Change in Attitude Needed if US is Ever to Succeed in WBC

Team USA says they are all about winning in the World Baseball Classic, but their attitude says otherwise.

Another World Baseball Classic has come and gone and you know what that means. The USA has put in yet another lackluster performance and is going to be watching the championship game from home, or their rented condos in their respective Spring Training locales, as it were.

The problem with this wasn’t so much that the team didn’t succeed, although that is bothersome, it’s that the failure was greeted largely with a shrug from baseball fans and baseball community alike. It just didn’t really register. And until that changes, the US isn’t going to win this event.

You see, Team USA’s failures in this event stem from a simple choice made by those in and around the game here in America.

Everyone involved has decided that getting ready for the MLB season is more important in every case.

I saw dozens of excuses for why the US had lost on Twitter this past weekend. Some made the argument that the outcome would have been different had David Wright not gotten hurt. Others made the argument that the Americans were just victims of a small sample size. Those two things might have played into it, sure, but it boils down to the fact that winning the event is not enough of a priority to expect success.

You can’t expect to come out victorious if you made a half-ass attempt at putting a team together and winning and that’s what I feel USA Baseball and MLB did. Just ask USA Basketball how things work out if you put together a team at the last minute and expect to roll into the tournament and win like it’s no big deal.

Just look at the contrasting approaches taken in the critical US/Puerto Rico game.

Joe Torre removed Ryan Vogelsong from the game after he had thrown 73 pitches, seven pitches short of the 80-pitch limit. Was he removed because he wasn’t the right guy for the job? Not if you believe what Torre had to say after the game.

Get a load of this quote from the US skipper: “Even though there’s a pitch limit, it didn’t mean we were going to get there. When you have [starters] going from 65 to 80 pitches, in that regard it’s still spring training, and we weren’t going to push anybody.”

I’m sure those seven pitches would really have set Vogelsong’s 2013 season preparations back.

I doubt any other manager in this competition makes that move, but Torre is hamstrung by the fact that he has to put the wishes of a player’s respective MLB team before what’s good for Team USA.

Meanwhile, in the opposing dugout, Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez made the decision to use Fernando Cabrera to help shut down the US. That’s only new because Cabrera was slated to start the next day against the Dominican Republic.

Can you imagine the ruckus that would cause here? If Torre had decided to pull a similar move, he would have spent the rest of the night fielding phone calls from that pitcher’s pitching coach, manager, general manager, team owner and agent.

What it comes down to is that for the US, winning the WBC would be nice. For teams like Japan, Korea, the Dominican and Puerto Rico, winning the WBC is the only acceptable outcome. You get the idea that an acceptable outcome for the US would simply be to come out of the tournament without any major injuries. That’s something you want for your team, sure, but it shouldn’t be the primary goal.

You just can’t help but get the feeling that Major League Baseball is talking out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to the World Baseball Classic. From the players on MLB teams all the way up to Bud Selig, they talk about how important this tournament is for growing the game around the world. And then Team USA goes out and plays and coaches like the event is anything but important.

I don’t know about you, but as a USA Baseball fan, I feel it’s getting a bit old.

Joseph Healy writes for The Fan Manifesto. You can follow him on Twitter at @Joe_On_Sports. You can follow the entire FanMan team here.

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