American players philosophical about Team USA loss

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

Joe Flacco (USATSI)
Dominican baseball lovers seemed a bit more enthused for the WBC than American fans. (Getty)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When it comes to the World Baseball Classic, it seems that major-league players and managers are like any other fans.

The guys from countries like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are passionate. The Americans are philosophical.

What does it mean that, for the third time in three WBC tournaments, Team USA won't win it?

"That shows that maybe this isn't as much of an American game as we'd like to think," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Saturday.

Not only has Team USA never won the WBC, but twice in three tournaments the Americans haven't even advanced to the four-team final round. Team USA made it to the semifinals in 2009, then lost to Japan.

This year, the Americans survived a Game 1 loss to advance past the first round but lost to the Dominican Republic on Thursday and to Puerto Rico on Friday and exited the tournament in the second round.

"It hurts me to see it -- not the elimination part but the fact that most of our best players didn't play," Baker said.

Team USA's elimination will bring yawns from many and scorn for the WBC from others. Some will complain about the way the tournament is set up. Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies doesn't buy the most common excuses.

"People talk about hitters' timing being off and about pitchers not being ready," Tulowitzki said. "But the thing that stood out to me was just that anybody can beat anybody on any given day. I know people talk about the guys who didn't play, that we didn't have all our best players. That might help. But at the end of the day, anything can happen.

"You can't sit and make excuses. It's just baseball, at the end of the day."

Tulowitzki and Rockies teammate Michael Cuddyer both expressed disappointment at Team USA's elimination, although neither seemed as broken up as their Venezuelan teammates might have been over their country's WBC losses.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not disappointed in the players for losing," Cuddyer said. "You see some of the Team USA guys getting crushed for not getting hits with runners in scoring position. Hey, it's their 20th at-bat in four months.

"Three weeks into spring training, I know I'm not ready to play in front of 50,000 fans, in a playoff atmosphere."

Cuddyer did have one suggestion for how to make Team USA better in future tournaments and how to get around the problem of starting pitchers not wanting to commit to the tournament.

"I would build a pitching staff with all relievers," he said. "Then I'd pitch them one inning at a time."

Perhaps Baker will be the one to decide in the future. He said Saturday that he wouldn't mind managing Team USA, once his major-league managerial career is done.

For now, he watches along with the rest of us. He sees the passion that players from other countries show.

"Some of it is over-emotion," Baker said. "Some of it is close to clowning."

But those teams are still playing, and Team USA isn't.

Maybe this isn't as much of an American game as we'd like to think.

 
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