|US loss showed that WBC is still a second string tournament|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on March 15, 2009
As much as I enjoyed all the upsets so far and as much as I am looking forward to watch the USA - Netherlands game, yesterday's 1-11 mercy rule loss to Puerto Rico painfully exposed why the World Baseball Classic will never grow into anything close to what the FIFA World Cup is today. From Foxsports' Gerry Fraley:
Team USA fell behind 6-0 after two innings as Puerto Rico pounded righthander Jake Peavy. Manager Davey Johnson handled Peavy as if this were just another morning "B'' game on a back diamond in spring training.
Peavy, like most starters, operates on an every-fifth-day format during spring training. Because the irregular WBC schedule would not allow that, Peavy was scheduled to build arm strength with two full-scale throwing sessions after his start on March 7 against Canada.
When Peavy became ill while in Toronto, one of the throwing sessions was scrubbed. To compensate, Johnson determined Peavy would throw a set number of pitches no matter how he fared.
Because of that, the 11-man bullpen never stirred as Peavy took a beating. He could not get the ball down, and the Puerto Rican hitters clubbed him. Eight of the 15 hitters that Peavy faced reached base. He had a swing-and-miss on only two of his 57 pitches.
"Just let him get a little more work," Johnson said in explaining why he stayed with Peavy. "Unfortunately, it wasn't really good work, but he needed the work. It wasn't a thing of `Hook him in the second inning.'"
This illustrates a problem with the WBC.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wants his brainchild to be viewed as a top-tier international competition along the lines of the Olympics. For at least Team USA, that is not the case.
To get pitchers, Team USA promises major-league teams that it will keep them on their regular plan of preparing for the regular season. In this case, that mean having Peavy throw 57 pitches, no matter how bad they were.
For Johnson, preparing Peavy took precedence over playing to win. That national pride stuff is a slick marketing slogan.
At least San Diego, Peavy's team, will be happy.
"I take full responsibility," Peavy said. "There was no excuse for the way I performed. This is a double-elimination tournament, and I hope the boys pick me up so I can go out there one more time."
Johnson has been rather casual about the tournament. He skipped Friday's workout and arrived late for this game to attend a family member's wedding across the state in St. Petersburg.
As long as the arguably best team in the world will not play to win (or has to leave his best players with their teams), the WBC never be anything more than a exhibition tournament.