed out as another letdown in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The Cuban team had the aim set on moving to the second stage and they made it, after prevailing over the less complex group, with China and Australia. Afterwards, the players coached by Carlos Marti lost three games in a row, against Israel, Japan and Holland. The close couldn’t be worst, because the Caribbean team suffered a crushing KO against the Dutch team: 14-1.
The poor performance against the European team triggered a wave of critics in Cuba, since the players seemed to be demotivated and the pitchers couldn’t deal with the Dutch offensive. Anyway, Cuba guaranteed its presence in the 2021 World Baseball Classic and the question everybody is asking: will that country attend the tournament with a “unified team”, with the presence of players from the National Series and MLB?
The Organizers of the World Baseball Classic
Unlike previous editions, the organizers of this World Baseball Classic have been through difficult times. The main problems happened in the D group, in Mexico.
In the game between Puerto Rico and Mexico, the Puerto Rican team denounced the lack of security for their relatives, especially after the incident with the mother of ball player Javier Baez. The twit issued by Yadier Molina, with critics against the organizers, was replied in different means of communication.
It was followed by the polemic after the game between Mexico and Venezuela. The locals asserted that the MLB executives had told them that they were moving to the next stage. Was it too difficult to put both directors together, before the game, and clearly explain the tiebreak rules and the “non-played inning” against Italy? They would have legitimated the World Baseball Classic if they had done that. They didn’t and the outcome tainted the most important tournament of international baseball.