The World Baseball Classic was exponentially more entertaining than I thought it would be. When it got down the championship round, the spirit and intensity were not lacking. The Dominican Republic dominated the tournament going a perfect 8-0 and outscoring its opponents 36-14. Cano won the MVP, hitting a red hot .469 with 4 doubles, 2 HR, 6 RBI and 6 R. He led all players with 15 hits, which is a single-Classic record. Great news for the Yankees who will need that type of production as they try to fill voids in a banged up roster.
If the goal of the tournament is to make it the World Cup of baseball, I think they are on their way. Baseball is a big deal around the world and it showed throughout this tournament. The ratings in Japan during their semifinal game were astronomical. The Netherlands made another surprising run and the Caribbean proved its superiority. The only country that doesn’t seem to take it seriously enough is the United States. That needs to change in 2017.
Having our best players choose not to represent the USA is fine. I wish it would change and our roster would have consisted of Trout, Kershaw, Verlander and Price but they are entitled to choose not to participate. There’s enough American talent that the team should still be an All-Star team, which is what it was. However, the strategy is terrible. One game during the tournament, Torre decided to sit Giancarlo Stanton in favor of Ben Zobrist because Joe Maddon wanted to make sure his player got his Spring work in. We did not manage these games to win – we managed them as if they were Spring Training games. Meanwhile, other countries are making 4 pitching changes in an inning to play to righty/righty and lefty/lefty matchups.
Participating in the tournament and then treating it like an exhibition takes away all of the fun. It’s supposed to competitive and patriotic but how can you expect American baseball fans to care when the players and manager are more concerned with avoiding injuries. The championship round seemed pretty important to the Netherlands, Korea, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In 2017 if the USA has everyone participate and its lone goal is winning, I think they would be surprised by the passion and interest of American baseball fans – even in March.